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'Feel like it was destined': How Browns DT Perrion Winfrey got his jersey number

Perrion Winfrey
Posted at 9:00 AM, May 15, 2022

BEREA, Ohio — When rookies start their NFL career, sometimes its slim pickings when it comes to available jersey numbers. The veterans already have theirs selected and most aren't willing to give them up so easily. But for fourth-round draft pick Perrion Winfrey, things played out like a scene from a movie.

Before being drafted, Winfrey wore No. 8 with the Oklahoma Sooners. Before that, however, the defensive tackle had a go-to jersey number that came to have deep meaning for him.

"I wore 97 in high school and junior college," Winfrey said Friday at Browns rookie minicamp.

That number donned the front and back of all of Winfrey's uniforms at Lake Park High School in Illinois as well as through his two seasons playing junior college ball at Iowa Western. The number was with Winfrey so long he even got it tattooed on his hands.

"I got flames around it basically symbolizing adversity and every time I look down at my hands basically just letting me know that this was adversity that I got through and I could basically get through anything," Winfrey said.

Perrion Winfrey tattoos

When Winfrey transferred from JUCO to Oklahoma, however, his jersey number didn't follow. With the Sooners, Winfrey started wearing No. 8. New team, new number—it's sometimes the name of the game.

But after being selected by the Browns in the draft and starting his NFL career, another number change seemed to be in the cards. Not long after joining the Browns, Winfrey got a call from the team's equipment manager looking to get the uniforms sorted out for all the incoming players.

"The equipment manager called me and he was like 'We only have one number available,' I was like 'What number is it?'" Winfrey recalled.

What Winfrey heard next he couldn't believe.

"He said '97,'" Winfrey said.

Instead of ending up with a random number, Winfrey was told he'd be wearing the number that means the most to him. The number he wore as he fell in love with the game of football and began working to make it a career.

The moment was not lost on Winfrey, who seemed more than grateful for how things worked out.

"I feel like it was destined to be honest with you," Winfrey said.

Camryn Justice is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.

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