CLEVELAND — From nearly the moment he arrived in Cleveland, Browns safety Ronnie Harrison has been a standout both on and off the field. In the past, many players found being traded to Cleveland as a curse on their careers. Lately, that tends to be no longer the case and it seems as though Harrison couldn't be happier to be here.
When Harrison found out the Jacksonville Jaguars were trading him to the Browns, he said he was initially heartbroken because of how fast everything happened and because he didn’t know what to expect of Cleveland.
“I just knew it was cold. I knew they had a couple of good guys on offense and they had a couple players, especially on defense, as well. Really, I was kind of shocked in the moment,” Harrison said. “I really was not even putting too much thought into Cleveland.”
Though he hadn’t thought of Cleveland as a career destination, that became his reality.
At the beginning of September, the Browns sent a 2021 fifth round pick to the Jaguars in exchange for Harrison, who has become a staple in Cleveland’s secondary and a beloved member of the Browns for teammates, coaches and fans alike.
“I put Ronnie in that category of making plays and a guy that we can count on and we are going to continue to count on,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said of Harrison following their win over the Houston Texans. “Certain games, some guys will play more based on how the game is going. I think the guys certainly understand that there is a role to be played, but I do like the role that Ronnie is playing.”
Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods credited the type of player Harrison is prior to the Texans game, calling him a “total gamer.”
“He is a baller. He is another guy who he is going to show and he is going to play with his hair on fire. It is just getting Ronnie comfortable with our system, and he is still getting comfortable with some aspects of the system. You just really see he has a natural feel,” Woods said. “I think the last game you guys saw his ability with all the different movements and misdirections just to fit his gap. He shows up on game day. He is 100 miles an hour. He is a total gamer.”
It’s no surprise his coaches speak highly of him, as Harrison has recorded a 47-yard pick six, six passes defended, a fumble recovery, a sack, a quarterback hit and 31 total tackles in the nine games he’s played, while only starting in five of them.
His teammates have spoken fondly of him all season as well, from cornerback Denzel Ward saying he’s been a “great addition to defense and in our secondary,” to linebacker Sione Takitaki saying that “getting Ronnie was a steal" and that he’s brought “his playmaking ability” to the Browns.
As the Browns prepare to take on the Jaguars, Harrison is faced with a lot of emotions as he goes head to head with the team that shipped him off just a few short months ago.
The matchup is one that Harrison said he has had circled on his calendar and was looking forward to, knowing he’d be trying hard to get on the field despite sustaining a knee injury during last week’s matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I knew I was still going to try to come back for this game. I already circled this one on the calendar. I am very excited. This is a great opportunity to show what I have with my new team,” Harrison said. “Just trying to keep it the next game. Not trying to make too much of it and not get too emotional with it.”
While he’s excited about the matchup, he also said he feels an added weight of responsibility to lead his new team to a win over his old one.
“I put a lot on my shoulders this week. Everybody has been coming to me and asking me all week about different stuff with what they do and ‘what is this player like’ and ‘what is that player like.’ I really feel like I am the player and the guy who has to lead the charge, being that I am from there. With [Ward, Takitaki, Myles Garrett, Porter Gustin and Sheldrick Redwine] being out, especially in the back end, just trying to help in any way that I can —making plays, interceptions, turnovers or whatever it may be and just trying to get the defense started,” Harrison said.
Harrison’s teammates are looking forward to that leadership and to see what he’s able to accomplish on the field Sunday afternoon.
On Friday, just two days before Harrison returns to Jacksonville, wide receiver Jarvis Landry praised his efforts this season and had a hopeful prediction for Harrison’s return to Jacksonville.
“I know it is going to be like a homecoming for him going back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, he can catch a couple picks and celebrate,” Landry said.
With his teammates, coaches and fans cheering him on, Harrison will look to have a big game against his former team, giving his all for the team and the city he now calls home.
And while many in his shoes might feel slighted or bitter about being shipped off to a new city unexpectedly, Harrison believes Cleveland is where he was meant to play.
“God had his hand on this one. It has been great,” Harrison said. “I could not even imagine a better place or a better fit for me. I feel comfortable, and I like it here.”
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.