BEREA — Antonio Callaway joined the Browns with a ton of baggage and was greeted with a zero-tolerance policy.
He said adhering to it won’t be a problem.
“I already know what I’ve got to do,” he said Saturday morning during rookie minicamp. “I know I’ve got to provide, so I’ve got to stay focused on my behalf.”
Callaway has first-round talent but was a fourth-round pick last week after a series of off-field issues that included being suspended by the University of Florida for the 2017 season and failing a marijuana test at the scouting combine, which he blames on a diluted sample. He said his mother, sisters and new daughter are motivation to stay out of trouble and make it in the NFL.
Browns general manager John Dorsey was added to the list after taking a chance on the 5-foot-10, 200-pound receiver who ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the combine.
“This here is just telling that he believes in me, that I can do the right things,” Callaway said. “For somebody to put their job on the line, I can’t let him down.”
Callaway showed his speed and burst before leaving practice Saturday with a toe injury. After running a route and catching a pass in a one-on-one drill with a cornerback, he walked slowly back and was examined by a member of the training staff. He then walked inside the team facility and didn’t return.
He spoke to reporters before practice and was asked to explain his series of transgressions.
He was suspended all of last season after being part of an investigation into credit card fraud. Felony charges were dropped after a plea deal. He also was cited for marijuana possession in May 2017, stopped by police while riding in a car with a career criminal, and was part of a Title IX investigation in 2016 that centered on an alleged sexual battery. He testified during the case he was high on marijuana during the incident and was later found not responsible for the alleged misconduct.
“I mean, just I was young, I was immature. I was just living in the moment,” he said. “And I grew. I knew I had to grow, learn from my mistakes. I’m past those. Ready to go.”
Coach Hue Jackson spent years with the Bengals and isn’t afraid to take a risk on a player with a past. He said he and Dorsey were clear with Callaway that he’s out of second chances.
“I think he knows that he has our support and that we are going to do anything and everything that we can to assist him off of the field first to make sure that is right, and that we have no tolerance for things that are not becoming of the Cleveland Browns,” Jackson said. “We are not going to dabble into any of that. I think he got that message loud and clear. I think he is up to the challenge.”
Callaway is from Miami and grew up with his mom and four younger sisters.
“It’s hard where I’m from,” he said. “The worst of the worst. From killing to drug selling to you name it, I’ve seen it at a young age.
“Growing up, I said I didn’t want that life, so I stuck with football. I wasn’t a troubled kid. I ain’t never get in trouble till I got to college.”
The Browns gave him a fresh start, and he said he won’t fumble it.
“It’s going to be easy because I’ve got a purpose now. I’ve got a daughter,” Callaway said of Aulani, who’s going to be 3 months old next week. “Ain’t nobody going to make sure she’s taken care of, so I’ve got to do my job.”
He also wants to make life easier for his mom.
“She’s my hero,” he said. “She’s been through a lot, so I want to reward her with everything she’s ever dreamed of.”
Callaway’s talent was evident at Florida, as he caught 89 passes for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns in two years. He added two touchdowns on punt returns, one on a kickoff and one rushing.
Steelers All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown reached out to him recently on Twitter and they’ve talked, trained and watched film.
Getting mentally prepared to dominate at the highest level.. film study 🤙🏽 pic.twitter.com/FiHpxjoEo9
— A.D (@Ripbobby_G) April 27, 2018
“Basically just been mentoring me, telling me that I have too much talent to let it go to waste,” said Callaway, who worked out for a week last year with Josh Gordon but didn’t talk about Gordon’s history of drug suspensions. “Where we are from, Miami, Fla., people rarely make it out. I am one of the few to be able to say I was blessed to be drafted by the Cleveland Browns.”
He said his playing style is like Brown’s and his long-term goal is to “be the best.”
“Don’t let the man in front of me beat me,” he said of his mindset. “Just a dog.”
Quarterback and No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield was impressed in their first practice together.
“He’s very, very fast. He’s a fast man,” Mayfield said. “Makes good plays on the ball. When you have a guy like that and you get chemistry down, then it’s dangerous.
“Looking forward to working with him, and he’s a guy that I think can help us out.”