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Notes: Myles Harden’s journey to Cleveland started in Miami with a long stop in South Dakota

BEREA — Relationships led Myles Harden from South Florida to the University of South Dakota. Loyalty kept him there for all four years of his college career.

The Browns found him at the FCS school, surprising Harden when they drafted the cornerback in the seventh round, No. 227 overall.

“It was crazy because when Coach Berry called me, I saw him on the phone,” Harden said Saturday of general manager Andrew Berry. “I didn’t know who it was at first because when I got the phone call, just everybody started yelling and stuff, so I couldn’t hear really. But I heard when he said it was the Cleveland Browns. And I got happy right there. I just knew I was coming home.”

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Harden (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) practiced for the second time as a professional Saturday at rookie minicamp.

“It’s been surreal. It still hasn’t hit me yet that I’m in the NFL right now,” he said. “It’s just crazy that I’m here sitting in this position that I’m in right now.”

Harden, 22, had a successful high school career in South Florida playing against premier talent but didn’t draw interest from FBS schools. He found a new home a long way away from home.

“It’s just the relationships I’ve built with the coaches, Coach (Elijah) Hodge, Coach (Travis) Johansen, built the gut relationship with me and my family and also my teammate that’s there now,” he said of Josiah Ganues.

Harden was an immediate starter in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, getting two interceptions in four games. In 29 career games he had 143 tackles, 12.5 for loss, six interceptions, 26 passes defensed and five forced fumbles. He was a team captain.

In the age of the wide-open transfer portal, staying put despite interest from bigger schools was unusual.

“My family raised me on loyalty,” Harden said. “We’re loyal people and everywhere I started I finished. And the family I built at South Dakota, I wouldn’t leave them for nothing.”

He handled the “weather shock” and “big” adjustment from big city to small town. Cleveland lands somewhere between Miami and South Dakota.

Berry said the Browns see Harden as a nickelback with good instincts who can perhaps play safety, too.

“Really smart kid,” Berry said after the draft. “Corner will always be a premium spot for us.”

Harden said he had experience in the slot the last two seasons and played some safety in high school.

“So it is nothing new to me,” he said.

He met Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward on Friday.

“It was good,” Harden said. “Coach had brought him in the locker room to see me. It was good to see him and just talk to him and hopefully I’m going to be under his wing soon.”

BUCKEYE BONDS

Defensive tackle Mike Hall Jr., the No. 54 pick, will be reunited with former Ohio State teammates tackle Dawand Jones, center Luke Wypler and safety Ronnie Hickman when the rookies join the veterans for the offseason program.

“It is very good to have Buckeyes in the building, of course,” Hall said Friday. “But we still got to keep the main thing the main thing, and we got to win and we got to put that work in.”

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He continues to express his excitement over being drafted by his hometown team.

“I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, so it’s just a great feeling,” he said.

REACHING OUT

Ohio State associate head coach/defensive line coach Larry Johnson said Hall’s 81-inch wingspan serves him well.

“Because now you extend yourself across the line of scrimmage and reach out and touch the offensive player, as opposed to him reaching you first,” Johnson told The Chronicle-Telegram. “He’s blessed in the sense that he’s 6-3 and he’s got long arms.”

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Hall agreed the long arms are an asset but only with strength in the lower body, as well.

“With no power, it is nothing,” he said.

GOOD CAUSE, TIMING

Coach Kevin Stefanski and his family recently announced the start of the Keepers Foundation. It’s all about his three children with wife Michelle and underprivileged children across Northeast Ohio.

“I have young kids and wanting to impress upon them that it’s so important to give back,” Stefanski said Friday. “And when you’ve been blessed, you want to give back even more. And this community, Northeast Ohio, Cleveland, people have just been so good to us, and that’s the truth.

“There’s young kids in this community in particular that need our help, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Stefanski is in his fifth year with the Browns and expected to get a contract extension soon, so the timing was right.

“This is home, so we want to make sure that we make this foundation a group that makes a lasting impact,” he said.

BIG ADJUSTMENT

The rookies’ introduction to the NFL includes more challenges than just learning a new playbook.

“There’s a lot that goes on in this NFL, and there’s a lot of different challenges that are coming at them,” Stefanski said. “So we look at this as a way to be a resource to them. These are young men coming into the league and making some money and trying to make sure that we have all the resources available to them so they make smart decisions off the field as much as on the field.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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