Browns Sign Canadian Football Player After Just a YouTube Video


BEREA: Undrafted free-agent offensive tackle Joel Reinders had just revealed that his uncle played in the NHL with Wayne Gretzky when the star of the Browns’ rookie class walked into the locker room.

Reinders didn’t mind deferring to quarterback Colt McCoy.

”Do you want to go over there?” Reinders asked.

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As the mob of media surrounding McCoy grew by one more, Reinders pulled out his digital camera to capture the moment.

Browns coach Eric Mangini enjoys the search for diamonds in the rough, but Reinders’ road to this weekend’s rookie minicamp was probably the most unorthodox of the 54 players participating.

The Browns discovered him on a YouTube video.

A mountain of a man at 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds, Reinders said he played just eight games of football at the University of Waterloo after entering the school of 24,000 in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, on a basketball scholarship.

A native Canadian, Reinders played hockey for eight years, then moved to basketball. He spent his freshman and sophomore years at Waterloo on the basketball team, but ”just wasn’t feeling it,” so he quit. He took his junior year off from athletics before having a talk with football coach Dennis McPhee, who had spent 10 years with the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League.

”I came to him with the intention of making the team, but he really encouraged me because he saw my height,” Reinders said Friday. ”I was pretty thin at that time.” Reinders said he weighed only 250 pounds.

Reinders could have tried Canadian football, but his agent was getting requests for game tape, so they put together a highlight video and posted it on YouTube.

That caught the attention of Browns’ senior scout Jake Hallum and director of college scouting Pat Roberts, who pointed it out to offensive line coach George Warhop. Reinders said no one from the Browns flew to Canada to see him, but they kept in touch the week before the draft.

Contacted by three NFL teams, Reinders was one of 10 college free agents signed by the Browns on Friday.

”[Roberts] and Jake kind of found him and made contact,” Mangini said. ”They sent out this YouTube video. There’s one picture, his wingspan, he can touch either side of the building. When you see his arms, it’s amazing.

”One of the coaches has a friend in Canada who said they were considering taking him in the first round of the [CFL] draft. It’s hard sometimes to evaluate those players, because you don’t have that much exposure to the schools. But there’s so much raw material to work with, we thought he would be a great candidate. A guy like that with time and experience could work out great.”

The Browns’ list of invitees to rookie minicamp included two former NCAA heavyweight wrestling champions — offensive lineman Mark Ellis of Missouri, who won the national title in 2009, and linebacker David Zabriskie of Iowa State (2010).

”They’re extremely competitive,” Mangini said of Ellis and Zabriskie. ”Just give ’em a shot. You’re looking for traits.”

Mangini realizes the type of projects those players would be to make the transition, especially Reinders.

”I’ve played one full season, and that’s eight games for us,” Reinders said. ”It’s kind of a pretty big leap. Most guys go from a U.S. college, that’s a pretty good step up from Canadian college, no offense to Canada, but the skill level isn’t what it is in the States. So it’s like I’m taking two pretty big steps up.

”Today we had our first practice. It was quick, but I can get a handle on it.”

Reinders didn’t know whether anyone else in his family played football, but said his mother’s brother is Wayne Van Dorp, a left-winger in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Quebec Nordiques. A noted fighter, Van Dorp was a member of Gretzky’s Oilers’ team that captured the Stanley Cup in 1987.

What Reinders is trying to accomplish is beyond even his wildest dreams. That’s why his camera is conveniently tucked away in his locker.

”Two years ago, I had never played a snap of football,” he said. ”Being at an NFL minicamp. . .looking back, there’s no way I could have imagined that in a million years.”

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