Becoming an NFL player takes years of preparation and countless hours on and off the field to prepare for a career that very few people will ever get the chance at, especially if they go undrafted. It takes will, dedication, hard work, chance, and, in the case of the Cleveland Browns’ newest player, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, a gambler-like penchant for bluffing.
Sheehy-Guiseppi hasn’t played organized football since 2016, and while he tried to make it leagues from the CFL to Arena Football, nothing stuck. That didn’t stop him from trying to work out for the Browns without an invite, and the ensuing story is something straight out of Hollywood.
Who is Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi?
Sheehy-Guiseppi didn’t play college football at a Division I school. He didn’t play at a Division II or III school, either. Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi’s career before his tryout with the Cleveland Browns began and ended in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where he became a prominent kick returner at Phoenix College, a community college in the area.
His community college career was also something of a fluke. A basketball player by nature, he didn’t make the Phoenix basketball team, so he set his sights on football, eventually winning a spot on the roster. Although he was a good player, that was where many presumed that his career would end. He had other plans, however.
How did he do it?
Sheehy-Guiseppi’s ploy began with Cleveland Browns vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith. He went online and researched Highsmith, making sure that he knew exactly what he looked like. From there, he was able to sneak himself into the workout by claiming that he knew Highsmith. The admissions people believed him, and that was enough to get him on the field.
Highsmith later admitted that he knew absolutely nothing about Sheehy-Guiseppi when he ran over to introduce himself at the workout. Still, the lie to get in the door got him his next opportunity.
The workout with the Cleveland Browns
Once he tricked his way into the 40-yard dash, Sheehy-Guiseppi knew that he had to perform not only well, but exceptionally to get the eye of the team whom he was secretly grifting. He ran a 4.38 on the 40, which was good enough to get some attention. He then went on to have an exceptional workout in which he ran with and without the ball.
Hellbent on making it, Sheehy-Guiseppi spent several days in Miami, where the workout had taken place, by using guest passes at the 24-hour fitness and staying at various places and planting himself wherever he could go without being noticed. Eventually, he went closer to Bommarito Performance Systems, where a second workout that he was invited to was taking place.
Sheehy-Guiseppi continued to impress at his workouts, and eventually, he got the call that he had dreamed of for many years — he was invited to play for the Cleveland Browns. He trained relentlessly, told a few lies, and did what he needed to get the attention he sought, and it all worked out for him. He credits his mother’s support for helping him, and he knows that this is potentially the beginning and end. For a long time, most NFL players didn’t want to suit up for Cleveland, but it’s a dream come true for Sheehy-Guiseppi.
What happens now?
While his story may be unprecedented, the prospect of a player going undrafted, or even walking on to a team is not unique.
Vince Papale, who didn’t make the NFL until he was 30 years old, impressed the Eagles during an open tryout in 1976. Even star quarterback-turned-analyst Tony Romo went undrafted and forgotten for a few years before he made his name.
Sheehy-Guiseppi still has a long hill to climb, and becoming a rotational player will take lots of hard work, dedication, and motivation to succeed. Luckily for him, however, he has shown a penchant for all of this, and the next chapter should be a good one.