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Greg Newsome II wears his character on his sleeve, literally and figuratively

Cleveland Browns first-round pick Greg Newsome II made a statement at the draft with his wardrobe, and the Browns hope he does the same on the field as a rookie. AP Photo/Tony Dejak

BEREA, Ohio – During the draft, Greg Newsome II sported a jacket he had made with three messages: “Black Lives Matter” printed on the back, with “Stop Asian Hate” and “Women Can Ball Too” on a sleeve.

“Just me trying to create awareness for all of those three different things,” said Newsome, Cleveland’s first-round pick last month. “There’s a lot of other stuff that I wish I could have had on the jacket. I didn’t have a lot of space, so I couldn’t put everything that I wanted to create awareness for.

“I’m just trying to be somebody, now that I have a platform, where people are going to actually listen to what I have to say. Just trying to show the world some things that I care about and just trying to bring awareness to the world.”

From his character to his covering skills, the Browns were thrilled that Newsome fell to them at No. 26 overall in the draft. General manager Andrew Berry declined to publicly comment on whether he thought Newsome would be available that late in the first round, but the consensus inside the Browns building was that Newsome would be gone five spots or so earlier.

“He fits, really, our profile,” Berry said. “He was a player who was really a multi-year producer in a Power Five conference. A great physical talent. He is one of the youngest guys in the draft class despite how much he accomplished at the college level, and he fits the smart, tough, accountable profile that we want out of our players that we really bring in the building.”

In 2020 at Northwestern, Newsome was an All-American as well as a consensus All-Big Ten defensive back. As the primary defender in coverage, Newsome allowed a paltry QBR of just 3.4, which ranked third in the FBS, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Newsome also surrendered a completion percent of only 29% as a primary defender, the lowest rate in the Big Ten.

Considering the Browns lacked cornerback depth and struggled to cover last season, landing Newsome was ideal – a final touch to Cleveland’s offseason hellbent on revamping the defense.

“He fits culturally – being smart, tough and accountable,” said Browns coach Kevin Stefanski. “He fits schematically. He has the body type to play man and to play zone. He makes plays on the ball. There are a lot of things about his game that we are really excited about.”

Newsome is excited about taking his platform to Cleveland, underscored by the jacket he wore on draft night.

“People are not getting treated [equally] just because of how they look,” he said. “That’s just obviously not OK at all. I’m just trying to get the message out and just trying to be somebody that people that are getting marginalized, they know that Greg Newsome is going to be somebody that is going to push for them.”

Newsome is also a self-proclaimed “superfan” of women’s sports. His girlfriend, Veronica Burton, was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the Northwestern women’s hoops team this past season. He said that he’ll continue to be an advocate for women’s athletics as well.

“I just feel as if women do not get the same equality as men in the world, and I think that should change,” he said. “Just because women are not the same athletes and can’t dunk the basketball doesn’t mean their game isn’t great and doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same recognition. I’m just trying to preach that to everybody and trying to start the trend upward for women just to get equality around the world.”

Newsome understands that he’s still just a rookie who will have to find his way both on and off the field. But for him, standing up for issues he believes in will be part of the journey.

“Obviously, I’m a professional. I get paid to play football. At the end of the day, I have to make sure that I can do my sport to the best of my ability,” he said. “Then I can work on doing things like that. Just making sure that I am able to first complete my job and then being able to branch out and try to raise awareness for some of those things that I really care about.”