The Joe Jurevicius Blue Collar Award
Some may call me crazy for sending a professional athlete a $10 check in the mail.
You know what? I'm OK with that. Heck, I'm still chuckling over this, and this idea has been in my head for about six weeks now.
Joe Jurevicius is a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. He signed with the team last season, along with fellow northeast Ohioans LeCharles Bentley and Dave Zastudil, in an effort to revitalize the team by pumping in some local talent. All three were Browns fans growing up and expressed great desire in turning the franchise around.
(Intermission: Joe is from Mentor - blahhh, I know - and graduated from Lake Catholic High School, another personal blahhh for me. We always played summer baseball against Lake Catholic, and it was on their field, which is in Mentor, that I suffered my first serious injury. I was playing first base and made what was likely the only "Web Gem" in my less-than-illustrious baseball career, a diving stop to my right. I raced the runner to the bag and beat him, and we collided. A few pitches later, the umpire noticed blood running down my leg - I had ended up getting spiked pretty bad and needed stitches. The doctor was surprised it didn't cut into my bone. I was supposed to sit out two weeks but just said screw it and played two days later. But I still hate Lake Catholic for that scar in my leg. Anyway, back to the column.)
So as you all know, Bentley blows out his knee on the first freakin' day of practice ("The LeCharles Situation", as I called it back then). Zastudil did more than his fair share handling the punting duties, and was arguably the team's most consistent player - which shows the state of the team if one of our few bright spots is the punter.
Jurevicius got hurt in the first game of the season (go figure). The play was a pass to him, and he caught it and got hit. Of course, a Browns penalty negated the result of the play anyways, rendering it an utter waste. They thought he had some broken ribs, but didn't, and came back for the win over Oakland three weeks later. He ended up suffering a concussion in the home finale against Tampa Bay and missed the final game against Houston. For the season, Jurevicius hauled in 40 catches for 495 yards and three touchdowns.
This will all make sense in a minute, trust me. See, if you watched any Browns games this season, you could tell those who gave a damn from those who were just going through the motions, especially down the stretch. The second Steelers game in particular really riled me as a Browns fan, and the Tampa Bay game was the final straw.
I strongly felt that Jurevicius fell in the former category, of players who were giving it their all every week. My friend Tyler, a Florida native, loved watching Jurevicius play when he was a member of the Bucs. And my friend C.J., a fellow Browns fan, formulated the idea to send Jurevicius a bonus.
The letter that C.J. and I sent to Jurevicius has been reproduced below. Inside, we enclosed a $10 check and our congratulations for being the namesake and first honoree of the now annual "Joe Jurevicius Blue Collar Award." I haven't felt this strong of a connection to a local athlete since the Cavs dumped Trajan Langdon (which will be its own column, and probably soon, and you will understand why Trajan Langdon deserves to still be an NBA player.)
My roommate Dan asked me if I thought he would respond. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised either way. Obviously, it would be great if he did. And if not, that's OK too - the award and $10 prize will forever live on in his name.
"Dear Mr. Jurevicius,
My name is Scott Miles, and I am writing to you out of frustration for how this season has turned out. I, along with my dad and 60,000 other fans, spent a portion of Christmas Eve at the Stadium for the final home game. Needless to say, I don’t think too many people went home happy. We’re sick and tired of watching our team not only lose, but get embarrassed. Especially at home.
Several weeks back, some friends of mine and I went to a bar to watch the Thursday night debacle against Pittsburgh. During that game, my friend C.J. pointed out that you looked to be the only player on this team who passionately cares about its success. And you know what? He’s right. Over the last few weeks of the season, while it looked like most had already packed it in for the year, we saw you playing with a different type of fire than most of the others. The Tampa Bay game was the first game I’d been to in two years, and seeing things in person, along with hearing your post-game comments, only confirmed what we’ve known.
C.J., who plays football at Capital University in Columbus, had suggested during that Pittsburgh game that we send you some money as a bonus for your efforts. Enclosed in this letter you will find that bonus. Please accept it with the understanding that we’re just college students; if we could send you more, we would. We’ve also taken things a step further by starting an annual honor known as the “Joe Jurevicius Blue Collar Award” for the Browns player most exemplifying a commitment to winning. For that, we offer our congratulations, and our continued hope that you will continue to display the kind of passion and emotion that we saw from you this season, for the rest of your career.
Look, I’m a Cleveland native. Even though I’m only 19 years old, I know and understand the passion and tradition this franchise exudes. From the roots dating back to the AAFC, to Marion Motley, to Jim Brown, to Otto Graham, to Frank Ryan, to Gene Hickerson, to Paul Warfield, to Dick Ambrose, to Paul Brown and Blanton Collier and Sam Rutigliano…
We’ve all shared the pride in the past. Now is the time to give us something to be proud of in the future. Here’s to the rejuvenation of the Cleveland Browns franchise!