Berea, Ohio — Channing Stribling knows the drill.
He says he learned it at an early age, through a nomadic childhood as the son of two Army officers. And he learned it all over again as a collegiate athlete, a lightly recruited cornerback out of suburban Charlotte, N.C., who developed into a second-team All-Big Ten performer as a senior.
Now he’s tasked with doing it once more as an undrafted free agent trying to make the Cleveland Browns’ roster.
Stribling was a key contributor for Michigan’s dominant defense last fall. And talented enough that his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, declared Stribling “will probably play 10 years in the NFL.” Scouts liked his length (6-foot-1) and his playmaking production that saw him finish with four interceptions and 17 pass breakups. But there were doubts about his slight build — he's listed at 188 pounds — and his strength, among other things. So after going undrafted in April — he celebrated the final day of the draft by participating in his graduation ceremony at Michigan Stadium — he says he’s got plenty to prove.
“That I’m worth keeping, you know?” Stribling said after an OTA practice at the Browns’ training camp this week. “I didn’t get drafted. So now I have to show everybody I should’ve been — and that I belong here — just by working, showing my ability, how smart I am.
“I’m at the bottom of the barrel, but I like it that way, anyway. That’s just how I was raised. Both my parents were in the Army, so they went from struggling to serving their country, sacrificing. And I feel like it’s my duty to do this, giving it my all.”
There’s an opportunity, to be sure. The Browns have a former Pro Bowler in Joe Haden at one cornerback position and a sizable investment in Jamar Taylor at the other. They also signed free agency Jason McCourty after fourth-round pick Howard Wilson fractured his kneecap on the first day of rookie minicamp. Beyond that, there’s Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who impressed as an undrafted rookie last season, and plenty of uncertainty. Making the 53-man roster probably is a stretch, but a practice-squad role as a rookie might not be.
“They just told me to come in and work,” Stribling said. “When I got to Michigan, I was a little anxious and ready to go, but I just had to learn about being patient. It’s kind of the same way now. This is the grind here, and I love the grind.”