A rookie's first game in the NFL is an exciting one. For most, it's the realization of a dream nearly two decades in the making. For Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, that journey has been longer and much more unusual than most. And that journey culminates with his first career start against the Eagles on Sunday.
Weeden's first foray into the world of professional sports was through baseball. Originally a pitcher, Weeden was selected in the second round of the 2002 MLB draft by the Yankees. But after spending several years bouncing around the minors, Weeden enrolled at Oklahoma State for the 2007 season.
After a record-breaking college career, Weeden was drafted by the Browns with the 22nd overall pick in last April's draft. At 28, he is the oldest player ever selected in the first round. He took over the starting quarterback spot in Cleveland this summer, and never looked back.
It's a journey even Weeden himself can't believe sometimes.
"If you look back to my decision to go back to Oklahoma State in (2007), who would've thought I'd be playing in the NFL?" Weeden said. "I would've never thought that. But it's all worked out, but I've worked my tail off to get here, so it's definitely an exciting time... Still, there's nothing that can really discount the excitement that I'll feel on Sunday."
After all the hard work to reach this point, Weeden will be welcomed to the NFL by the Eagles. However, this is not a new matchup for either team, as the Eagles and Browns faced off in Week 3 of the preseason. In less than one half of play, Weeden went 9-of-20 for 117 yards. He was also sacked once.
"I think, obviously, these guys are a very talented bunch on that side of the ball," Weeden said. "I think it kind of starts with the front four. I think their guys can rush the passer. They're smart, veteran guys who can play and have had a lot of success. So those guys are what kind of starts them."
The Eagles defense was tied for the league lead with 50 sacks last season. But with expected contributions from young players like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Philip Hunt, the unit may exceed those numbers.
"I think they're going to pressure me. That's their nature, but I don't know if it's because I'm a rookie or not. I have to be patient and be smart with the football, one, and know who's protected and whose not. That comes in these next few days of game planning. But if they do (bring pressure), hopefully we have answers for it, and we'll kind of go from there."
Weeden knows the Eagles are no easy assignment, but expects the game will be part of the natural learning process for any rookie.
"There's going to be challenges, whether you're a rookie or not," said Weeden. "For me there's going to be challenges week in and week out. This is a tough league. But I think I continue to do things to help prepare myself. I think I'm going to learn, sometimes from mistakes, and I think sometimes that's the best way to learn. I prepare and I continue to prepare like I'm going to improve each week, and that's my goal."
The Eagles hope to give Weeden plenty to learn from when the regular season kicks off Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider