Receivers take similar route
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 13, 2002
TAMPA -- He starred at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, played receiver at a Pac-10 college, was a high draft pick and is among the NFL's most productive pass catchers and kick returners.
Keyshawn Johnson? Nope. Cleveland Browns receiver Dennis Northcutt.
Johnson and Northcutt share more than resumes. They have the same agent, Jerome Stanley, and have become close friends and competitors.
"I tried to get (Southern Cal) to recruit him," Johnson said of Northcutt. "He was small, a little skinny kid.
"(Southern Cal) didn't like him because he was small and he played running back in high school. And at the time at S.C., there was a Johnny Morton, a Keyshawn Johnson, a Curtis Conway. Those were the receivers. Big, physical, dominant receivers. So you didn't see him translating him into that. You didn't really have a spot for him.
"When he went to Arizona, I said it was a mistake not to take him at S.C. and just figure it out later on," Johnson said. "Then he went back and torched S.C. and UCLA."
Northcutt has looked up to the 6-foot-4 Johnson since meeting him as a junior at Dorsey while Northcutt's idol starred at USC.
"The Dorsey guys have always given something back and are very supportive," Northcutt said. "But the NFL? At that time, I was just wondering if I could play college football, not whether I could play in the NFL. That was five years down the road."
The road has been cruel to Northcutt and the Browns this season. They are 2-3 and deserve better.
"This team is very resilient," Northcutt said. "We know we have a lot of talent on this team, and I think we'll continue to play hard because it's only a matter of time before the wins come."
PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM: This has the feel of one of those look-ahead games for the Bucs.
Tampa Bay has won four straight and will play its only game this month at Raymond James Stadium today against a struggling Cleveland team.
Next weekend, the Bucs travel to Philadelphia for an important early game against the Eagles at Veterans Stadium, where the past two seasons have ended in a wild-card loss for Tampa Bay.
A win over Philadelphia could go a long way toward homefield advantage in the playoffs because the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results.
The Bucs are on a roll.
Their defense is ranked second overall and first in points allowed at 10.6 per game. Linebacker Derrick Brooks is posting defensive player of the year numbers with three interception returns for touchdowns. He is the subject of a Sports Illustrated story planned for next week's issue.
All the trappings are there for a letdown against the Browns, but it probably won't happen. One reason is that the Bucs are experienced enough to know the Any Given Sunday rule that exists. And after beginning 3-4 the past four years, 5-1 would equal their best start after six games in club history.
One more thing.
The Bucs haven't beaten the Browns in five meetings.
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