It is a longshot, but it has always been a longshot for Joe Rankin.
It was announced this weekend that the former Seneca Valley High School star has signed with the Cleveland Browns.
“It has been a blessing from God,” said Rankin, an undrafted cornerback, who played his college ball at Morgan State in Baltimore. “All of my thanks go to him for giving me this opportunity. Of course thanks to Cleveland Browns for this opportunity.”
His agent Scott Bergman said, “I got him a long-shot, there is a very deep depth chart at cornerback with the Cleveland Browns. But, they liked him a lot during mini-camp. He performed better than most of the guys during mini-camp, but they had to give their draft picks first-come, first serve. They decided to go ahead and give him a real good look.”
Germantown fans will get a chance to see Rankin play this Thursday as the Browns will host the Washington Redskins in their first preseason game of 2015.
Rankin said that he is trying to learn as much as he can, as fast as he can. “My first day of practice was today (Monday). We have a preseason game against the Redskins on Thursday night. I am blessed that I have two great corners to learn from, one being Joe Haden and the other is Tramon Williams. For a young guy learning the game, I am blessed to have those two guys to learn from, who are great to learn from. They have been very helpful.”
Not bad for a kid that didn’t start playing organized football until his junior year of high school.
“I finished strong,” said Rankin of his Seneca Valley days. “Coach Kim did such a good job pushing me and giving me the opportunity to play football. When I first got to Seneca Valley I got myself into some trouble. I never really played football before. My first year playing football at Seneca Valley was my junior year in high school. Coach Kim gave me an opportunity to come out and play. I bought into the program. I will never forget, I started off on B-Team. I wasn’t a starter. I had to work very hard to work up the ranks and soon, I was leading the County in interceptions. I was the star running back and starting corner back. My times as Seneca would not have been the same if it wasn’t for my teammates. That is what made us a great football team.”
“I am not surprised,” said Seneca Valley football coach Fred Kim after learning that Rankin had signed with the Browns. “Joe is a worker. He is relentless. He is one of the most, if not the most driven player I have ever coached. If there was ever a player that I thought could make it to the NFL, it is Joe. I believe he will make it.”
As a junior at Seneca Valley, Rankin picked off seven passes, returning three for touchdowns. As a senior, he led the team in rushing and kick return yards in addition to his defensive back duties, driving the Screamin’ Eagles to an undefeated regular season and state semifinal appearance.
Kim said that Rankin was a great example for current Seneca Valley players. “Joe started out his academic career slowly but burst into high levels after realizing his abilities, not just on the football field, but in the classroom. He is a model to follow for young men in Germantown.”
After high school, Rankin attended Morgan State. He intercepted 13 passes for his career at Morgan State, two shy of matching a school record. As a junior, the second team all-conference selection had five interceptions, 11 pass deflections, 46 tackles and a blocked field goal.
Rankin said it was his work with the Pro Power Foundation that motivated him to give the NFL another shot this season. “I coached with them over the summer,” he said of his work with the foundation that held two camps in Montgomery County this summer. “Working with camps and giving back to kids really gave me my energy to continue to pursue this dream. Being out there coaching and helping them get better, it was good for me. Just seeing those kids work hard as they were going down the same path that I once walked down gave me my energy. Thanks to the Pro Power Foundation for giving me the opportunity to coach those kids.”
Rankin is listed at number 34 on the Cleveland Browns roster. The Browns will play the Redskins at 7:30 pm on Thursday, August 13.
Top: Joe Rankin (35 in white), who recently signed with Cleveland Browns intercepts a pass intended for wide receiver Josh Lenz during Browns Camp.
Photo by Joshua Gunter, Northeast Ohio Media Group. Used with permission.