Jamestown native Stephen Carlson signs with the Browns
Stephen Carlson went undrafted during the three-day National Football League “selection meeting,” but the Jamestown native and Princeton University standout will be stepping up to the pro level anyway.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end was signed as a priority undrafted free agent by the Cleveland Browns on Saturday and will report to the team for its rookie minicamp next weekend.
“I’m super excited right now,” Carlson said from the Princeton campus last evening. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. I have to take advantage of the moment, so I’m going to enjoy it now, but, for sure this week, I’m going to be working hard. … I have to do well there, perform well there and see where it goes.”
The rookie minicamp is the first of several opportunities Carlson will have to show his talents in the coming months. Also on his calendar are organized team activities in the middle of May; veteran mandatory minicamp in June; and training camp at the end of July.
“They’ve been bringing in a lot of guys this offseason, and I’m happy to be one of them,” Carlson said. “I’m definitely not one of the big-name guys, but I’m just excited to talk to the coaches and staff. I know they have a great organization. I’m sure whatever happens (with me), they’ll end up doing a good job this year. I’m thankful to be around them.”
Sunday’s signing comes on the heels of a collegiate career in which he recorded 125 catches for 1,632 yards and 16 touchdowns as a wide receiver, although he rarely played his first two seasons.
That production as a junior and senior, in combination with Princeton’s Ivy League championship and unbeaten season in 2018, drew the interest of draft analysts, including Mel Kiper Jr., who had Carlson rated as the 24th-best tight end in the draft.
Carlson’s agent, Shane Costa of Pillar Sports Management, said the Browns “showed a lot of interest throughout the process, so it just made a lot of sense” to sign with Cleveland.
“I think they’re a very creative team offensively,” Costa said. “What they told me is they’re looking to use (Carlson) in a variety of roles … whether that’s more of a traditional tight end or more of an H-back or a guy who can spread out wide as a flex. They’re just excited to be able to work with somebody like that.”
Carlson turned in strong efforts at his pro day at Princeton in March and pro day visits with the Giants, Jets and Eagles earlier this month, which also opened some eyes, Costa added.
“He’s got a really unique skill set,” the agent said. “Being 6-4 and 240 pounds, but still being as quick as he is and as fast as he is and as athletic as he is, he’s going to have an opportunity to make that roster in a number of positions, including special teams.
“He’ll be there through the preseason and he’ll be competing for a spot on that 53-man roster.”
Among the many people who will be rooting Carlson on is his high school coach, Tom Langworthy.
“It’s amazing. I’m so happy for him and his family, the entire Red Raider football program and the whole community,” Langworthy said. ” … Stephen represents all of us — Jamestown and all of Chautauqua County. It’s incredible and a testament of Stephen doing everything right, and he’s also very gifted. I think people that do everything right and don’t take shortcuts are who you root for in life. That’s the reason everyone should be happy.”
During his career at Jamestown High School, Carlson was a two-time first-team all-state choice, and helped the Red Raiders to a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship his senior year. In addition, he was named The Post-Journal Player of the Year in 2014, the same season he was the recipient of the Connolly Cup, which is presented to the outstanding player in Western New York.
Carlson joins the late Jim McCusker as the second JHS graduate to sign with an NFL team.
“It is awesome that I … just went through everything I’ve been through, come from a smallish town and now it’s finally here,” Carlson said. “But it wasn’t just me. It’s through everyone’s support that I’ve gotten to this position.”