I sat down with one of my favorite Cleveland Browns of all time recently. Earnest Byner was the heart and soul of many of those talented Browns teams in the 1980’s. Portions of his journey would break many people, but I found the man I met to be engaging, fun-loving and most of all, at peace. We talked about his book “Everybody Fumbles” which was published in 2015. We also talked about his career and his thoughts on the current Browns, but when I reflect on our conversation in its entirety, we talked about life.
For me, “the fumble” never defined Earnest Byner, yet it’s the starting point in his book. Regarding the play that haunted him for a long time, Mr. Byner said:
“I always put the outcome of games, whether it was a championship game [or not]. I thought that I determined the outcome of games. That mentality was in me. I took it personally. The negative stands out more than the positive. It’s just how we’re made. That’s why it stuck with me for so long because I care, I cared, I still care.”
We talked about his Super Bowl win with the Redskins. His thoughts at 5:00 AM the next morning were…
“What’s next?” “I never stopped. Which is maddening. It’s crazy.”
Earnest Byner told me that writing his book was:
“Very helpful, to tell you the truth. Over time, it was therapy, because when I was writing, it was like I was talking to somebody.”
He watched the Cavs win Game 7 and bring a championship to Cleveland, saying,
“I was first and foremost happy for the Cavaliers. But also happy for the Cleveland fans, a sense of peace came over me. It was almost like a wave of energy that touched me and touched my heart.”
We talked about the stories and lessons in his book…
“Being able to be a winner in football and in life, the approach should be the same. The basics of being a successful person are all the same. Life and also sports is a lot of mental gymnastics that we go through. How do we deal with the psyche? How do we grow from each event? How do we use each experience to push ourselves to the next level, whether it’s positive or it’s negative?”
On his relationship with Kevin Mack in that magical 1985 season, Mr. Byner told me:
“For some reason, I went to Kevin. We were roommates in training camp, [and said] hey, man. We’re going to be the stars on this team. Let’s do this. Let’s take this and make this team go. For some reason, I don’t know why I went. Why would I say that to Kevin? But I did. We had a brotherhood. We hung out together. We still talk today.”
I asked Mr. Byner about his return to the Browns in 1994 and what it meant. He paused several times as if still wondering why the decision was made more easily than it should have been. He said,
“I got a call from Ozzie Newsome. He asked me [if I would] come back. I said yes. Oh, yeah, I’ll come back. To tell you the truth, I don’t know why I answered so quickly. It had become difficult for me in Cleveland, not necessarily because of some people talking about the fumble, also because of me. For some reason I didn’t mind coming back. It wasn’t something that I planned. It wasn’t something I had even thought about until I got the call from Ozzie. I had no reservations about it.”
We covered many additional topics. You can hear the interview in its entirety on The Land Sports Podcast (@thelandpodcast). It will air this weekend. Many thanks to Earnest Byner for sharing his story with me.
Earnest Byner is a two time Super Bowl winner. He is active in charity work through his Healing Dawgs organization (healingdawgs.org). He also has products available through his company The Original Dawgs (theoriginaldawgs.com). You can purchase his book,”Everbody Fumbles”, donate to Healing Dawgs and purchase Original Dawgs products by going to earnestbyner21.com. Follow him on Twitter @ebyner.
Follow the author @CSTRodB