Browns tight end Marcus Santos-Silva is desperate to return to football after a successful college basketball career

CLEVELAND, Ohio — First things first, if this whole tight end thing doesn’t work out for Marcus Santos-Silva, he could always try his hand — well, his foot — at kicking.

He did a bit of this in his freshman year of high school.

“I was able to reach the end zone and then just played with my toes the whole time,” Santos-Silva said last week before his first rookie minicamp practice session. “I would tell people I think I was the only kicker who could get his own onside kick. I was really good with the jump and everything. It was fun.”

Back then, pedaling was just his sideline. He was also a defensive endplayer on his freshman football team at Taunton High School in Massachusetts, at least until he was introduced to some not-so-friendly blocking techniques.

“I went past the offensive line like I was going straight to the QB and this other team had a big full-back and that was the first time I heard what a chop block is,” he said, “and he like the side of me hit my knee and I was in pain and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m kinda too big for this.'”

Santos-Silva was already big and growing, so basketball was the obvious choice, and not a bad one. He ended up finishing his high school career at Vermont Academy and the three-star recruit ended up at VCU.

The host on his recruiting visit there was Mo Alie-Cox, who, like Santos-Silva, hadn’t played football since his high school freshman year and would eventually sign with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent in 2017.

Santos-Silva spent three seasons at VCU, then made a graduate transfer to Texas Tech and played there for two years, including last season’s run to the Sweet 16, which ended in a loss to Duke.

This is where the football history of Santos-Silva starts again.

“I literally started four weeks ago”

Cleveland Brown's 2022 Rookie Minicamp, May 13, 2022

Cleveland Browns TE Marcus Santos-Silva conducts a drill during the Cleveland Browns Rookie Minicamp. Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

Santos-Silva had two post-college basketball paths: the G-League or the overseas route. The latter wasn’t appealing – he wanted to be close to his family.

“The overseas route is cool, but I wanted to be far away from everyone again,” he said.

Instead, shortly after his basketball season ended, he received a call from a Texas Tech football coach. He had received calls about Santos-Silva.

“At first I didn’t really take it seriously, but then I went to her pro day, I started liking it,” Santos-Silva said.

Suddenly, the player who gave up football as a freshman in high school wasn’t just thinking about going back — he was a hot commodity.

“I didn’t realize it was going to explode the way it did,” he said. “I’ve had a whole bunch of team calls wanting me to do workouts.”

The Ravens, Colts, Jets and Browns were among the teams interested. The Ravens invited him as a tryout player to their rookie minicamp scheduled a week before the Browns’. However, the Browns were the only team to organize private training with the former Hooper, a training that took place before the Ravens could bring him into their building.

“I thought it was really cool that they took a few hours out of their day to watch me walk out onto the field, make a few blocks, catch a few balls and after that I think that’s the way it should be.” , he said.

It was the first time Santos-Silva ran a 40-yard dash. He didn’t want to talk about the time.

“I said, ‘What’s my 40?’ and they said: ‘You are good.’ When they said that, I thought, ‘Ah, that’s bad,'” he said. “After I did my long jump, they were surprised and said, ‘Wow.’ I said, ‘Wait until we run the routes.’ I ran the courses, it was like, ‘Forget the 40.’”

The Browns didn’t hesitate. They signed him.

“I literally started four weeks ago, did the whole process, agents, talked to teams, trained at home and I got signed with the Browns, I’m in rookie mini-camp,” Santos-Silva said. “If you told me last year that I would be in this area now, in this situation, I would think you were crazy.”

“You Will Shape Me”

Cleveland Brown's 2022 Rookie Minicamp, May 13, 2022

Cleveland Browns TE Marcus Santos-Silva makes a catch during practice at rookie minicamp. Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com

After his signature, Santos-Silva had to ask the Browns for a helmet to take home. He hadn’t worn one for a long time.

“When you see things like this, you like…” He squeezed his two hands together, forming a small window.

He hasn’t been hit in a long time either.

“People have been asking me, ‘Oh, are you nervous? Are you ready to get hit?’ I tell people I’m looking forward to being met. I can’t wait because it’s been a while,” he said.

The 6-foot-6, 261-pound Santos-Silva was at least a physical basketball player, so you can translate that.

“With the tight end position — we’ve all seen it — in the guys that went from basketball to pros, the body type, first of all you look at the frame and the ability to put on weight,” head coach Kevin said Stefansky. “Often the undersized (power forwards) who are in the 6-4 range and have a frame and are already in their 250s usually have great ball skills as basketball players. You think of them in and around the basket and the ability to catch the ball. Then it is their ability to use their length.”

Santos-Silva asked Alie-Cox for advice. In his fifth season with the Colts, Alie-Cox has caught 70 career passes for 936 yards and eight touchdowns, including a career-high four points last season. He was Pro Football Focus’ 13th-highest rated run blocker in 2021.

“He just told me the main thing, he said, ‘Think of football as a rebound every time,’ said Santos-Silva.

Alie-Cox warned that the hardest part would be the playbook and blocking schemes. Ask yourself about it every day. Understand that you could lose your job any day, any hour if you take this path, so adopt a professional mindset.

“As soon as I did it, my whole mindset was different,” said Santos-Silva. “He’s like a big brother to me now because he’s been through it, he’s been really successful, so anytime I have questions he can answer for me.”

He understands his raw talent teams are seeing it, and he’s willing to soak up whatever he can to try and turn raw talent into a pro football career.

“I tell people I’m coming as a clay and they’re going to shape me the way they want me to be,” he said. “Right now I’m just coming in with open arms, an open book, accepting all the advice and information I can get from anyone.”

Santos-Silva got the first step, his rookie mini-camp, getting used to the mental side of the game, the meetings, the homework, everything that goes with being a professional soccer player, something he hadn’t planned a bit before over a month.

This was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

“I would have been stupid to turn down the NFL,” he said. “If anyone had that opportunity, they would say ‘yes’ right away, so I figured I had to take that opportunity.”

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