Before Browns breakout, D’Ernest Johnson was sliding into DMs, begging for AAF tryout

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Before his triumph Thursday night, Browns overnight sensation D’Ernest Johnson was sliding into Instagram DMs, begging to play in the Alliance of American Football, a short-lived startup league that lasted all of two months. Coming out of USF, where he played sparingly as a backup to starter Marlon Mack, Johnson was not a particularly sought-after prospect, drawing scant interest from teams before going undrafted in 2018.

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After failing to latch on with the Saints, who sent him packing after failing to impress at rookie minicamp, Johnson returned home to Florida, spending his days fishing for mahi-mahi to make ends meet while waiting for his football career to take off. When he wasn’t baiting a hook or casting out to sea, the 5’10” running back was reaching out to teams through social media, offering to send them highlights in hopes of landing an AAF tryout. Here is a screenshot of one of those communications shared by Courtney Kramer, former social media manager for the Birmingham Iron.