Earnest Byner said he was surprised, but he knew he shouldn't have been.
The former 1,000 yard-rusher for the Cleveland Browns and a key player on three AFC Central championship teams in the 1980s was at Clinton Heights Saturday for the Tiffin Browns Backers' annual golf outing.
Byner said he talked and reminisced with area Browns fans, who were eager to discuss the team.
PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO
Former Browns Pro Bowler Earnest Byner signs the shirt of Dennis Lofay during a Tiffin Browns Backers golf outing Saturday at Clinton Heights.
But the former back, who had two separate tenures with the Browns - and won a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins - said it's more than just loyalty and memories.
"The thing that surprises me, man, is the continual love that's there," Byner said. "But if you know Cleveland fans, you know what you're dealing with. So it shouldn't surprise me, to tell you the truth. But you never take it for granted, all the love that is shown."
The outing, which featured 25 four-person teams, raises money for Just for Kids, an organization which raises money for families with ill children. The organization was started by Greg Clouse, who lost his son, Keith, to cancer in 1988.
"[We help families] with rent, food, utilities,whatever they need at the time," Clouse said. "We stay local. We try to stay in Seneca County. We started here and we're staying here."
Clouse said he's very appreciative of the local support.
"Seneca County, God bless them, they've helped us out so much," Clouse said. "I mean, people got to know us ... and these people, there are a lot of them."
Clouse said Just for Kids has aided more than 100 families since it was organized in 1991.
"Every year we've given the funds to Just for Kids," said Jeff Morrow, the president of the Tiffin Browns Backers. "We've raised up to $3,500, that's probably the highest we've raised, and most years, anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500."
In addition to the golf tournament, the organization also raffles off things such as T-shirts, mini-Browns helmets and memorabilia.
The group also has been able to get players from the Browns to come every year.
"It's just fun to meet these guys and talk to them one-on-one," said Clouse, who has been a member of the Tiffin chapter of Browns Backers since it started. "It's fun. All these guys that have come, they're just nice people."
Byner, who has been a running backs coach for four different NFL teams since retiring, said he's now being "a family guy."
"My wife is here with me," Byner said. "I'll get a chance to spend more time with her, because working in the league, some of that time is missed. But we also just had a grandbaby two and a half weeks ago. I'm getting a chance to do some things I haven't done. This is one of them, spending time with the family is the other."
As for the Backers, they're hoping the Browns can start doing something they haven't done much since Byner retired: Win.
"It was excitement," Byner said of his interactions Saturday. "It was some inquisitions about what I think about what might happen with the team now. But also, we got a chance to both reminisce about some of the old times."