I just became a fan of the Cleveland Browns. I had grown up my entire life rooting for a different NFL franchise, and some off the field decisions by that team made me finally decide I could not root for them anymore. That was over two years ago and I have not watched an NFL game since. So now I am signing on to root for the Cleveland Browns, not because of Odell Beckham or Baker Mayfield or anyone in the front office or coaching staff. I am rooting for the Cleveland Browns because of Daniel Wright.
If you're a fan of the tv show the Biggest Loser, you may have heard of Daniel, he was on seasons 7 and 8 of the show about ten years ago (First appearing on team orange). I knew Daniel before that, going back to Willow Springs, North Carolina and we became friends over our mutual passion for the Word of God and our faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again for our salvation. In all my years growing up I never had a more encouraging, loyal, or kind friend than he was.
You might wonder how a guy from North Carolina became a Browns fan to begin with, and that story actually goes to 2014. Daniel and his wonderful wife Rebecca (who he met on the Biggest Loser) decided to pull for the Browns in memory of a friend named Brynn Lunkins, who I never had the honor of meeting but whose death greatly impacted my friend. After the Browns win on September 21st, 2018, Daniel said in a social media post "Tonight, we finally got to see a team come together that’s been building for decades! If you can watch football in heaven, then I know Brynn saw this one!"
When Daniel posted this, he was battling Leukemia. I do not think it's an accident that he ended up supporting a team who wore on their jerseys the color (orange) that symbolizes the fight against that disease. In that same social media post Daniel said "As we fought cancer this year and watched the Browns lose week after week from the hospital last season we felt more and more connected to what it feels like to be defeated. This has only made tonight’s win feel that much sweeter!"
At the end of last season, Daniel talked about how excited he was for the direction this team was going. It is a direction he will never get to see. On May 26th, 2019, six days after turning 30, Daniel Wright lost his battle with Leukemia.
As I work to cope with his loss I am honoring his memory in several ways. First, and most importantly, as a pastor I am carrying forward the message of hope and faith that sustained Daniel through his battle with cancer. Second, I'm stepping up in his place to support the Cleveland Browns, rooting for the hopeful future that he so looked forward to before his passing. As a part of this, I will be donating to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society every time the Browns win this season. Daniel was passionate about the organization and I encourage you to consider supporting their work.
We all have our stories of how we came to follow different teams. For some it is about being from a certain city, for others it is about a certain player that inspires you to cheer the team on. For me, it's about honoring the memory of a dear friend, and for that reason I say, 'Go Browns'.