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Browns roster: Meet Browns offensive tackle Hunter Thedford

Quality depth is needed at all positions along the offensive line

The Cleveland Browns are well-known for the fact that their offensive line is elite. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is also considered the best at what he does as this group is a sense of pride for the franchise.

The problems occur when any of the starting five become injured and miss games. GM Andrew Berry was on a mission to build the second tier into a more productive group in the event that such tragedies occur. The last thing this high-powered offense needs is for one guy to diminish the level of excellence they are used to. It just can’t happen.

One of the guys Berry signed to compete for a depth position is OT Hunter Thedford. In fact, Berry cut seasoned veteran Joe Haeg to make room for Thedford.

Thedford (6’-6”, 305 pounds) is a former tight end who was converted to the offensive line. He was already an excellent blocker, the question was whether he could transition to a tackle spot. He has arrived in Cleveland to make the final roster and not be simply a “camp body.”

He was a three-sport athlete in high school and was named First Team All-APSE and a Two-Time First Team All-District. After his senior season, he was ranked a three-star recruit by He went to SMU as a tight end. They converted him to defensive end for two seasons before moving him back to tight end. He played for the University of Utah during his senior season. At this point, he was 6’-6” and weighed 260 pounds. Thedford was named to the 2016 AAC All-American Team.

Thedford, age 26, went undrafted in 2020. He then played for the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL as a tight end. Once their season was completed, he signed a free-agent contract with the Detroit Lions. From there he was with the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos who had Thedford’s future function as the primary swing tackle as a practice squad member. However, he was later waived from Denver with an injury settlement.

The Browns claimed him as an offensive tackle prospect and inked him to a reserve/futures contract in January. He has been married for almost six years and has a four-year-old and a baby just six months old, both girls. His Twitter handle is @hunterthedford.

Three factors are in Thedford’s favor. For one, the club did not re-sign Chris Hubbard who had been a roster member for five years and was the primary swing tackle. Secondly, when Berry signed Thedford he released Joe Haeg who was an eight-year veteran plus an FBS and Super Bowl champion. And lastly, Cleveland could have signed any free-agent offensive lineman they wanted and chose Thedford to come in and compete for a backup role.

Dawgs By Nature caught up with Thedford on an off day to discuss his role with the Browns.

DBN: You were quite the athlete at Comanche High School. Two-Time First Team All-District in football, also earned All-District honors in basketball and All-District honors in golf. In basketball, you earned All-District Defensive MVP honors. How did you decide which sport to pursue?

Thedford: Golf was a little too boring for me. The whole “walking the course” thing I could never catch onto that. And sometimes it would take 8-9 hours to finish one round. With basketball, I could never stay in because I fouled out all the time. I guess football was the only option for me.

DBN: A lot of big men don’t do well in golf. What is your handicap, and how did you get involved in this sport?

Thedford: Ever since I began playing pro football my handicap has gone down dramatically. I don’t play much anymore and it’s a sport that you have to keep playing regularly to stay good at your game. I’d say now, the handicap is 10-12, which is not like me. Now, I can go out and shoot 80s and enjoy a day of golf. My dad got me involved when I was little he would drag me to the golf course. I didn’t play much and would go out and look for golf balls.

DBN: Being a Texas kid, you grew up a big Dallas Cowboys fan. Who was your favorite player?

Thedford: Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware. I played both tight end and defensive end in high school and grew up watching those guys. Witten was such a leader on and off the field and I always looked up to that. His late coach was one of the coaches in the USFL. So I was able to talk to him about Jason’s work ethic and the standard he set himself up to. He was never the fastest, but his football knowledge was so high. And he watched film to know the defense’s holes. Witten had a quarterback who trusted him. Once you get that bond, you can do a lot of really good things.

Utah v Washington Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

DBN: You played tight end at Comanche High School, SMU, and finally Utah. When you signed with New England, did Bill Belichick switch you to the offensive line?

Thedford: My agent and I had a good conversation and we felt it would be best for my career for me to gain the weight. After I got over 300 pounds, I got a full workout with New England for the offensive line. I didn’t catch a single ball in my tryout. I was fully going after the tackle position.

DBN: The Browns currently list you on their website as 260 pounds. How much do you weigh now?

Thedford: Probably about 310. I hope to gain another five pounds before training camp starts because I know you lose weight in camp so that gives me a small buffer. I am hoping to play at 310, maybe 315.

DBN: What was your USFL experience like? What was the pay like? Bubble?

Thedford: It was a new league with a lot of things they were still trying to figure out as far as how to conduct. I had a lot of fun with it. A buddy of mine was on the same team. I had a good experience because at the end of the day - it was football, and I was getting to play a lot of football. Like 50-60 snaps a game. There were a couple of games I was the only tight end on the team. It was a lot of fun. My roommate quarterback Josh Love and I had our own house and would cook steaks on the weekend. They paid us $4,400 a game with an $800 win bonus. All eight teams played in Birmingham at two different stadiums. That newer stadium on the campus of UAB was a nice stadium. I was really impressed with their facilities. The other stadium, Legion Field, was really cool with its history including the amount of Alabama-Auburn games played there.

DBN: You signed with Denver and left with an injury settlement. How did you end up with a hip flexor injury, and is this completely healed?

Thedford: It was early one morning and we had already finished some football stuff mostly conditioning. We were short-cutting in the grass, which was still a little wet. I went to cut and my foot just slide on that wet grass. It was an unfortunate thing and kinda made me mad. It is always tough when you have an injury happen. Injuries are always going to happen, though. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Sean) Payton and his coaching staff. I ended up leaving and got fully healed and was lucky enough for Cleveland to call me. I am super excited about it.

DBN: The Browns are in need of backup tackles as veteran swing tackle Chris Hubbard was not re-signed. Do you see yourself in a good place in Cleveland?

Thedford: It is way too early to tell. It’s easy to imagine yourself in a place, but honestly when the pads go on that is where you learn a lot about yourself, your teammate, and your surroundings. It’s just early to say I am in a good spot or a bad spot. I am going to do my best, work as hard as I can, and show that I can hang with these guys.

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

DBN: Now that you have gone through mini-camp, what is your impression of O-Line coach Bill Callahan?

Thedford: Before getting here, I heard a lot of great things going in. Off the bat, the first day, I got a full experience of it. The way he coaches he is fired up 24/7. He has great energy, experience, and knowledge. He is telling me about certain situations in the game that will help me learn. I am really, really fortunate to have a coach that has that much experience and knowledge especially with me being new to the team. I am still learning some offensive tackle techniques. I am extremely lucky to be in a place with Coach Callahan teaching me things.

DBN: You are viewed as a developmental prospect with plenty of potential to excel if you can continue progressing as a blocker. What are the next steps you must take?

Thedford: Nothing that stands out, but as a whole learning everything from my stance to the depth I am taking as I set. Me being a tight end in my past life has helped me with my run blocking. I am doing some of the same stuff like reaching and cuts. It is more my pass sets that I am focused on. I have to learn to get really comfortable with that. Coach Callahan has already changed up a lot of stuff with me, especially techniques. This whole off-season I am doing a lot of pass setting every day, trying to learn the next spot I am trying to get to and get as fast as possible with my feet. Work those techniques he sent me out with.

DBN: You are a Texas guy. Cleveland has a lot of really good bar-b-que spots. Why is Texas bar-b-que different from everything else?

Thedford: The way I see it, Texas bar-b-que is a blend of heavy vinegar, bar-b-que sauces, and overly sweet bar-b-que in the mix. The blend is the trick with the salty and the sweet coming together. That’s the ticket. I am a big Texas bar-b-que guy. We did ribs and brisket yesterday.

DBN: Tell us about your workout routine and your diet this time of year.

Thedford: Right now I lift Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I condition two times a week and then I just do offensive line drills two times a week. A lot of recovery and stretching. With camp, you have to build up your endurance. But you have to come in fresh so you don’t want to come in after maxing out all week prior. It’s a very delicate balance of building yourself up, getting in shape, getting ready for camp, and at the same time coming in fresh. My diet is actually pretty crazy. I am still trying to gain weight. I am a big proponent of eating late at night and gotta have nine hours of sleep. All the recovery things in the training room can’t compare to a full night’s rest. And plenty of food. That eating late will do it. I was 270 and in three months I got to 300 pounds. A lot of protein shakes as well. At first, it wasn’t all clean weight meaning a lot of it was good muscle but some of it wasn’t. Luckily I was pretty lean as a tight end. I am starting to lean my body to what I want it to be. When I played tight end I was about 13% body fat. Now as offensive line, I am 19-20. I would like to get down to 18% which I think is a really good percentage for an offensive lineman.

DBN: Do you miss playing tight end?

Thedford: Some. I personally think I can go out there and run routes. Who knows? Maybe we can have a trick play and I sneak out the back door. I still run routes with my QB back home. Just for fun and conditioning. Nothing too crazy and keep me sharp in case it ever happens.

DBN: The Browns’ offensive line has a veteran presence with three Pro Bowlers. Your thoughts?

Thedford: I think it is awesome. I see the work ethic they bring every day and the leadership. It is one of those things where you can’t go wrong. You see the example and there is no guessing. You see the recipe, the coaching, the players believe in it every day. And that is why they are Pro Bowlers. Plus they do it on and off the field. It is a great spot for me to watch, learn and follow.

DBN: Center Ethan Pocic is known for being very serious in games and in practices. Is he going to have any issues with you?

Thedford: Not one bit. I haven’t gotten to know everybody on a personal level yet, but I am a smooth-going guy. I am easygoing. I don’t expect anything but for me to fall right into this system.

DBN: This Browns’ offensive line group has been ranked Top-3 in the league. What do you see as your contribution?

Thedford: I am going to give the best effort I have and contribute however I can. No matter what it takes. All my job is to help this offensive line. We’ll see as we play some games what that role is. Right now is just me working hard and seeing where it all ends.