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Mohamoud Diabate: ‘I put my best foot forward’

Cleveland’s rookie linebacker focusing on what he can control as final preseason game and roster decisions loom.

New York Jets v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Mohamoud Diabate has taken a circuitous route from college football to the precipice of an NFL roster.

The 6-foot-4 and 225-pound linebacker started at Florida, where he played three seasons with the Gators, transferred to Utah for a final season with the Utes, and then failed to hear his name called during the 2023 NFL Draft, ultimately signing with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent.

As disappointing as that certainly was for a player who played in 45 games in college, it may turn out to be the best move for Diabate. With linebackers Anthony Walker Jr. and Sione Takitaki spending training camp and the preseason working their way back from season-ending injuries, and linebacker Jacob Phillips suffering a season-ending injury against the Washington Commanders, there have been extra opportunities for Diabate that may not have otherwise been available.

Diabate has taken advantage of those opportunities as he is second on the team in the preseason with 12 tackles, has a tackle for loss, and made a highlight play when he tackled Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell for a safety.

Now with the Browns closing out the preseason this afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs - and final roster cuts looming on Tuesday - Diabate is down to his final chance to show the Browns he deserves a place on the initial 53-man roster.

While that would appear to be a high-pressure situation, Diabate is taking a calm approach to the game and plans to continue to focus on what he can control (quote via a team-provided transcript):

“I try to think about what I could control the controllables, do what I can and let the people who make decisions make their decisions. I don’t sit around worrying about something that I don’t have a decision in. So, I’m focused on going out there on Saturday, having a great game and giving a good impression to the entire league.

“I feel like I’ve had a great camp. I’ve been able to showcase my talents, whether it be in practice or as you guys have seen in the game. So I’ve definitely been proud of myself. I feel like I put my best foot forward every single day and give my best effort taking the coaching and making corrections. So I’m excited for the future.”

Teams often go into training camp with a solid idea of who will be on the final roster and use the time to confirm those beliefs. But there are times when a player can take advantage of an opportunity to make a team rethink their early beliefs and earn themselves a roster spot.

Diabate has done what he can to make the decision a difficult one for general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski, and he has one final opportunity today to stake his claim.

If he does, Diabate will not hear his name called on Tuesday when the roster cuts come in, but this time that omission will be a happy one for the rookie linebacker.