Whitner came home to win

BEREA, Ohio -- When it comes to his hometown, Cleveland is never far from the mind, and heart, of the newest Browns defensive back, safety Donte Whitner.

For Whitner, who has the now famous "G" logo from his alma mater, Glenville High School, tattooed on his right forearm, having the opportunity to come home and join the Browns after growing up in Cleveland was something he could not pass up.

And his mission is simple, turn around the fortunes of the Browns, just like he helped do in guiding the San Francisco 49ers to three straight NFC Championship Games.

"My family is very, very excited about this opportunity," Whitner said at an introductory press conference Wednesday. "The Glenville community is very excited about this. All (Ohio State) Buckeye fans are very excited. It's just a number of different people that are excited about this homecoming. The only thing that will make it better is if we go out, win a lot of football games and make it to the playoffs. I'm looking forward to that."

Whitner said "it would mean everything" to him should he be able to help turn around the losing ways of the Browns, who have had only two winning seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999 and posted double-digit losses in each of the last six years.

"I know the pain that this city feels because I'm a resident of this city still," Whitner said. "I live here. My family lives here. They're all Browns fans. Anytime they would watch the San Francisco game, you better believe they were clicking back-and-forth, watching the Cleveland Browns' game.

"Now, I have the opportunity to come here, show some leadership, play physical, really, really coach the guys up on how we're going to win football games."

Whitner was a free agent in 2011, but did not then have the opportunity to return to his hometown team. However, this time around, the opportunity to sign a four-year, $28 million contract was "a very special moment."

"Not often do you get to play high school, college and play in the National Football League in the same state," Whitner said. "Now, I have that opportunity. I know the history of this city. I know the history of this football team and I know it recently hasn't been good. I know that with a lot of hard work, a lot of good leadership and a lot of good, physical football, we can change this thing around.

"My number one thing was to come back home to really help the city, but another thing is, I have two small children, a six-year-old and a seven-year-old. Being on the West Coast, I couldn't spend a lot of time with them, so now, I get an opportunity to spend a lot more time with them and I get an opportunity to be around my family. I'm looking forward to it."

In addition to winning in Cleveland and spending time with his family, Whitner also embraces the opportunity to serve as a role model for those who wear the same uniform he did for the Glenville Tarblooders.

"When you're playing in the same city and you know about the inner-city kids from being one of those kids, it's a 20, 30-minute ride to speak to them, talk to them and let them see you give of your time," Whitner said.

"It really means a lot. The city of Cleveland is not doing too well right now. There's a lot of inner-city things going on, and I feel I can be an influence on some of these kids, a lot of these kids actually."


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