With a handoff from Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and a few nudges from running back Trent Richardson, 5-year-old cancer survivor Ryan Encinas covered the 40 yards as fast as he could.
The Browns have had longer touchdown runs in their history, never one so sweet.
Encinas, who recently celebrated two years in remission after being diagnosed with lung cancer, concluded Cleveland’s “Family Night” practice at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday by running for a TD while being escorted by all the Browns. Once he reached the end zone, Encinas was lifted in the air by linebacker Craig Robertson and all the Browns huddled as the youngster soared above them and the crowd cheered.
“That was cool,” Weeden said. “The kid’s been through a lot. I do a lot of stuff back home with Children’s Hospital, so every time something like that happens, it brings a lump to your throat.”
The touching moment was similar to the one that took place earlier this year at Nebraska, when the Cornhuskers let 7-year-old Jack Hoffman, fighting brain cancer, run for a TD during their spring game.
“How ‘bout that first-round draft pick there,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said of Encinas, who wore a No. 1 Browns jersey and helmet for his magical run.
The Browns drew 24,131 fans for their stadium workout, which broke up the monotony of training camp for the players and allowed eager Cleveland fans who can’t wait for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener to get their first glimpse of a team with higher expectations than Browns squads in recent years.
Weeden threw a few nice passes and had one picked off by cornerback Joe Haden. Richardson missed his second straight practice with a shin injury, and rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo showed why the Browns selected him in the first round with a few strong moves rushing the quarterback.
But the night’s unquestioned star was Encinas, whose family believed he was fighting a cold when a football-sized tumor was discovered in his left lung. Encinas had to endure weeks of chemotherapy while his mom, Angela, had to drop out of school to take care of her son.
Chudzinski said his son, Kaelan, came up with the idea of doing something for Encinas, who got some tips on a celebration dance from Richardson during a visit to Browns practice earlier this week.
Many of the players were visibly moved by the tribute to Encinas, who will be a kindergartner this fall.
“He couldn’t do the things he wanted to do growing up, but to have this moment in front of these fans in this stadium, I’m getting chills right now,” Mingo said. “I’m sure it meant a lot to that little kid.”