By KIM ESTES
Four Points News
Former River Place resident, Canyon Ridge Middle School Eagle and Cedar Park High School Timberwolf, Spencer Drango, has prevailed in final roster cuts and began his rookie season in the National Football League as a Cleveland Browns offensive lineman.
The Browns drafted Drango this past spring in the fifth round, the 168th pick overall in the NFL sweepstakes.
He is the son of Pamela and Gary Drango, who made a career move to San Diego in 2011, the year the future pro-player graduated from CPHS and enrolled at Baylor University on a football scholarship.
Responding from Cleveland, Drango said, “I stay in contact with some of my good friends that I played basketball and football with at CPHS. I recently saw several of them at a wedding.”
His current concentration, though, is on the Browns.
Drango survived all three Cleveland roster cuts, from 90 to 53 players, to earn a tackle position on the offensive line. At 6’6” and 315 pounds, he has been working at both left and right tackle throughout training camp and in preseason games, reported Browns’ communications coordinator, Nate Horgan.
Sunday was the season opener and the Browns lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 29-10 in Philadelphia. Drango was in for two offensive and two special teams plays, according to Cleveland.com
This season on the national stage, Drango is expected to enhance playmaking opportunities for quarterback and fellow Baylor Bear alumnus, Robert Griffin, III.
The pair shares a one-year history on the Waco practice field where the freshman and redshirted Drango scrimmaged with Griffin in his final year with the Bears.
“There is a sense of familiarity (with Griffin’s style), but it really doesn’t matter at this level. Everyone I play against is one of the best at what they do… in the world,” Drango said.
There’s word for such a high level competition – “pressure.” Local observers who have known and watched Drango develop agree that he has the skills and character for such a demand.
Alongside Drango from 9th – 12th grade was Beau Smith, now Rouse High School varsity running backs coach, junior varsity wrestling coach and biology teacher.
“I played tight end while he was my left tackle. We were part of the very successful 2010 CPHS team, going undefeated until the quarterfinals,” Smith said. Afterward, all senior offensive linemen went on to play college ball.
“We were all good, but Spencer always kind of stood out. He was a very big player who was very athletic, but what set him apart was his work ethic. He always worked on perfecting his technique,” Smith said.
“In general, he worked really hard whether it was football, basketball, track, Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the classroom. Everyone in high school could see that he would have a successful career,” said Smith.
Drango began playing football in 7th grade at Canyon Ridge Middle School, missing out on youth league competition because he always exceeded his age group’s size restrictions, his mother said.
One of his early football coaches was Seth Simmons, currently CRMS athletic coordinator.
Simmons described Drango as having “tremendous talent, work ethic and leadership.”
“He was our 8th grade Athlete of the Year in 2006 – 2007,” Simmons noted.
“I am so proud of Spencer and feel blessed that I had an opportunity to coach him. I remember he was an outstanding leader and who had a positive attitude. He was kind to all his teammates,” he added.
However, it may be a fan in the stands that observed Drango closest of all.
Ross Britton, whose son, Shane, played with Drango, said, “I remember when Spencer was in 8th grade, playing basketball for CRMS. (He was big, not a basketball build.) He got the ball on a fast break, and as he left the floor reaching to the basket, I thought – like I would about most big kids – ‘He’s going to slam it up there too hard.’ But, he didn’t. He had these soft hands that laid it up, like on a pillow, into the basket. As someone who had coached years of youth basketball, I remember how unusual that was for a big kid.
Britton added that once Drango was into his junior year, he thought he had a special talent. “He had great hands and footwork for an offensive lineman, as well as great leadership skills,” Britton said.
In Drango’s senior year at CPHS, he did not allow a single sack and he was named the District 25-4A Offensive Lineman of the Year, according to the Browns’ 2016 Media Guide.
After sitting out regular season play his first year at Baylor, he had 48 career game starts to earn All-American selection in 2014 and 2015, All-Big 12 First Team selection from 2013 – 2015 and he was a four-time Academic All-Big 12 honoree. Also, he was named Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2015 and Co-offensive Lineman of the Year in 2014.
Drango spoke candidly about knowing he was going to the NFL. “I knew (being drafted) was possible, talking with my agent and various teams, and I knew probably right around where I was going to go in the draft,” he recalled.
Expectation did not ruin the magic of the moment, though. “I was at a friend’s wedding that night; I got called in the middle of the ceremony.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to have a dream that you’ve been working towards for a long time come true. It’s such an honor and a great opportunity to be able to play in the NFL,” Durango said.