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WEATHERFORD, Oklahoma — The distant ring of church bells was drowned out by the yells of encouragement coming from Jonathan Haggerty’s strength coach, Josh Musick. The newly-signed Cleveland Browns wide receiver returned to his alma mater during his time off of summer workouts with his new team.

Haggerty, who was running countless drills on the field of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, was dripping in sweat and downing water every chance he got. The temperatures easily reached into the high 90s, but the receiver wasn’t quite finished with his workout.

Haggerty graduated from SWOSU in the spring of 2010 and had always had the dream of going pro. Coming from a Division II school in western Oklahoma made it difficult though. His alma mater hadn’t produced many NFL players–only one prior to “J-Hagg,” as his friends call him.

“I would look on the screen and see my favorite athletes and think, ‘Wow, I want to do that,’” Haggerty said.

The Dallas native wasn’t provided many opportunities early on to reach that goal, but he took advantage of his resources while in Weatherford. Musick trained him in the weight room, he worked hard on Saturday nights for the Bulldogs and he chose to use his free time to perfect his game–and set an example for his team.

“While everyone else is out doing their own thing, he’s out running his routes on a Thursday night, getting ready for the ball game on Saturday,” said assistant athletic director Rouben Tourian.

It’s that work ethic that earned J-Hagg looks from the NFL, following his senior year with SWOSU.

Overlooked at the Draft

Haggerty’s stomach was in knots on draft day.

He was waiting on that one call that would give him the chance to make his dream of playing pro come true and change his life forever.

While the phone rang and the texts poured in, no deal came.

“Somehow they’d wind up hanging up,” Haggerty said. “I felt this urge in my stomach like, ‘No…’”

His dreams didn’t come true on that day, but the Cleveland Browns didn’t stop showing interest in him. He signed a contract and joined the team for mini-camp two months later, drawing looks from the coaching staff.

“It’s truly special when a coach is looking at a guy who’s working hard,” Haggerty said. “That motivates me to work harder because I want to be a part of this team, be a part of something special.”

Online articles highlighting J-Hagg’s performances seemed to pop up all over Browns message boards.

“For me, Cleveland was a place I thought I could come in and just learn the system and be a part of something special,” Haggerty said. “I’m not going out there trying to be another guy. I’m trying to go out and be Jonathan Haggerty. I’m going out with the best of my abilities and I want to be consistent day in and day out.”

While he’s gaining ground with the coaches, he said his focus remains on his faith–the same motivation behind his brutal workouts.

Faith and Football

“Without God, I am nothing,” Haggerty said. “The Lord is the head of my life. In times when I needed strength through adversity–through everything–I can rely on my Lord.”

Haggerty and his teammates, including Joshua Cribbs, Mohamed Massoquoi, Chansi Stuckey and Colt McCoy, get together throughout the week to study their faith. He said it gives them the opportunity to support each other both on and off the field.

“It’s really special when your teammates can come together on some common ground, which is God,” Haggerty said. “We’re put in this position to help other people, to be a blessing to others.”

The team works together during community outreach projects, visiting children’s hospitals and running football camps. Haggerty realizes that just because he’s reached the pro level and he’s now living his dream, his job isn’t complete.

“Football is important, but that’s my assignment. My purpose is to serve God,” Haggerty said. “After football is over, the Lord will still be the head of my life, whether or not I’m out there on the field, or talking to kids about what the Lord has done for me.”

After additional training in Denver, Colo. later this month, Haggerty will return to his team, where he’ll continue to keep his faith and focus, both on the field and off.