CINCINNATI - At 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds it doesn't seem like there'd be much that would make Adam Hoppel nervous.
But one phone call, in what was probably a night filled with them, left the former Cincinnati Bearcat tied up more tightly than a bow on a Christmas present.
Talking with Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan Sunday after the NFL Draft, Hoppel got the biggest news of his 23 years - he was going to play in the NFL.
Hoppel - who just completed his senior season with the Bearcats - signed a rookie free agent contract with Cleveland Monday.
"When I got that phone call, that was the coolest thing," Hoppel, a two-year starter at defensive tackle, said. "I was almost shaking. I waited all day, then I got the call from Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan that they were going to sign us. It's pretty exciting."
Some didn't think the Beaver Local grad would make it this far.
Notes: Hoppel became the first area football product to make it to the NFL since 1986 East Liverpool graduate and former Ohio State All-Conference center Dan Beatty, who signed a rookie free agent contract with the Washington Redskins following the 1991 NFL Draft.
But, through all the adversity, he remained focused on his goal.
"I've been saying I wanted to play in the NFL since middle school," he said. "No one thought it would happen. People said I needed a backup plan. But I finally got my shot and it's a dream come true."
The Bearcat watched the draft with his family at his home in Lisbon. He said he wasn't expecting to get drafted, but was rather hoping to sign a free agent contract.
Though Hoppel had been in contact with Cleveland leading up to the draft, he wasn't sure they would offer him a contract.
"For a couple days the Browns said they would give me a try out," he said. "At 9 p.m. they called and said they wanted to sign me."
Up next is a team meeting Thursday and a rookie minicamp at the team's facility in Berea, Ohio this weekend. In the meantime, Hoppel will delve deep into the Browns' extensive defensive playbook.
He might not have grown up a Cleveland Browns fan, but the opportunity to play in the NFL trumps any past team allegiance.
"It'll be great to play anywhere in the NFL," Hoppel said as he made his way to sign his contract. "Now that it's less than two hours away, it'll be awesome."
Hoppel also spoke with the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos at the Bearcats' Pro Day March 19 in Cincinnati and was offered a tryout by the Bengals.
But he wanted to sign a contract, and when the Browns offered, he was more than willing to put his name on the dotted line.
Though the ink on his contract is just beginning to dry, he understands that nothing is certain.
"Really there's no guarantee. I can get cut at anytime," he said matter-of-factly. "It just lets you know they want to keep you there."
He earned the opportunity to compete for a roster spot after registering 31 tackles, three sacks, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble as a senior.
Hoppel had his biggest game in Week 4 at Akron, where he recorded a tackle for loss, forced fumble and a sack in the Bearcats' 17-15 victory over the Zips.
In total, he started 13-of-14 games last season, entering the season opener against Eastern Kentucky as a reserve due to injury. He also racked up six tackles in the Bearcats' 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the 2009 Orange Bowl.
Despite the loss, the team went on to finish the season ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25.
During his first year in the starting line-up, he recorded 38 tackles, good for second among defensive linemen.
According to TheOBR.com, other rookie free agents signed by the Browns include: Utah wide receiver Brent Casteel, Albany punter Chris Lynch, Alabama guard Marlon Davis, San Diego State defensive back Corey Boudreaux, Central Florida safety Jason Venson and Penn State wideout Jordan Norwood.
Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell will also attend this weekend's minicamp, but he has yet to sign with the team the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.