Meet JoJo Natson: Cleveland Browns new returner from the University of Akron

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 20: JoJo Natson #19 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 20: JoJo Natson #19 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns found their new returner in JoJo Natson, who is familiar with the Northeast Ohio area.

Jojo Natson walked around the dark stage of State Farm Arena dressed in his matching Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl LIII attire and his sunglasses. At first glance, Natson certainly doesn’t look like his peers that surround him. He isn’t being swarmed by media members and microphones like his head coach, Sean McVay.

Before appearing in the Super Bowl with the Rams as a return specialist, Natson had a complicated past, including being dismissed from Utah State’s football team and spending two nights in jail.

Now, Natson has a chance to dazzle the special teams unit with the Cleveland Browns.

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Natson’s skinny 5-foot-7 frame certainly doesn’t fit the mold for what a “typical” player looks like. Throughout Super Bowl LIII media availability, Natson was ignored by most of the media, who clamored to talk to Rams quarterback Jared Goff, or even Natson’s fellow special teamer Greg Zuerlein, who kicked the game winning field goal to win the NFC Championship.

The Aggies of Utah State were one of the only Division I colleges to offer Natson a full scholarship to play football. The speedster accepted. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native packed his bags and moved to small city Logan, Utah.

“That wasn’t really like, the hottest city, man,” Natson explained. “It was really just strictly football.”

Natson played his first three years of college football as an Aggie, where he shined on special teams as a return specialist. In 2014, his junior year in Utah, he earned first-team All-Mountain West honors as a punt returner, as he ranked first in the conference and tied for third in the nation with two punts returned for touchdowns.

In July of 2015, however, all of Natson’s success came to a crashing halt when the team dismissed him for a “violation of team rules.” The rules he violated were never specified by the team, but he did plead guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge, causing him to serve two nights in Cache County Jail. That incident paired with a few others caused Natson to be in search for a new home and a second chance.

And he found both in Akron, Ohio.

As a senior at the University of Akron in 2015, Natson was forced to sit out from football because of the NCAA transfer rules. He found himself in a familiar position, a small city without much to do, especially without football.

“It was tough for me that first year sitting out,” Natson said. “I grinded through it and got through it. It was big for me.”

In 2015, as a redshirt senior, Natson’s patience paid off in a big way. He was right, it was big.

Natson was named a senior captain for the Zips and would lead huddles to hype up his team before the games. During the games, Natson was able to earn first-team All-MAC at punt returner and second-team All-MAC as a wide receiver. He was the University of Akron’s Offensive MVP as well as Special Teams Player of the Year. He was now ranked No. 2 in the nation as a punt returner.

Off the field, Natson said he was also able to get his life back in order during his time in Akron.

“I feel like I had a better college experience at Akron. It was more diverse,” Natson explained. “Akron was kind of like a bounce-back year for me.”

A former member of the Rams, Natson joked that there’s way more to do in Los Angeles opposed to Akron.

“Whatever you want to do, L.A.’s got it for you. It’s all kinds of vibes out there,” Natson joked.

However, he said that during his time as a Zip, he would find himself and his friends going up to Cleveland to hangout and spend time.

On Thursday, the Cleveland Browns agreed to sign Natson to a one-year contract worth $1 million. The former Zip will be back in northeast Ohio, the place that gave him a second chance at football just five years ago.

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“A lot of people have doubted me. Still doubt me to this day,” Natson said. “I’m the type that’s going to keep beating the odds.”