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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Three years ago D’Ernest Johnson was working on a fishing boat.

He wasn’t drafted in 2018 and was fishing to pay the bills.

Three days ago, no one had heard of him.

But last night, the third-string running back got his chance in primetime.

“You could tell after that game that he’d been waiting for that moment,” shared former Cleveland Browns running back Greg Pruitt.

“We might have lost that game without that performance that we had from him.”

Johnson rushed for 146-yards and a touchdown in the Cleveland Browns’
(4-3) 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos (3-4) in Thursday Night Football.

On a night when the stars and starters sat on the sidelines, a man who waited a long time for his shot finally got it.

“Coming from a fishing boat, I always dreamed of playing in the NFL. Even when playing in the AAF, I always dreamed of playing here in the league. Being able to be on this team is a blessing. It is always a dream come true to be able to be here. To be able start and come out here and help the team win, that is the best feeling,” Johnson said after the game.

Cleveland fans may have been feeling down missing running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and quarterback Baker Mayfield, but in the locker room, that wasn’t the story.

“They basically told me to just be me. Do not change anything and just be me. Continue to do what I do and do not change anything,” Johnson shared.

“We thought we had two of the best (running backs),” said Pruitt. “We might have three of the best.”

For a player like Johnson who may have been seen as an underdog in life, there isn’t a much better fit than a team like the Browns.

When he reached the end zone, he was in disbelief of how far he’d come.

“I wanted to celebrate, but I did not know what to do. I just yelled because it has been a long journey, man. To get your first start and get 100 yards and your first touchdown, that ain’t nothing but God,” he said.

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski celebrated Johnson’s night following the win.

“D’Ernest Johnson to me is a warrior and a great teammate. What he has fought through in his career and then to go have a night like that and to end it how he did on that this down, I thought was just outstanding,” Stefanski said.

“A guy like him, who the locker room loves and everybody loves – a great young family and just a good overall person – come in here and having an incredible night like that and make some big time plays for us on a national stage, not just his family here watching but everybody back home,” veteran backup quarterback Case Keenum raved after the game.

Keenum managed things on the field while Baker Mayfield was on the sidelines taking part where he could to motivate the team to a win.

Pruitt responded to reports that Mayfield had broken his humerus bone.

“If I was Baker, I understand contract and being tough and all of that, but you gotta be smart too,” Pruitt said.

“If this buys him some time, he should take it.

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones will get an MRI on a groin injury Friday.

CB Denzel Ward has a hamstring injury and will get an MRI on that as well.

The team will need those 10 days to try and get healthy before facing division rival the Steelers (3-3).

Johnson’s advice? Trust the process.

“You have to trust the process no matter what you are going through. You have to believe in yourself and trust God.”

The Browns play at 1 p.m. on October 31 at FirstEnergy Stadium.