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Former York standout Lanning makes NFL history against Vikings

By Tom Withers
Associated Press
Lions Browns Football
Tony Dejak - AP
Cleveland Browns punter Spencer Lanning stretches before a preseason NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

BEREA, Ohio Browns punter Spencer Lanning was bombarded with texts after he threw his first NFL touchdown pass.

Some of the messages were congratulatory, and few others weren’t so kind.

“I’ve had some guys around the league texting me saying I threw it like a girl,” Lanning, a York graduate who played at South Carolina, said with a smile. “No offense to all the women out there.”

Cleveland’s holder on field-goal and extra-point attempts, Lanning lofted an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron in Sunday’s 31-27 win over Minnesota. The Vikings fell for the trick play when they left Cameron uncovered.

The Browns had practiced the play, but weren’t sure it was going to work. Once they broke the huddle, it was up to kicker Billy Cundiff to decide if they would attempt the deception.

“If they covered it up we were going to shift back in and kick the field goal,” Lanning said. “I heard Billy Cundiff saying, ‘It’s on, it’s on, it’s on, it’s open.’”

Cameron, who caught two other TD passes from quarterback Brian Hoyer, said the moments before the ball was snapped were excruciating. He kept waiting to be detected, but the Vikings didn’t notice him until it was too late.

“It’s the worst,” Cameron said of waiting for the snap. “Then he throws it and it felt like the ball was in the air for like 30 seconds, and I was waiting and waiting and then you gotta catch it. And then I almost got tackled at the 1, which would have been embarrassing, but we made it happen.”

Lanning had his own anxious moments before, during and after the play.

“It was an easy pass, I guess,” he said. “He was open. As a quarterback you can’t ask for any more than that. I was just sitting there thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe they’re not going to cover him.’ We heard the defense, they knew we only had 10 guys out there. They didn’t see the guy out there. We actually had 11. They were sort of freaking out because they couldn’t figure out what was going on.”

Not only did the Browns (1-2) pull off a fake field goal, but they also used a fake punt to pick up a first down.

Lanning laughed when he was asked about his background as a quarterback.

“The most training I’ve had throwing a ball is with my dad out in the yard,” Lanning said. “As kickers and punters, we have a lot of time on our hands. In college especially, we got some passes in and whatnot. But I have no background playing quarterback, never played Pee-Wee football or anything like that. Coaches just drew up a play and we went out there and executed it.”

It wasn’t the only thing Lanning had to do on Sunday. After Cundiff strained a quadriceps muscle, Lanning was pressed into kicking duty and booted the extra point after the Browns scored to go ahead with 51 seconds left.

If the Browns hadn’t scored the TD, Lanning may have had to attempt a game-tying field goal. He was pressed into service during Cleveland’s final exhibition game and kicked a field goal against Chicago.

Lanning is the first player since Philadelphia’s Sam Baker in 1968 to punt, kick an extra point and throw a TD pass in the same game – a rare trifecta.

“I haven’t really experienced it before, having to use a punter in those kicking situations,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “It’s happened. I don’t know if he was, but maybe he was a Punt-Pass-Kick champ when he was a kid or something.”

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