BEREA, Ohio (AP) Cody Kessler relishes the underdog role. It's the only one he's known.
Cleveland's rookie quarterback has spent his entire football life overcoming long odds, sidestepping danger and making the best of difficult situations.
He's in a new one.
Just three weeks into his first NFL season, Kessler, who was once told his career would not take him further than junior college, will make his regular-season debut Sunday when the Browns (0-2) visit the Miami Dolphins.
This wasn't the plan the Browns had in mind for Kessler, but the 23-year-old has experienced enough turmoil to know not everything follows a script.
''That's how life is,'' he said. ''You're going to have adversity, you're going to have different things that you don't expect to happen, and it's just how you react to them. I know it might sound clich�, but I really believe in that.''
With Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown sustaining injuries to their left shoulders in the first two weeks, the Browns quickly ran out of options and will now turn to Kessler, a third-round draft pick who started 41 games at USC, to run their offense and lead them.
Kessler is the fifth quarterback to start Cleveland's past five games and the franchise's 26th since 1999.
Kessler has been consumed by preparation the past two days. He buried his nose deep in Cleveland's playbook, spent hours watching and re-watching the Browns' first two losses and studied tape on the Dolphins.
Miami roughed up Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson in Week 1 and then knocked New England's Jimmy Garoppolo from the game a week ago when linebacker Kiko Alonso drove him to the turf.
Kessler knows he has to avoid Miami's vice.
''Their front seven is very physical and I think a lot of that has to do with how well their back four play,'' Kessler said before practice Wednesday.
''Their safeties, their DBs, they get after the ball and they hold up really well in coverage and then their front seven get after the quarterback.''
Browns coach Hue Jackson, whose selection of Kessler stunned draft experts, admires the way his young QB is digging into his assignment.
''One thing we all know about Cody is he is in this building from morning to night,'' Jackson said. ''We have to kick him out. That is just the way he is.
''He sees this as a tremendous opportunity for himself and I think he wants to go represent himself and the organization and his teammates well. He is preparing as hard as he can to get himself ready to play.''
Kessler's path to the pros was not normal.
After deciding in high school to focus on football, he didn't get any major college offers and there was a long period when it appeared his dreams would be dashed.
His father, Don, a former corrections officer, drove him around to various summer camps and put together highlight videos hoping to entice a major college to take a chance on his son.
''There was times when people would just say, `Hey, you're not going to play college, expect to go to the junior college here in Bakersfield','' he said.
Kessler wouldn't let rejection discourage him.
''I just kept telling myself I want to be bigger, I want to be better than that and I want to continue to work,'' he said. ''And it paid off. Just worked for me, just kind of always having that no-quit mentality.''
Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas has been impressed with the focus, work ethic and humility Kessler has shown.
''You admire a guy that kind of has a chip on his shoulder, a guy like Cody who has had to work for everything and hasn't been given anything,'' Thomas said. ''A smaller guy, not your 6-6, 250-pound quarterback, so you respect him because everything he has gotten, he's earned it.''
At USC, Kessler fought to win playing time and wound up throwing 88 touchdown passes while enduring numerous coaching changes and playing in one of college football's most celebrated programs.
Kessler recalled missing a potential touchdown with an incompletion on his first throw before connecting 15 times in a row.
''It was a cool experience,'' he said. ''But it was something that you'll never forget. Like a situation like this, something that you'll never forget and something you want to take advantage of.''
NOTES: WR Terrelle Pryor would sacrifice everything for his team. ''I'll do anything to help us win, anything, cut my finger off, do whatever I've got to do,'' he said. ''I'm willing to die on this field.''... Rookie DE Carl Nassib had surgery on his broken left hand. Jackson believes Nassib, who has been impressive so far, will be back soon. ... NT Danny Shelton was limited in practice with a sprained knee.
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