Once enemies, Hall and Zinter now ‘brothers’ on Browns after team drafts them following fateful play

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — They shared a history as fierce competitors in college, hating each other inside a rivalry as bitter as it gets.

A singular, unlucky moment on the field in another Ohio State-Michigan clash in November connected Michael Hall Jr. and Zak Zinter, who have been brought together again by another twist of fate.

Buckeye. Wolverine. Browns.

“We were enemies in college,” Zinter said. “Now we’re brothers and teammates.”

This NFL draft for Cleveland will be most remembered for two things: It’s the last impacted by the Deshaun Watson trade in 2020, and the Browns used their top two selections on Hall and Zinter, whose paths converged on Nov. 25.

While engaged and blocking another Ohio State lineman, Zinter had the tibia and fibula broken in his left leg when Hall accidently fell onto him in the second half of Michigan’s 30-24 victory at Ann Arbor.

On Friday, the Browns drafted them to be part of their future.

“It’s crazy,” Hall said.

Ohio State and Michigan. United in Cleveland.

“We’re building bridges,” joked Dan Saganey, the team’s director of player personnel.

His broken bones healed, Zinter, an All-America guard for the Wolverines, spent part of Saturday reflecting on the play that ended his college career in a national championship season and put his football future in jeopardy.

When it happened, there were so many unknowns.

As he laid on the field, nothing was the same for Zinter.

“When the doctors came out my leg was kind of sideways, so they straightened it out and I could feel all the bones in there crinkling and touching,” he said matter-of-factly. “It wasn’t the best experience, but we got through it.”

Hall’s memories of that play are more poignant.

“We even prayed for him after when that happened,” said Hall, who grew up in Cleveland and dreamed of playing for the Browns. “It was just real tragic to see that. He’s a hell of a player and he’s my teammate now. My brother.”

Zinter never blamed Hall for his injury, knowing it could have happened on any snap in any game.

Whatever bad blood exited between Hall and Zinter is behind them, and the sight of the new rookies sitting shoulder to shoulder on the dais was stunning given their heated battles in college.

They were all smiles as their families watched them take their next step as pros.

That’s not say there may not be a few more intense practices ahead.

“Did you guys challenge them to a steel cage death match?” Saganey cracked. “Both those guys obviously are super competitive players and played some pretty good football at a high level. So that’ll be fun to watch that battle.”


The Watson deal remains incomplete in terms of return for the Browns, who made a massive, franchise-altering investment in 2022.

Cleveland sent Houston first-round selections in 2022, 2023 and 2024, fourth-rounders in 2022 and 2024 and a sixth-rounder in 2024 to the Texans for Watson, who has only played 12 games in two seasons and is coming off shoulder surgery.

Those picks have all been used, but Browns general manager Andrew Berry said he doesn’t evaluate the trade in those terms.

“I haven’t thought about it that way or spent any time reflecting on it,” he said. “I really just look at it as, hey, here are our resources in a given year. How do we best apply them to the team to make it better in the short and long term?”


Berry came in with a well-earned reputation for wheeling and dealing. He didn’t make a trade, but not for a lack of trying.

The Browns’ lack of assets made it tough.

“We had a number of opportunities where we were either trying to move around,” Berry said. “But it didn’t make sense for whatever reason.”

Despite pre-draft rumors, cornerback Greg Newsome II remains in Cleveland. The 2021 first-round draft pick has his flaws, but the Browns seem happy with him.

The team has until May 2 to pick up the $13.7 million fifth-year option on his rookie contract.


The Browns used their four picks Saturday to take Louisville wide receiver Jamari Thrash (No. 156), Mississippi State linebacker Nathaniel Watson (No. 206), South Dakota cornerback Myles Harden (No. 227) and Cincinnati defensive tackle Jowon Briggs (No. 243).MIKE CHECK

This was a very different draft weekend for Mike Vrabel.

The former Tennessee coach is working as a consultant with the Browns, who used his input while evaluating players. He’s an invaluable resource for Berry, Stefanski and their respective staffs.

Vrabel, who was fired by the Titans in January after six seasons, undoubtedly liked the selection of Hall. Both played D-line at Ohio State.

Berey said any perceived bias by Vrabel didn’t impact the choice.

“Mike obviously likes his Buckeyes,” Berry said with a smile. “But we really follow the process through and through. We have a lot of happy people in the building.”

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