Cleveland Brown running back Isaiah Crowell is having the season of his life – and that’s not even considering the impressive rushing stats that back up his head coach’s claim that Crowell “is one of the better backs” in the NFL.

Last summer, the 23-year-old standout found himself getting attention for all the wrong reasons after posting an ill-advised Instagram image of a man dressed in black slitting the throat of a handcuffed uniformed police officer police officer.

Crowell, to his credit, removed the post almost immediately, but not before the incendiary image had gone viral in a summer of high racial tensions that resulted in riots and the death of five officers in Dallas in July. Nine other cops were injured in the ambush as the police were ensuring the safety of a group of Black Lives Matter protesters.

He issued an apology and made a promise to donate his earnings from the first game of the season to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation, but Sergeant Demetrick Pennie, the president of foundation called the young running back and told him he wasn’t interested in the money.

Pennie saw an opportunity.

“I told him I wanted an opportunity to educate him about the policing profession and the meaning of police service and sacrifice.”

The cop invited Crowell to attend the funeral of one of the slain Dallas officers, Patrick Zamarripa, who was survived by his wife, Kristy and two young children.

Pennie said it was like Daniel going into the lion’s den.

Later, in an open letter, Pennie wrote, “…Crowell expressed remorse for his actions and was pulling back tears,” as he met with officers from around the country who told him they appreciated his presence, praising his courage in admitting he was wrong and engaging in a dialogue.

This was no publicity stunt – Pennie, who has been in law enforcement almost 20 years – said he found Crowell to be “authentic,” commending the player “for the courage of principled accountability.”

It turned out that the two have more in common than they knew, growing up in inner-city poverty with only negative experiences with law enforcement; the two men who just a few months ago would have lined up on opposite sides of the issue, have forged a friendship.

“Having that young man come in and meet with me meant the world to me, to him, and we’ve formed a bond. I was made a better person. You don’t shun an individual because you don’t like what they did.”

Pennie is cheering for the running back as he leads the NFL in yards-per-carry, and Crowell has called upon the cop for advice in dealing with the pressure to kneel during the national anthem.

As more NFL players choose to “take a knee” in protest and ratings for NFL games continue to fall, maybe more players should make a trip down to Dallas to meet Officer Pennie and the other cops who suit up in blue every day. They might learn something.

“I’m so proud of Isaiah,” said Pennie. “He’s like my son. He’s like my little brother. I love him to death. I’m not going to let anybody hurt him. I’m there for him. If you’re doing something wrong, I’m going to tell you.”

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