BEREA - Ishmaa'ily Kitchen's football career is taking on a decided Northeastern Ohio theme, which is fine with him.
A native of Youngstown and a 2007 Cardinal Mooney graduate, Kitchen is trying to earn a spot in the Browns' rotation on the interior of the defensive line. He was claimed by the Browns Sept. 1, one day after being waived by the Baltimore Ravens.
Prior to signing with the Ravens last May as an undrafted rookie, Kitchen spent four seasons at Kent State University, appearing in 45 games. He's basically circled this area with his target squarely aimed at the Browns' practice facility.
"I was real excited (coming to Cleveland)," Kitchen said after Thursday's practice for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. "It's a great opportunity for me here. I'm just trying to make the best of my opportunity."
There's no shortage of young depth at the tackle spots, and it will grow deeper when 2011 first-round draft choice Phil Taylor returns from a pectoral injury suffered lifting weights during the offseason. Ahtyba Rubin starts at one tackle spot, with either rookie Billy Winn or rookie John Hughes starting at the other spot.
Kitchen earned valuable minutes in the first two games and caught the attention of coach Pat Shurmur. The 6-1, 330-pound Kitchen has registered four tackles (two solos and two assists).
"We've gotten some good snaps out of him already," Shurmur said. "I think he's a sturdy guy. He's pretty thick and he has long arms. He has a chance to be a good player. He's working well for us on a rotational basis. That's what you're looking for from a guy that's new here."
Kitchen was part of the Mooney machine under the direction of coach P.J. Fecko. During his times at Mooney the Cardinals were 48-4, including state championship wins in his sophomore and senior seasons. The Cardinals lost to Coldwater, 33-9, in the state title game in Kitchen's junior season.
Not heavily recruited by the NCAA FBS powers, Kitchen stayed close to home. He earned four letters at Kent State. He recorded 65 tackles with 3.3 sacks and one fumble recovery for the Golden Flashes.
Shurmur said that the Browns were interested in Kitchen during the buildup to the draft. After being bypassed in the draft, Kitchen was pursued by the Ravens.
Teams often try to re-sign rookies that have been waived and place them on the practice squad. That was the Ravens' intention before the Browns intervened with a chance for Kitchen to be on the 53-man active roster.
"They really liked me a lot," Kitchen said. "They wanted me, but it just worked out that I'm here."
There's one reason why the Browns signed Kitchen stop the run. That's been easier said than done since 1999. The defense has been near the bottom of the statistical charts in rushing yards allowed per game, giving up 144 per game last season.
Kitchen is a man of few words. He's simply trying to show the coaches what he can do and hope that he can turn it into a lengthy career.
"This is a great opportunity for me," Kitchen said. "I'm going to keep working hard and see what happens."
Playing in Cleveland has the benefit of allowing family members and friends to attend games on a regular basis.
"It's real exciting," Kitchen said. "The family is happy."