After interceptions and fumble recoveries, sacks probably are the most impactful plays made by a defensive player.
Sacks can result in lost yardage, punts, and forced fumbles, and generate more momentum for a team than an ordinary tackle.
Anthony Pleasant was skilled at sacking the quarterback.
Over his six seasons with the Cleveland Browns (part of a 14-year NFL career), Pleasant, at right defensive end, contributed to the Browns defense with his sacks, as well as his forced fumbles and tackles.
In 1994, Pleasant was part of a Browns defense that helped Cleveland earn its last playoff victory for 26 seasons.
…to me #98 is always Anthony Pleasant but that ain’t him. Underrated DE… pic.twitter.com/LRsijgvAsg
— David Eiben (@OhioSt8r) May 9, 2021
We take a look at the life of Anthony Pleasant – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Anthony Devon Pleasant was born in Century, Florida on January 27, 1968.
Century is located at the western end of the Florida panhandle.
When Pleasant grew up in Century, the town had a population of approximately 500 to 1,200 people.
After his father died when Pleasant was two years old, Pleasant was essentially raised by his mother, Betty.
Betty Pleasant worked in a school cafeteria.
She went to all of Pleasant’s football, basketball, and baseball games.
Joe Cardwell, Pleasant’s high school coach, remembers the important role of Betty Pleasant in her son’s life.
“I think of his mama, Betty, because I got to know her pretty well when I was coaching Anthony in high school. . . . She’s a great lady. She’s the one who gave him the character, and the Good Lord gave him the athletic skills.”
Pleasant attended Century High School.
He was an all-state performer as a defensive lineman and helped Century High School win the North Florida championship in 1986.
He also played basketball and baseball at Century High School.
After graduating high school, Pleasant headed to Tennessee State University, in Nashville, Tennessee, to attend college.
Pleasant was a three-year letterman in football at Tennessee State from 1987 to 1989.
Tennessee State posted a 3-7-1 record in 1987.
The school moved to the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) in 1988.
In 1988, Pleasant had 12 sacks, tied for the fourth-most in any single season in Tennessee State history.
Pleasant also led the team in the 1988 season in tackles for loss – 14 such tackles for 71 yards in loss.
For his play in 1988, Pleasant was named to the All-OVC team, as a defensive lineman.
In 1988, Tennessee State again had a 3-7-1 record.
Pleasant led the team in the 1989 season in sacks, with seven sacks.
For his play in 1989, Pleasant was named to the All-American team by all of the Associated Press, Don Hansen’s Football Gazette, the NFL – Draft Report, and the Sheridan Poll, as a defensive end.
He was also named to the first team All-OVC team, as a defensive lineman.
Tennessee State improved to a 5-5-1 record in 1989.
Pleasant ultimately went back to school and earned a B.A. degree from Tennessee State in 2009.
After playing football in college, Pleasant headed to the NFL.
The Pro Football Years
Pleasant was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 1990 NFL draft.
He was the 73rd overall pick.
As a Tennessee State defensive lineman joining the Browns, Pleasant followed in the footsteps of Joe “Turkey” Jones, who played for Cleveland in the 1970’s.
Pleasant (playing at a height of six feet and five inches and a weight of 280 pounds) played in all 16, and started seven (the final seven), regular season games as a rookie in 1990, at right defensive end.
In Pleasant’s first NFL regular season start, Pleasant had his first NFL regular season sack.
Pleasant sacked future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, but the Browns lost to the Houston Oilers 35-23 on November 18, 1990.
In addition to his three-and-one-half sacks, Pleasant had one forced fumble and made 50 tackles in the 1990 regular season.
The Browns had a 3-13 record in 1990.
In 1991, Pleasant again played in all 16, and started seven, regular season games, at right defensive end.
Pleasant, in addition to his two-and-one-half sacks, recovered one fumble (which he returned for four yards) and made 21 tackles in the 1991 regular season.
Cleveland improved to a 6-10 record in 1991.
Pleasant contributed to the Browns defense ranking in the NFL regular season in 1991 tied for seventh in recovered fumbles (18).
Browns head coach Bill Belichick gave Pleasant more playing time as a starter in 1992.
At right defensive end, Pleasant played in all 16, and started 14, regular season games in 1992.
In the 1992 regular season, Pleasant, in addition to his four sacks, had one forced fumble and made 51 tackles.
Cleveland posted a 7-9 record in 1992.
Pleasant helped the Browns defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1992 10th in fewest points allowed (275), tied for second in recovered fumbles (20), eighth in sacks (48), tied for seventh in fewest rushing yards allowed (1,605), and tied for fourth in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.7).
Pleasant played in all 16, and started 13, regular season games in 1993, at right defensive end.
Pleasant scored his only NFL regular season points when he tackled quarterback Rick Mirer in the end zone for a safety, in a 22-5 Browns loss to the Seattle Seahawks on November 14, 1993.
Mirer was sacked twice by Pleasant.
For the 1993 regular season, Pleasant had 11 sacks and one forced fumble and made 66 tackles.
Pleasant’s improved statistics were in part attributable to martial arts.
Bill Belichick later stated in 2008:
“When I got to Cleveland, I hired a martial arts instructor [Joe Kim] and he worked with the team. Anthony Pleasant was a big proponent of that and it really helped him. As it turned out, it didn’t only help with the hand quickness and defensive attacking moves but also the flexibility training that the martial arts people use.”
The Browns again had a 7-9 record in 1993.
With Pleasant at right defensive end, the Cleveland defense ranked in the NFL regular season in 1993 third in sacks (48) and tied for eighth in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.7).
In 1994, Pleasant played in and started 14 regular season games, at right defensive end.
Pleasant started five regular season games in 1994 in which the Browns defense held the opposing team to single digits.
Anthony Pleasant pic.twitter.com/pjpdX4C23z
— Random NFL Players (@RandomNFLGuys) January 13, 2021
In the 1994 regular season, Pleasant had four-and-one-half sacks and made 58 tackles (44 solo and 14 assisted).
Cleveland, with an 11-5 record, made the playoffs in 1994 as a wildcard team.
Pleasant’s play helped the Browns defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1994 first in fewest points allowed (204), seventh in fewest passing and rushing yards allowed (4,826), seventh in fewest passing yards allowed (3,157), tied for tenth in defensive interceptions (18), tied for seventh in sacks (38), and tied for sixth in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.6).
In their first playoff game in 1994, the Browns met the New England Patriots on January 1, 1995.
Pleasant started the game at right defensive end, playing on a defensive line with Rob Burnett at left defensive end, Bill Johnson at left defensive tackle, and Michael Dean Perry at right defensive tackle.
Cleveland defeated New England 20-13.
Pleasant made a solo tackle, and the Browns defense forced three Patriots turnovers.
The win over New England turned out to be the last playoff win for the Browns until during the 2020 playoffs.
The following week, on January 7, 1995, Cleveland advanced to a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pleasant again started at right defensive end and made two tackles (one solo and one assisted), but Cleveland lost to the Steelers 29-9.
In 1995, Pleasant started all 16 regular season games at right defensive end.
On November 19, 1995, in a 31-20 Browns loss to the Green Bay Packers, Pleasant sacked Brett Favre (which turned out to be Pleasant’s last sack as a Cleveland Brown).
During the 1995 regular season, Pleasant was tied for the lead in the NFL with six forced fumbles.
He also had eight sacks and made 51 tackles (41 solo and 10 assisted).
Cleveland had a 5-11 record in 1995.
Pleasant helped the Browns defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1995 tied for eighth in lowest average yards per rushing attempt allowed (3.8).
On November 6, 1995, Browns owner Art Modell announced that he was relocating the team to Baltimore for the 1996 season.
While a new “Cleveland Browns” franchise was to return for the 1999 season, Pleasant became a member of the Baltimore Ravens for the 1996 season.
In 1996, Pleasant played in and started 12 regular season games for the Ravens, at right defensive end (he missed four games because of an ankle injury).
A December 20, 1996 article in The Baltimore Sun included numerous positive comments about Pleasant.
While the article describes Pleasant as a Raven in 1996, it also could have applied to how Pleasant was generally viewed when he played with the Browns in 1995.
Ravens defensive line coach Jacob Burney (who was also defensive line coach for the Browns in 1994 and 1995) said:
“We’ve had to get him off the practice field this year, to try to save him for the plays on Sunday. . . . Nobody on this team wants to be on the field more than him. Nobody. . . . You’re looking for guys who are good citizens and good players. You want to come into training camp with guys like [Pleasant]. Every coach in America wants guys like him.”
Baltimore strength and conditioning coach Jerry Simmons (who was also strength and conditioning coach for the Browns from 1991 to 1995) stated:
“There are two kinds of guys to me, guys who have that inner drive to get better, and guys who need you to tell them to work. Anthony is just a hard-working, dedicated guy who tries to do the right thing, not a guy who is sitting on his laurels. You build a foundation with people like him.”
Pleasant was given The Ed Block Courage Award (“One player from each NFL team is voted by their teammates to be honored for their courage and inspiration throughout the season”) by the Ravens in 1996.
On the field in the 1996 regular season, Pleasant had four sacks and made 25 tackles (22 solo and three assisted) for the Ravens.
After spending his first seven NFL seasons with two teams (six years with Cleveland and one year with Baltimore), Pleasant spent his final seven NFL seasons with four teams.
On June 21, 1997, Pleasant signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons.
In 1997 with Atlanta, Pleasant played in 11, but did not start any, regular season games.
He had one-half of a sack and made 10 tackles (nine solo and one assisted).
After the Falcons released Pleasant on February 11, 1998, he signed with the New York Jets on March 12, 1998.
Pleasant saw much more playing time with the Jets than the Falcons, playing in all 16, and starting 15, regular season games for the Jets in 1998, at right defensive end and right defensive tackle.
In the 1998 regular season, Pleasant had six sacks, two forced fumbles, and 46 tackles (34 solo and 12 assisted) for the Jets.
Pleasant’s play helped the Jets win the AFC East Division title, with a 12-4 record, in 1998.
Anthony Pleasant (1998-1999) #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/xyMQn4Vk73
— Timeless Jets (@TimelessJets) November 26, 2019
The Jets defense ranked second in the NFL regular season in 1998 in fewest points allowed (266).
In two playoff games for the Jets in 1998, Pleasant started both games at right defensive end (a 34-24 Jets win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 10, 1999 and a 23-10 Jets loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC championship game on January 17, 1999) and made four solo tackles in each game.
In 1999, Pleasant started all 16 regular season games for the Jets, at right defensive end.
He had two sacks, made 53 tackles (42 solo and 11 assisted), including three for losses, and defensed one pass, during the 1989 regular season.
Pleasant moved from the Jets to the San Francisco 49ers for the 2000 season.
In 2000, Pleasant started all 16 regular season games for the 49ers, at left defensive end.
Pleasant had two sacks, forced one fumble, made 24 tackles (19 solo and five assisted), including four for losses, and defensed four passes, in the 2000 regular season.
On March 22, 2001, Pleasant joined his final team, signing as a free agent with the New England Patriots and his old head coach, Bill Belichick.
Third time’s the charm.
Newly acquired DL Anthony Pleasant has played 7️⃣ total seasons under coach Bill Belichick. Including 1991-95 with the Browns and 1998-99 with the Jets. pic.twitter.com/itfAsjhRD5
— Patriots Time Machine (@PatsTimeMachine) March 29, 2021
Pleasant started all 16 regular season games for New England in 2001, at defensive tackle and right defensive end.
Anthony Pleasant pic.twitter.com/BtXu6NPy74
— Daniel McBrayer (@DMcBrayer76) March 7, 2021
In the 2001 regular season, he had six sacks, intercepted two passes, forced one fumble, made 43 tackles (35 solo and eight assisted), including 11 for losses, and defensed four passes.
With Pleasant at defensive tackle and right defensive end, the Patriots had an 11-5 record and won the AFC East Division title in 2001.
Pleasant had won his first NFL championship.
In 2002, Pleasant, at right defensive tackle, played in 14, and started 11, regular season games.
He had three sacks, made 35 tackles (20 solo and 15 assisted), including two for losses, and defensed one pass.
Pleasant earned his second NFL championship with the Patriots in 2003.
New England, in 2003, won the AFC East Division title, with a 14-2 record, led the NFL regular season in fewest points allowed (238), and defeated the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII on February 1, 2004.
In 2003, Pleasant saw limited playing time, playing in seven, and not starting any, regular season games; he also did not play in New England’s three playoff games in 2003.
He had one sack, recovered one fumble (which he returned for six yards), and made one solo tackle (for a loss).
Pleasant’s last season as a player in the NFL was in 2003.
The Years After the NFL
Pleasant is married to Renita and has three children. In describing her husband, Renita said:
“He appears to be quiet, but he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve met, and he’s a leader. He doesn’t just go along with the crowd. He doesn’t mind being alone.”
Pleasant eventually returned to the NFL as a coach.
He was a defensive line coach with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2010 to 2012.
He worked with the Houston Texans as an assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2014 and as a defensive assistant coach in 2015.
Pleasant also frequently made contributions to help people in his hometown of Century, Florida and the surrounding community.
For example, in 2007, Pleasant helped pay for new uniforms for the woman’s basketball team at Northview High School in Century.
In 2011, the football field at Century Park, in Century, was renamed the Anthony Pleasant Sports Complex.
Pleasant was an outstanding player for Cleveland in his six seasons with the Browns.
His 33-1/2 sacks during his time in Cleveland rank seventh in career regular season sacks for the Browns.
In addition, Pleasant ranks fifth in Browns career regular season forced fumbles (9) and 14th in Browns career regular season solo tackles (273).
It is sometimes hard to compare defensive players from different time periods because the same statistics were not maintained at all times.
For example, sack, forced fumble, and tackle statistics were not kept for many Cleveland players who played before Pleasant, and such modern statistics as passes defended, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits were not maintained when Pleasant played for the Browns.
In addition, it should be noted that Pleasant certainly would have accumulated more sacks, forced fumbles, and tackles for the Browns had the Cleveland team not relocated to Baltimore in 1996.
Over Pleasant’s entire 14-year NFL career, he had 59 sacks, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries, 13 forced fumbles, and 553 tackles, including 25 tackles for loss.
Perhaps the most important highlight of Pleasant’s Browns career is that he, starting 14 games at right defensive end, contributed to Cleveland in 1994 allowing the fewest points in the NFL regular season and achieving its last playoff victory for 26 seasons.
When the outstanding defensive players in Cleveland Browns history are discussed, Browns fans should remember Anthony Pleasant as one of the top defensive linemen to wear a Browns uniform.
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