Last week, I was named the AFC Defensive Player of the week. I was extremely honored to represent the Baltimore Ravens in this capacity. After all, I have Ray Lewis next to me, Terrell Suggs in front of me, and Ed Reed behind me—all three of these men have been named NFL MVPs of some sort at different points in their careers. And then there's lil’ ole Brendon Ayanbadejo being named AFC Defensive P.O.W! I loved every minute of it!
I did not achieve this status alone. Not only must I thank my teammates, I owe a special debt of gratitude to Ravens Linebackers Coach Vic Fangio. Known in our locker room as 'Vic Fangio, Football Specialist,' he is the first linebacker coach in my 10-year NFL career to claim me as his own. Vic took me on like an old Mustang: he polished up my wheels, conditioned my leather, gave me a nice buff and wax, changed all of my fluids and topped me off with some 93 octane. All of a sudden you could see me coming from a mile away! I rumbled a lil’ louder, I moved a lil’ faster! All I needed was a lil’ attention. He knew that he didn’t need to go out and spend 100K on a new ride. He just needed to bring out the best in what he already had in me!
And a hero was born! But was I really? I wouldn't say I was Batman, but it sure felt good to be Robin. On a daily basis, I played Batman on special teams, but defense was an entirely different animal. To play the role of the hero in a defensive capacity was welcomed and uncharted territory in my NFL career. It was a new role that challenged me, excited me and allowed to grow as a player.
I also have an extraordinary role model in John Harbaugh. who became head coach of the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 after spending nine seasons as the Philadelphia Eagles’ special teams coordinator and one year as the defensive backs coach. Many well-qualified candidates were considered for his position, so when Harbs got the job, he did not let this opportunity slip through his hands. In what seemed to be overnight, Coach Harbaugh went from a special teams coordinator to one of the NFL’s best head coaches today! In actuality, it was the culmination of a lifetime of dreams actualized and goals achieved. Harbs is a man with a well-defined and well-executed plan. It is my honor to be lead by him.
At 33 years old, having played football for 20 years, I was at the height of my development in the sport. Not only did I feel like a superhero on the field, but the same changes were metamorphosing off the field. Typically on Sundays, a full-time special teamer can expect around 20 plays a game. However, in addition to that, I was averaging another 25 snaps on defense – essentially doubling my load from seasons past. Given the rigors of my dual capacities on the field, one might expect that come Tuesday, the official NFL players’ “off” day, I would be doing absolutely nothing at all. Au contraire, mon frère...