From a small school to the bright lights

From a small school to the bright lights

By Brent Schwartz

In the days leading up to the NFL Draft, I spoke with Baltimore Ravens safety Lardarius Webb, a smaller player from a small school who was drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Webb is one of the toughest players in the game, and he is a prime example of a draft-day gem.

He’s the type of player teams are looking for this weekend.

Webb has been with the Ravens for eight seasons and is slated for more after signing a new three-year deal with the franchise earlier this month. Webb has been instrumental at both cornerback and safety in his time with Baltimore, and he was a member of the team that won Super Bowl XLVII over the San Francisco 49ers.

Webb and I discussed his Draft day experience, playing with future Hall of Famers and the hardships he’s overcome to have a successful NFL career.

Q: You were picked high in the 2009 NFL Draft (third round) for a player from a small college. Were you expecting to be selected when you were?

“I knew I was from a small school and I knew I put up some great numbers at the Combine. I felt like I was going to get drafted. Not where I was going to get drafted or when I was going to get drafted, I just knew I would.”

Q: How was that moment?

“I was with my family. (Baltimore Ravens General Manager) Ozzie Newsome gave me a call and it was surreal, something I always dreamed of. It was a very emotional day, but I felt like I had put in the work, on and off the field.”

Q: You were undersized coming into college. Did you think you would need to get in the weight room and gain some weight, or did you not think anything of it?

“Coming into college ball, I didn’t realize I was so small until I got around other guys. I tried my best to gain weight. I thought it was really important, then I realized it wasn’t. I always wanted to gain weight and never could. I’m now still one of the lightest guys in the NFL, but I realized that weight doesn’t matter. Some of the biggest and strongest looking guys are the weakest. Some of the smaller guys have the biggest heart. I realized that in college when I was taking down the big guys. I never viewed myself as a small guy, but I am a small guy. I just can’t see it.”

Q: Plus, you bench pressed 225 pounds what, 14 or 15 times at the NFL Combine?

“Yeah I did it 15 times.”

Q: You played some running back at Nicholls State and played quarterback in high school. When was the moment you realized defensive back was your position?

“I played quarterback in high school and I played DB. I didn’t know my position until I got to college. I knew I wasn’t going to be a quarterback, but I thought I could be a wide receiver or a DB. They ended up putting me at safety, and I played my whole college career at safety. I didn’t play corner until I got to the NFL.”

Q: Was there a specific moment at Nicholls State when the NFL seemed in reach?

“It was my first game at Nicholls. I recorded three interceptions and took one to the house. The day after I got a lot of players of the week (honors), and I kind of realized, yeah, I have a chance.”

Q: Did you feel a lot of pressure being drafted by a Baltimore team with so many great defensive players such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata? Were you nervous?

“I actually wasn’t nervous. Coach Chuck Pagano made me feel very confident. I grew up liking Ed Reed. I wore number 20 in college because I wanted to be like Ed Reed. Once I did get there, I got that chance to meet guys like Ray Lewis and Haloti, and they’re awesome guys. They helped me fit in. It’s such a great organization with great people and great teammates, so it was an easy transition.”

Q: During the 2012 championship season, you tore your ACL in Week 6. You still received a Super Bowl ring, and you were a big part of helping the team inch closer to that goal each year. How did that feel?

“It felt OK. I can’t say I felt so happy because I didn’t play in it. I was a part of a Super Bowl team, I got a Super Bowl ring, and I am a Super Bowl Champion. But I didn’t play. Am I acting selfish? I don’t know. I was happy for the team to win a Super Bowl and for the organization since we had been fighting so hard. But I didn’t play, so that was the sad part.”

Q: That was the second time you suffered an ACL tear. Some people tear it once and they’re done. You made it back both times at a position where you need quickness. What kind of mindset does it take to overcome that injury twice?

“You gotta not want to lose. Whatever it takes. When I tore my ACL the second time, I thought my career was over. It kind of goes through your head, “Am I done?” But I worked hard. I give a lot of credit to the Ravens’ training room and the organization for sticking with me through the two ACLs and pushing me through it. I wanted to make it, so I made sure to rehab every day. You have to outwork the man next to you. It’s all about the heart and what you want. Just have to put your mind to it, and make it happen.”

Q: This past season, you made the switch from cornerback to free safety. How was that change?

“It was a tough change. As a corner, you listen to the safeties. The safety tells you everything. Once I am the safety, now I have to tell everyone these things, and if I don’t tell them, then they won’t know. It’s a bigger role on defense. I would say corner is harder physically but safety is harder mentally.”

Q: In your spare time you help out with the Baltimore community. Can you talk about that?

“I run (a softball game) through my foundation, the Lardarius Webb Foundation. We help underprivileged kids. We work with underprivileged families. We work to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. I’m from Alabama where there’s a lot of land to play, but in Baltimore, you don’t have that. You look at the newspaper, you have murders every day. So, my thing is, if I can keep them off the street and with a Boys & Girls Club, or an afterschool program, then I can help cut down some of the time where they could get in trouble. This lets me help the Boys & Girls Club that I basically adopted. There’s a room where I bought TV’s, Playstations, Xboxs, a pool table, computers, anything to make them want to come and enjoy being there. This game helps me raise the money for giving Thanksgiving turkeys to families, giving Christmas gifts to the boys and girls, while also doing my free football camps throughout the summer.”

Q: Last question. Going into the second half of your career, what is your main goal or focus?

“To continue to get better and become more of a leader. Just being an impact for my team.”