Flacco has fond mem­o­ries of be­ing Blue Hen

QB looks back on col­lege years as he joins Delaware Ath­let­ics Hall of Fame

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

NE­WARK, DEL. — Five years be­fore he led the Ravens on a mem­o­rable Su­per Bowl run, quar­ter­back Joe Flacco helped guide Delaware to the brink of a 2007 NCAA Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion ti­tle.

Flacco led the Blue Hens to a home play­off vic­tory over Delaware State, then road wins against North­ern Iowa and South­ern Illi­nois be­fore Delaware was beaten in the cham­pi­onship game by Ap­palachian State.

“The play­off se­ries that we went through was the best time of my life,” Flacco said Fri­day night.

Flacco had am­ple op­por­tu­nity to rem­i­nisce about his two years as a Blue Hen as he was one of 10 for­mer ath­letes and coaches in­ducted into the Univer­sity of Delaware Ath­let­ics Hall of Fame at a cer­e­mony at the Bob Car­pen­ter Cen­ter.

“The univer­sity means so much just be­cause of what I’m do­ing to­day and how much of an op­por­tu­nity this place gave me to go out there and take ad­van­tage of what I feel like I do best,” Flacco said in an in­ter­view with The Bal­ti­more Sun after the cer­e­mony. “It’s nice to come back here and see some friendly faces and be part of this.” The rest of Delaware’s Hall of Fame class was All-Amer­ica base­ball player Brian Au­gust; pro lacrosse player Cur­tis Dick­son; for­mer cross coun­try and track and field Joe Flacco

coach Jim Fis­cher; three-sport stand­out and for­mer foot­ball and men’s lacrosse coach Mickey Hei­necken; All-Amer­ica field hockey player Erica LaBar Stroud; long­time foot­ball de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ed Ma­ley; track and field stand­out Tyechia Smith; women’s bas­ket­ball and vol­ley­ball player Diane Stetina; and vol­ley­ball player Colleen Walsh Caskey.

Flacco, who has the week­end off with the Ravens on­abye, wasjoined at the cer­e­mony by his wife, Dana, also a Delaware grad­u­ate, and his par­ents, Karen and Steve. Dur­ing a fo­rum with other Hall of Fame mem­bers, Flacco praised his fam­ily mem­bers for the sac­ri­fices they made for his ca­reer. He also thanked for­mer team­mates and coaches, and said the friends he made at Delaware are the ones who have per­se­vered into the present.

The most well-known among the 10 Hall of Fame in­ductees, Flacco poked fun at him­self after he showed up late and missed his ini­tial in­tro­duc­tion.

“I had to be a diva and show up 15 min­utes late,” said Flacco, whosigned au­to­graphs and posed for pic­tures with the other in­ductees.

In just two years at Delaware, Flacco set 20 school records, in­clud­ing most com­ple­tions (331) and pass­ing yards (4,263) in a sea­son and ca­reer com­ple­tion per­cent­age (.634). He’s sec­ond all time in school his­tory with 7,046 ca­reer pass­ing yards, and he’s the only Delaware player ever to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft.

When he ar­rived on the Delaware cam­pus in 2005, the Audubon, N.J., na­tive was hardly think­ing about the NFL. He just wanted an op­por­tu­nity to play, and he’d have to wait one more year be­cause he was in­el­i­gi­ble to play his first sea­son after trans­fer­ring from Pitts­burgh.

He red­shirted his first year at Pitts­burgh, then served as a backup to Tyler Palko in 2004. With Palko still ahead of him on the depth chart for the fol­low­ing sea­son, Flacco trans­ferred. Dave Wannst­edt, the Pan­thers coach at the time, re­fused to re­lease Flacco from his schol­ar­ship, so the quar­ter­back not only couldn’t play in 2005, he also had to pay his way to Delaware.

Flacco’s de­ci­sion was re­warded. He started all 26 games over two sea­sons at Delaware and emerged as a le­git­i­mate NFL prospect. The Ravens sent a contin­gent of scouts and coaches to Delaware to work Flacco out be­fore the 2008 draft. They were sold and picked him18th over­all. He’s now in his ninth sea­son as the team’s starter.

Win­ning Su­per Bowl XLVII over the San Fran­cisco 49ers and earn­ing the game’s Most Valu­able Player award is Flacco’s crown­ing achieve­ment. How­ever, he said his fi­nal sea­son at Delaware and the Blue Hens’ play­off run in 2007 is “right up there” with his Su­per Bowl ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It was a great time as a young kid with a lot of guys you were very close with and that you spent hours upon hours with,” Flacco said. “When you went home, you went home to them. You didn’t go home to your fam­ily. It was def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence than be­ing in the NFL. In so many ways, when you’re in col­lege, you’re even closer with the locker room than you are with a pro­fes­sional team. It was def­i­nitely a unique ex­pe­ri­ence and one that I’ll never for­get.”

It hasn’t been an easy 11 months for Quar­ter­back Joe Flacco throws a pass against Navy in October 2007. Flacco helped guide Delaware to the brink of an NCAA ti­tle that year. Flacco. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in Novem­ber, end­ing his streak of 137 con­sec­u­tive starts to be­gin his ca­reer. He re­turned in time for train­ing camp, but the first half of the sea­son has been a strug­gle for both the Ravens, who are 3-4 and have lost four con­sec­u­tive games for the first time un­der coach John Har­baugh, and for the vet­eran quar­ter­back.

Flacco took ac­count­abil­ity for the of­fense’s strug­gles ear­lier this week. On Fri­day, though, there was no talk about the Ravens and how they are go­ing to fix their myr­iad of­fen­sive prob­lems. For the 31-year- old quar­ter­back, it was a nice break.

“It’s al­ways nice to be able to for­get about the strug­gles of the NFL for a cou­ple of days at least,” Flacco said. “It will be­come my re­al­ity again pretty soon, but it’s nice to be able to un­wind a lit­tle bit, see some friendly faces and get to have a lit­tle bit of fun.”

COLBY WARE/FOR THE BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.