Har­baugh re­calls Muham­mad Ali’s visit with Ravens

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By SEAN GRO­GAN

sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

— The day be­fore the Bal­ti­more Ravens kicked off the 2012 sea­son, the team had a sur­prise guest at prac­tice – The Great­est.

One day af­ter his visit to the Un­der Ar­mour Per­for­mance Cen­ter, Muham­mad Ali was again in at­ten­dance, this time to take in Bal­ti­more’s sea­son opener at M&T Bank Sta­dium, as the Ravens crushed the vis­it­ing Cincin­nati Ben­gals 44-13 on Mon­day Night Football. Nearly five months later, Bal­ti­more won the Su­per Bowl.

Ali died Fri­day at the age of 74. The former heavy­weight cham­pion was so much more than the great­est boxer, maybe even ath­lete, of all time. He tran­scended sports.

On Tues­day, Ravens head coach John Har­baugh re­called the visit.

“What word can you use? It was a [once in a] life­time-ex­pe­ri­ence mo­ment,” Har­baugh said. “It was one of those mo­ments that you re­mem­ber for the rest of your life.”

Ali was in­tro­duced by Har­baugh’s fa­ther, Jack. A video on the team’s web­site shows a fiery Jack Har­baugh telling the team about Ali’s fight with Ernie Ter­rell, as The Champ sits in a golf cart be­hind him. Jack pas­sion­ately de­scribes Ali shout­ing “What’s my name?” at Ter­rell. Ter­rell had fa­mously called him Cas­sius

OWINGS MILLS

Clay, which was Ali’s birth name be­fore he con­verted to Is­lam.

The Ravens were the last NFL team to have Ali in-house, ac­cord­ing to Peter King’s Mon­day Morn­ing Quar­ter­back.

The visit that launched Bal­ti­more’s run to a Su­per Bowl Cham­pi­onship is as vivid in Har­baugh’s mem­ory nearly four years later as it was the fol­low­ing day.

“I was sur­prised at how big he was still. Ob­vi­ously, he had been fight­ing Parkin­son’s for 30 years and the ef­fects of it were clear,” Har­baugh re­called. “You could tell, if he stood up straight, you wouldn’t want to stand in front of him. So that was the phys­i­cal part of it. The pres­ence part was the thing that struck me the most.

“He had a pres­ence that was hard to de­scribe, but it was a gi­ant pres­ence, kind of like a king. He had that kind of pres­ence where you just re­spected not just who he was, but how he car­ried him­self. You could tell he car­ried him­self like a war­rior, kind of like a king, kind of like a guy who had climbed those type of moun­tains, who had won those types of bat­tles. Box­ing is kind of unique that way be­cause it’s such a one-onone type of a sport. It’s just you and your op­po­nent in the ring. He didn’t have to say any­thing, ev­ery­thing he needed to say was be­ing com­mu­ni­cated by how he car­ried him­self.”

As taken as Har­baugh was with Ali’s com­mand­ing per­sona, he re­mem­bers how quickly The Great- est was able to shed it.

“He was great with our play­ers, our coaches, he was great with us. He’d put his arm around you, he was great with you – but still, there was that man-to-man thing where, he was the man. You felt that, but then when the kids came around, that was com­pletely bro­ken down,” Har­baugh said. “The play­ers ran into the build­ing and got their kids … I think if you read the his­tory about Muham­mad Ali, I think that’s how he was with kids his whole life.”

Fol­low Sean Gro­gan on Twit­ter: Sean_Ce­cilWhig

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

Bal­ti­more Ravens head coach John Har­baugh re­called on Tues­day box­ing cham­pion Muham­mad Ali’s visit with the team prior to the 2012 Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship sea­son.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

Elk­ton’s Nick Greg­son is one of 13 Ce­cil County base­ball play­ers who earned all-divi­sion hon­ors.

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