Harbaugh recalls Muhammad Ali’s visit with Ravens
— 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
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
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.
Elkton’s Nick Gregson is one of 13 Cecil County baseball players who earned all-division honors.