"The days are long, but the years are short."
This was the philosophy head coach John Harbaugh instilled in his Baltimore Ravens from the earliest moments of training camp for the 2012 season, and it served as a foreshadowing of a journey filled with highs and lows which ultimately culminated with a world championship.
Harbaugh discussed this and much more in an inspirational 50 minute keynote address at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes 2013 Victory Celebration, Monday evening at Martin's West. Before a record audience of more than 1,800 FCA benefactors, Harbaugh recalled riveting stories of critical moments from the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl run as well as the prominent role faith played in the team's rise to the title.
According to Harbaugh, the journey began in a stunned and somber locker room in Foxboro, Ma. following the Ravens' loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, the previous year.
"I didn't know what to say to the team. Nobody knew what to say. We thought we were going to the Super Bowl and, suddenly, we were going home," recalled Harbaugh. "Ray (Lewis) called us all together and he said 'God does not make mistakes.' We did not fully realize it at that moment, but something greater was in store for us."
Harbaugh revealed that there were many long days for his team. Tough losses, devastating personal tragedies and many injuries. However, the team understood just how short a year could be when it found itself returning to Foxboro in late January for another shot at the Patriots in the AFC title game.
"It really hit us when the plane touched down and we boarded the buses. We stayed in the same hotel and got dressed in that same locker room," said Harbaugh. "It really felt as if the previous game was only yesterday. We knew this was where we were supposed to be and we knew we were going to win this time."
The longest days came at the tail end of the regular season when the Ravens lost four of their final five games. During the stretch the team fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and bore little resemblance to the team which got off to a 9-2 start. Perhaps the lowest point during this stretch was following a 34-17 drubbing, at home, at the hands of the Denver Broncos in Week 15.
This, however, is when the team relied on its faith in God and each other.
"Anquan (Boldin) is one of our spiritual leaders and I knew he was familiar with the book Joshua 1, which I was studying at the time. I texted him a verse and he immediately got it," said Harbaugh. "It said, 'Be strong and courageous. Be very strong and courageous.' At that point everyone thought we were finished, but we knew we had all of our goals still in front of us. We just had to fight for them."
The Ravens rebounded the following week with a 33-14 thrashing of the New York Giants, solidifying their playoff position, before resting their starters during a 23-17 loss in Cincinnati the final week of the regular season.
The team sensed something magical just might happen when Lewis, it's physical, emotional and spiritual leader for 17 brilliant seasons announced his retirement in the week leading up to the team's playoff opener against the Indianapolis Colts, stating the playoffs would be his "final ride." The Ravens won impressively, 24-9, and headed to Denver to challenge a team which had so thoroughly dismantled them just a few weeks earlier.
In Denver the Ravens pulled out a stunning 38-35 victory in double overtime, rallying from near certain defeat late in the fourth quarter with a miraculous 70 yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with just 38 seconds to play in regulation. The team then won the contest early in the second overtime with a 47 yard field goal from rookie kicker Justin Tucker.
"That's when we realized we were all part of something much bigger than ourselves," said Harbaugh. "That was an amazing time in the locker room and a great plane ride home. At that point, we really believed we were going to the Super Bowl. We just had to take care of a little piece of business along the way."
Harbaugh received a standing ovation on both ends of his FCA address, in which he spoke of the impact the FCA had on him from the age of 14. "It changed my life."
To demonstrate his total support for the organization, he donated his entire $20,000 speaking fee to the FCA to be used for camp scholarships in Maryland. Prior to his keynote address, Harbaugh spoke privately to a room of more than 140 middle, high school and college students who are currently active with the FCA.
Last Updated (Thursday, 07 March 2013 09:42)