It's been just a few months since the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers, but the excitement and memory of that event is still fresh in the mind of former Nicholls State standout and current Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb.
One year ago at the Lardarius Webb Football Camp in Thibodaux, the former Nicholls State All-American predicted that the Ravens would play in Super Bowl XLVII and win it, especially after a gut-wrenching loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game two seasons ago.
What Webb didn't know was just a few months after signing a new six-year, $53 million contract that he would not get a chance to play in pro football's biggest game.
Webb missed the Super Bowl because he injured his knee during the 2012 regular season game against the Dallas Cowboys in October, but it didn't dull the feeling of something he has dreamed about since he was a young kid — winning a Super Bowl championship.
"I have to admit it was bittersweet to a certain extent because I didn't get to play in the contest, but I knew that I had a part in their success and I played my role as tutor and mentor to the young players on defense," Webb said. "It still brings a chill to me to understand that we were the world champions and had so many adversities throughout the season. Ray (Lewis), Terrell (Suggs), Ed Reed and myself all had injuries that had us on the football shelf, but we overcame. You can't use injuries as an excuse. We were a mentally tough team. You can't win this and have all these injuries and not be a tough team on the field and off the field. But every year is different and this is a business so in 2013 it is a new team and some new players, but the attitude and the will to win is still in this locker room."
Just like most football fans who watched Super Bowl XLVII, Webb said he was shocked when a power outage took place in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Webb said the Ravens did a good job of overcoming the distraction.
"I couldn't believe it," Webb said. "It was like this is really not happening and I know sports is a game of momentum and realizing that San Francisco was a very good team and this is giving them an opportunity to catch their breath. We showed a lot of composure, but I can assure you we were upset this happened and how could something like this occur. I know things happen, but for us, it really did change the flow of the game at a pace we wanted it. It was shocking then and it is still shocking to me today, but again it was another hurdle for us to overcome to bring home the championship. Nothing in life is easy."
For the Ravens, the business part of the game took place this offseason with the retirement of Ray Lewis and the loss of future NFL Hall of Fame free safety Ed Reed to the Houston Texans in free agency.
Webb said losing those two pieces were huge.
"Ray (Lewis) was the emotional leader on our team. He was our voice as a team," Webb said. "Ed Reed led by example. He didn't talk a lot, but when he did we all listened. He was my idol in high school and in college and it was the reason I wore No. 20 at Nicholls. No one individual can take their place on and off the field. I have a role to fill as a leader on and off the field, but I can't be Ed or Ray. I have to be Lardarius. I preach to the younger players that you will always have adversity in your life and it is not the fall, but it is how you get up that counts. That is what I am speaking to these young campers about and what I tell the young players entering the league."
Webb said the team will feel the impact of trading away veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers following the Super Bowl win.
"I will be honest and say Anquan is the toughest guy I have ever had to cover in this league," Webb said. "There are guys bigger, faster and quicker, but no one can run a route, get separation, use his body to position himself between the ball and defender and catch the ball with ease like Boldin can. He's amazing. Just an amazing player and I am glad he is not in the AFC. I understand the money part of this game and things have to be done for a reason, but Anquan will be missed greatly for what he did on the field and off the field. He was a great leader and it is his mental toughness that will be missed greatly, along with his talent as a receiver."
Despite the heavy losses this offseason, Webb believes the Ravens will be contenders again in 2013, especially with the return of players such as quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson.
"Every year teams change and you have to adjust to the talents that are on the team," he said. "Coach (John) Harbaugh has a great feel for pushing the right buttons on players and getting the most out of us. It has a lot to do with preparation and I can't say enough about Coach Harbaugh and his staff. And the guy behind the football curtain, Ozzie Newsome. Our general manager is the best in the game. He has a great eye for talent, he knows what fits best on our squad and he has juggled the salary cap issue so well. Every year we lose people and Ozzie keeps finding people that step right in."
The Ravens have also added key additions in free agent linebacker Elvis Dumervil and first-round draft pick safety Matt Elam.
"We got a great pass rusher in Elvis Dumervil and we drafted a young man from Florida in safety Matt Elam, who has all the tools," Webb said. "We made some moves on defense and some guys decided to leave, but I assure you we will be back in the hunt for the title again."
Webb said the NFL is loaded with several good teams, but one NFC team Webb has great respect for is the New Orleans Saints and in particular quarterback Drew Brees.
"I tell everyone playing in the AFC that San Francisco is a very talented team and I got a feeling they will return to the Big Game this year, but the Saints were a tough team for us to go against," Webb said. "The veterans on the team really pounded it in our heads that playing Drew Brees and the Saints a couple of years ago was a ‘preparation' game. We studied them in the film room as hard as we have studied for any team. We knew Drew Brees was doing the same thing to us and we had to be fully prepared or we were going to get beat. We pulled it out late, but they are a hard team to go up against because of the talent level, Sean Payton is a really good coach and the weapons they have on offense, and especially Drew Brees. Drew is like a surgeon out on the field. Our guy, Joe Flacco, was kind of in his shoes. They both get overshadowed to an extent because of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but Brees and Joe are clutch players. I can say the same for Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers. He is so tough to play because he can beat you with his arm and yet he has the skills to make plays with his feet and buy extra time for his receivers to get open. I know the Saints will be better on defense under Rob Ryan. The Ryan brothers know defense very well. Playing in that Dome is tough. Whoa, they can make some noise and it gives them a great home field advantage."
Webb said he is almost completely back from another serious knee operation and is prepared for another challenge in the NFL this season.
"Really it was easier for me to rehab this time around than the first time," Webb added. "I have been blessed with the support of my teammates, my friends and family and the folks here on the bayou at Nicholls State. There are some great people and some great memories for me here and I hope to return every year to help teach and share my story with these young kids. It's important to them to see people give something back to their community and if we like it or not, we are role models to these young men and women. I am hungry to return to the field and prove that I am still one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and yes, I want to get back to the Super Bowl and this time play in the game. That part of me, I can't hide."