John Harbaugh never misses an opportunity to incorporate history and literature with football.
Mindful of how the past has shaped the present, Harbaugh and the coaching staff talked to the Ravens about Nelson Mandela, the former South African leader who passed away at the age of 95 on Thursday.
Harbaugh said it was offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell that spoke about Mandela and a particular poem that inspired him while incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island.
The poem, titled "Invictus" and written by William Ernest Henley in 1888, is as follows:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The last two lines are striking, and fit within a football context. The Ravens, sitting at 6-6 and in sixth place in the AFC, are now the master of their fate. They are, at this time, the captain of their collective soul.
It's on the Ravens to continue their journey to the postseason. Based on the circumstances the Ravens endured this season — injuries, tough losses, poor play — the team still stands with its goals in sight.
As Harbaugh told reporters Friday afternoon, how the Ravens finish the season is now in their hands.
"There are a lot of things that came together for us here in December that hopefully have a lot of meaning and maybe will have an impact in how we'll play," he said.