The year is 2013. The date is January 6th. The sun is shining brightly. The temperature is around 50 degrees. 70,000 fans are on their feet in M&T Bank Stadium to see Ray Lewis emerge from a tunnel of smoke and spewed fire one last time.
The screams of ravenous fans bellow overtop of “Hot in Herre” can be heard from a square mile around the stadium. Lewis rips up a patch of grass and breaks out into “the squirrel dance”.
For the better part of two decades, opposing teams and fans alike stood and watched in awe of the extravagant entrance of the league’s most feared player. The spectacle became iconic, being done by players when scoring touchdowns, grooms celebrating their marriage, and recreated throughout the Mid-Atlantic region to this day.
After “Ray’s last ride”, Terrell Suggs took over as the Ravens leader in the locker room and on the field. He also assumed the acclaimed role of the last man out of the tunnel. Suggs affinity for flare and entertainment didn’t disappoint the tradition. He wore gladiator masks, replicated the look of Bane from Christopher Nolan’s Batman, and raised fire lining the entrance with guttural bellows that would strike fear into the hearts of 300 Trojans.
In September of 2019, the first regular season game without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or Terrell Suggs in Ravens team history will kick-off. The “new look Ravens” have many new faces among growingly familiar ones. There are a million questions about how the Ravens will perform from kick-off to the last whistle.
I have one question regarding the six minutes before kickoff, however. Who will be the last man out of the tunnel? Will the Ravens let Baltimore’s favorite tradition, the defensive leader exploding out of the tunnel to be recognized, die with the “new era”? They shouldn’t. Here’s what I propose.
The Ravens defenders with the most passion and entertainment value are Matthew Judon, Marlon Humphrey and Patrick Onwuasor. Each player embodies what it means to “play like a Raven” defensively. Flying to the ball, non-stop hustle and delivering big hits.
Judon made 37 plays behind the LOS last season between QB hits, TFLs and sacks. He constantly overpowers ball-carriers and drives them out of bounds.
Onwuasor, or “Peanut”, has thrown around his share of spine-crunching blows. He also has established the signature “Peanut punch” where he throws his hardest right into the chest of the ball-carrier, which resulted in four forced fumbles last season.
Marlon Humphrey is arguably the NFL’s top cornerback. He had the number one efficiency rating, broke up 13 passes and held 14 of 16 opposing receivers to under 60 yards receiving. He ended games against the Chargers, Bengals and Buccaneers with his dominance in coverage. He also makes some downright nasty tackles, particularly for a cornerback.
The Ravens should start the season with a defensive entrance and announcing of the starters concluding with one of, or all three, of these players. I would then create a new tradition to accompany the old.
The Ravens are obviously named after Edgar Allan Poe’s epic poem “The Raven”. The Ravens should embrace this dark and dreary poem into their pre-game ritual. There’s a passage in the poem that reads as follows:
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore?’ — This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, ‘Lenore!’ — Merely this, and nothing more.”
This dark, dreary and nefarious passage from the poem could have “Lenore” replaced with “Ravens” (yes, it throws off the rhyme scheme of the poem, I know).
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Ravens?’ — This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, ‘Ravens’ —Merely this, and nothing more.”
The passage should be narrated through the PA speakers in the stadium by a baritone voice slowly, with growl . Jumbotron visualizations should accompany the modified allegory, including animated ravens swarming. Then, intermittently mixed transitions to Ravens players making huge hits, intercepting the ball, scoring touchdowns, and more should mix with the animated raven birds.
The Raven’s could then allow the “team defensive player of the week” who most embodied “playing like a Raven” to be the last man out of the tunnel, unless Judon, Onwuasor, Humphrey, Tony Jefferson or Earl Thomas take over the role in some fashion.
This is my take on how to spruce up an old tradition without the classic Terrell Suggs or Ray Lewis entrances being expected anymore. This tradition could carry on for years, and bring the spirit of the very poem behind the Ravens’ name into the team’s legacy and rituals.
Who do you want to be the last man to emerge from the tunnel on Sundays in Baltimore this fall?