The undrafted rookie free agent linebacker hails from Sykesville, Md., and is a huge Ravens fan. A product of Gilman High School, he’s now the home-grown talent trying to catch on.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Copeland said. “The Ravens have been my first team, my only team and, I’m happy to say, still my team.”
Just a few months ago, Copeland was hosting a Super Bowl house party, talking trash with his friends who are fans of other teams. He only dreamed of wearing the purple and black like his idols Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Copeland was three-time first-team All-Ivy League defender, but there aren’t many players from Division I FCS University of Pennsylvania who make it in the NFL. Copeland had to convince scouts that he could make the leap.
He did so with impressive workouts at the Super Regional Combine in Dallas, then again in another regional combine and local pro day in Baltimore. He opened eyes by running the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds and bench pressing 225 pounds 30 times.
“I had to get people to get rid of the Ivy League stigma and realize that I might not be playing against the Alabamas and LSUs, but I can still play,” Copeland said.
Copeland drew interest from four teams as an undrafted rookie free agent: the Eagles, Texans, Steelers and Ravens. The Ravens were at the topo of the list.
Now he's getting help from another local source. His grandfather, Roy Hilton, was a defensive end for the Baltimore Colts for nine seasons (1965–1973), and played in Super Bowl III and Super Bowl V.
Hilton attended Copeland’s first minicamp practice as a guest of Colts Hall of Fame running back Lenny Moore. Copeland visited Hilton in Randallstown, Md., over Memorial Day weekend.
Hilton knows a thing or two about having to beat the odds to make a team. He was originally a 15th-round draft pick and just one of only three rookies to make the Colts roster in 1965.
“He makes sure I stay focused and realize that I’m an underdog and have to work harder than everyone else to make sure I stay here,” Copeland said.
Adding to Copeland’s difficulty is that he’s making a position switch. The college defensive lineman is being converted into an inside linebacker. It is a position of need for the Ravens, but also one that Copeland knows little about.
The 6-foot-3, 260 pounder worked with former Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter before the draft to try to help. Copeland said his background in defending the run applies, but learning the terminology and movements to drop in coverage is the most difficult part.
“My first snap ever at middle linebacker was the Friday of rookie minicamp,” Copeland said with a laugh. “It’s been a huge learning curve, but I’m ready for it. I like it. I kind of see it as getting out of jail. You don’t have to fight with two men in front of you and you can get the ball whichever way it goes.”
Copeland, who is educated by the prestigious Wharton School of business, has enjoyed studying the Ravens defense. Coming from a fan perspective, he said he now knows what Lewis and Reed were saying to each other on the field.
“To watch those guys play defense has been something that excited me my entire life and modeled my own game after my entire life,” Copeland said. “To now get to see it and study the defense, it’s pretty cool.”