Anthony Levine stepped to the podium in the post-game press conference room and was a little surprised by the scene.
The career special teamer and reserve defender isn’t typically standing center stage after games, and his work doesn’t often get much public recognition.
“It’s different being up here, man,” Levine said with a laugh. “This is a first.”
But Levine deserved his opportunity in the spotlight Saturday night after his game-winning interception return in the fourth quarter.
Levine picked off quarterback Stephen Morris on a two-point conversion attempt and returned the pass 98 yards to the end zone to give the Ravens two points. His return gave the Ravens a 19-18 lead, which they would hold for the victory.
“I caught it and all I was thinking about was, ‘Try not to get caught so my teammates don’t clown me all week, and for the rest of the season,’” said Levine, who just outran the quarterback to get into the end zone.
As Levine crossed the goal line, he held up the No. 25 in honor of deceased teammate Tray Walker, who died in a dirt bike accident this offseason.
“Every time I go out there I think about Tray,” Levine said. “Every time I go out there and make a play, I’m doing it for the man above, Tray and my family.”
The two-point conversion was exactly the type of playmaking ability the Ravens want to see in the preseason. They have stressed takeaways all offseason, and the defense came up with a pair of turnovers in the preseason victory.
“To pick that thing off and take it to the house for the winning points was gigantic,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s the kind thing that you’re proud of.”
The return by Levine also showed that the Ravens could look for ways to use him in creative defensive packages. Levine has moved from safety to inside linebacker this offseason, giving the defense a speedy linebacker with strong coverage skills. Levine, who is one of Baltimore’s best special teamers, has played safety, corner and now linebacker in his five seasons with the Ravens.
“I love playing linebacker. It’s fun,” Levine said. “I just have to run fast, get to the ball, make tackles. That’s what I do on special teams, so I like it.”