Ian Thomas remembers being in class and looking out the window of his high school, Digital Harbor, located just around the corner from M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens had just won Super Bowl XLVII, and the victory parade was going down the street.
"I knew then I wanted to be part of something like that," Thomas said. "It was always a dream of mine to play for the Ravens."
The big-bodied Indiana tight end has already lived the dream of so many kids in Baltimore. He's beaten steep odds. Now, he wants to take it one step further and strap on the purple and black, and the Ravens have a need at tight end.
Thomas grew up in a rough part of Baltimore. Things got infinitely tougher when both of his parents died before he was 10 years old.
His mother, Martha, died from complications stemming from an abscessed tooth on his eighth birthday. His father, Earl, had a heart attack one year later. The middle child among nine, Thomas and his siblings were suddenly on their own.
"You're so young and you don't really know what death means and how to react to it," Thomas said. "It made me grow up earlier than most people do."
Thomas went to live with his uncle, but the uncle decided it was too much and was going to put the kids in a foster home. That's when his older brother, Cliff Farmer, stepped in to legally adopt his siblings. Farmer was 19 at the time. Thomas was 12.
"Coming from the inner-city, there's so much stuff going on and it's so easy to follow crowds," Thomas said. "My brother never let us stray from the path. Just looking up to him, it made me really want to push forward and do something good with my life."
Another memory also sticks out for Thomas. It was around Thanksgiving and the Ravens held a turkey giveaway in his community. Defensive back Lardarius Webb and former Ravens running back Ray Rice were there greeting people and handing out food.
"The Ravens have always been my team ever since then because those are guys you look up to when there's nothing else good around you in the inner city," Thomas said.
Thomas worked hard and leaned on sports as an outlet to escape his circumstances. He didn't have the grades to go to Towson, but he ended up at Nassau Community College in New York, where he played for two seasons and became ranked as ESPN's second-best junior college tight end in the country. That was enough for a scholarship to Indiana.
In his first year with the Hoosiers, he caught just three passes for 28 yards and played in two games, but coaches knew he had a lot of potential. When he got a shot as a senior, he put up 25 receptions for 376 yards and five touchdowns.
At the Senior Bowl, Thomas measured over 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds. He has the build of an NFL tight end. He's projected by NFLDraftScout.com to be a third-round pick.
After injuries to a couple other tight ends on the South roster, Thomas got a lot of action and performed well, showing strong hands and good body control to separate from defenders. He may just be scratching the surface.
"Every day, I learn new stuff," Thomas said. "Coming out here, I'm learning from players and coaches. I take everything in and put it in my arsenal."
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