Lardarius Webb could barely pay attention to the action on the field, even if it was an NFL playoff game. As the Baltimore Ravens barreled through the Miami Dolphins 27-9 at Dolphins Stadium this past January, Webb had his eyes focused on no. 20.
For Webb, it was a little self-admitted hero-worshipping. "I just wanted to meet Ed Reed."
Webb, a defensive back himself, credits the Ravens safety as his role model, and did have the chance to meet him that day. It is thus fitting that Webb will have the opportunity to play alongside his idol, as Webb was drafted in the third round (88th overall) by the Ravens last weekend.
"I'm extremely happy. I cannot even explain myself," Webb said not long after Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome called him to tell him he would be a Raven. "Baltimore has a great, great defense, and to be a part of that is really breath-taking."
For Webb, the opportunity to learn under Reed, one of the most recognized ball hawks in the league, seems too good to be true. But Webb had other idols growing up, and his road to the NFL has not been without obstacles.
Growing up in Opelika, Alabama, Webb was in an environment filled with drugs and gangs. His mother was a drug addict, his father was an alcoholic and when he was a senior in high school, his brother was sent to prison.
Still, Webb admires his parents for the way they turned it around.
"She's a strong woman, and everybody's not able to come out of that," Webb spoke of his mother, who has been clean for more than 10 years. "For her to come out of that and be strong, it really gave me the strength to say, 'OK, I can come out of anything I want to. Anything I put my mind to, I can do it."
Developing a love for the game, Webb went on to play defensive back at the University of Sourthern Mississippi. However, Webb fell into the wrong crowd, and was dismissed from the team for reasons not disclosed.
Webb feels strongly however, that learning from his mistakes has made him a better man.
"I was a young guy making stupid decisions for all the wrong reasons," he said. "Now I'm older. My thought process has grown up with my age. I'm glad I made that mistake at a young age, so I could learn from it.
"Since I'm in the NFL, I don't want to make the wrong decisions, because it can really cost me a lot. I'm just saying that I learned a lot from it, and I'm happy it happened whenever it did happen."
"He was very forthcoming in talking about it," Newsome said of Webb. "I think he's a young man that realized that he made some mistakes and he has started to overcome it. I think his tract record over the last two years shows to us that he is headed in the right direction."
Webb transferred to Nicholls State in Thibodaux, Louisiana. During his two-year career as a Colonel, the two-time consensus All-American amassed 106 total tackles, three sacks and seven interceptions. He also totaled for 1,485 total career return yards on kickoffs and punts, including three scores.
"He's a multi-talented type of player," said Nicholls State Head Coach Jay Thomas, Webb's former coach. Webb played corner, nickel and dime in college. "He's not a pigeon hole type guy.
"He's very versatile, very aggressive and not afraid of contact at all. He's a ball hawk. He's got a great work ethic, and he loves the game."
But perhaps more importantly, Webb became a model student which included a stint on the homecoming court and volunteering as an assistant coach.
"A lot of young guys make mistakes early on. Some guys learn from them, some guys don't. Lardarius did a great job learning from them," commended Thomas.
"When you've got the president of the university telling you to go out and find more Lardarius Webbs, you know you've got a good guy," he added.
As the NFL Draft approached and Webb was visiting teams and interviewing scouts, he still found time to help Thomas coach the secondary during the Colonels' spring practices. To Thomas, that "spoke volumes."
Among the coaches Webb met prior to the Draft was Ravens secondary coach Chuck Pagano. He came back to Baltimore high on Webb, and when director of player personnel Eric DeCosta spent some time with him, he was sold too.
He's passionate about the game, "DeCosta said. "He's our kind of guy. We love fast, explosive football players. Jerry Rosburg, our special teams coach, watched him as a returner and really felt that he had a chance to really upgrade us at the position as well."
Webb will compete with Chris Carr and Yamon Figurs to become kickoff specialist, and will also contribute on special teams. Now that Webb has made it through his setbacks into the NFL, he hopes he can spread that motivation to younger players watching him.
"It's a dream that I always wanted to do. For the kids to be able to see that you can really make it in the world, from where I'm from," Webb said. "For the kids to see that you can really make it, that's what I want.
"I just want to keep kids' dreams alive. And with me making it to the NFL, I made my dream come true, but [I want] to give hope to the young children right now, knowing they can make it from here."
Perhaps one day, an NFL prospect will be watching a Ravens' playoff game, and say "I just want to meet Lardarius Webb."