The game was on the line.
The Ravens held a 19-12 lead over the Bengals last Sunday with one minute, 12 seconds left in the battle.
Cincinnati was 16 yards from the end zone and the winning touchdown. It was third-and-10.
Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who had missed the five previous games with a lower leg injury, lined up on the left side of the defense. When he got down in his three-point stance with his right hand on the field, Cincinnati's 6-foot-7 right tackle Eric Winston awaited the 5-foot-11 Dumervil.
It was Dumervil's 46th play of the day, and he was tired. "I was thinking a couple of things before the play," Dumervil said on Wednesday. "The crowd was loud, and I liked that. That usually means the offense won't get off on the snap as fast. I thought, 'Man, you did all this work to come back, now go make a play! It was such a journey to get to this moment.'
"I got off quickly, staying low and taking advantage of my leverage. I had my eye on [Cincinnati quarterback Andy] Dalton, who stepped up in the pocket when I tried to reach him with my left arm. I didn't get him, but came back with the right and was able to swat the ball out of his two hands. It was a great moment. Then I really heard the crowd, and I knew we recovered."
After the eruption, the fans cascaded into "Seven Nation Army"… "OH, oh, oh, oh, OH, oh" as the man they call "Doom" was being pounded by his teammates.
Elvis is back in the building, and the Ravens* *defense, already impressive, just got better.
As good and productive as Dumervil has been – he went to his fifth Pro Bowl last season – rehabbing is mostly a solo experience. "You're on the outside looking in. It's a lonely world if you're a football player not helping your team that week. I mean, people are nice, but it's not the same," Dumervil explained. "You work with our trainers and strength coaches, and it's hard work. Our staff is so good; they helped keep me focused on getting back to help. I was exhausted before I got the strip-sack on Dalton, but I thought, 'Hey, they have to be more tired and beat up – they've been playing for 12 weeks.' But, my rehab can't simulate games and padded practices."
While not playing, Dumervil was surprised when Owner Steve Bisciotti walked up to him before the home game against the Oakland Raiders (Oct. 2). "He asked me how I was doing and then told me that he respected the work I was doing in Haiti and that he wanted to help," Dumervil recalled. "I told him that after Hurricane Matthew, there was even more need.
"I was humbled by Steve's generosity. I thought, 'Man, what a guy!' He has a lot going on in his world, but he is a server and a giver. To me, those are things you may not see from a person of his stature. I have no words for these gifts. I'm very grateful. The Ravens being side-by-side by me and helping Haiti is amazing."
The next day (Oct. 3), Steve called me and said to work with Doom on the best way that $100,000 could be used to help the people of Haiti. Bisciotti donated $50,000 from his pocket and another $50,000 from the Ravens.
Dumervil is a first generation Haitian American. His mother, Maria Noel [Dumervil] migrated to Florida when she was 21. Elvis, his mom and his brother lived in a section of Miami called "Little Haiti." They rented a tiny space in a triplex from a church member. "My mom is the role model. She worked three jobs, including overtime on weekends, to take care of us."
Doom was able to get his grandmother to the States before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of 2010. The quake killed 320,000 people and left nearly a million people homeless. "There are lots of people living in makeshift shelters and slum tents since then," Dumervil said. Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
That devastation inspired Elvis to make a difference in as many Haitians' lives as he could. With the guidance of the New Story Charity, he built 58 concrete homes – 58 is his uniform number – in Bercy, on the western part of the island. With the money Bisciotti and the Ravens have donated, he thinks another 16 to 18 homes will be constructed.
All of the houses Doom built survived Hurricane Matthew in early October. "I was told that the homes that we finished so far helped almost 1,000 people when the hurricane hit. Concrete homes hold up."
"Hopefully, what we're doing will inspire others to see the need in Haiti and help people have a chance," Dumervil continued. "These homes become the foundation for jobs, better health and education."
(If you'd like to make a donation to help the people in Haiti, you can go to www.newstorycharity.org.)
Dumervil Is Spoiled
While Dumervil is noted for his generous work in Haiti, he admits he's a little spoiled. "My wife [Jennifer] is amazing. She likes me to have fresh, cooked healthy food. So, she brings me lunch every day to work," Dumervil chuckled. "We're a team. She makes sure I have no worries at home so I can focus on helping the Ravens win. She brings our daughter [Ella Rose]. I go out in the parking lot and spend a little time with them. It's like she is dropping off lunch at school, and I'm the student."
(Doom has shared some plantains that Jennifer makes with me. I told him they taste too good to be healthy, but he promises me they are.)
Our good fortune is to have Elvis and his remarkable family as part of our Ravens' brood. He's here first because he is a very good player, one of the top pass rushers in the NFL. We all saw it with the strip-sack of Dalton last Sunday in our dramatic victory to stay in first place in the AFC North. How about some more of that this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, Doom? "That's the plan," Dumervil said, smiling.
Let's beat the streaking Dolphins.
Talk with you next week,
P.S. There are few things sacred in an NFL locker room. You can't have thin skin. Players are on each other, in a good-natured way, and comments are often very funny. After we beat the Bengals last Sunday, John Harbaugh said to the players: "I've got a game ball for one of the tremendous leaders on our team. Terrell Suggs, you did a great job of leading this team all week." Harbs then tossed a ball to "Sizzle," who proclaimed with a laugh: "Somebody better let Ray [Lewis] know." That broke up the room.