Life is full of pressure. It stems from family, school, relationships, work – it's everywhere. Multiple sources: Pressure is a driving force behind what shapes a person's character. At times, it works as a determinant for how people are perceived in each facet of life.
For most, pressure lies solely within, and serves as an internal struggle that is dealt with in a personal and private manner. In the National Football League, pressure is extremely visible.
In a highly-competitive business, most would agree that no one experiences the pressures of the NFL quite like a starting quarterback.
Joe Flacco understands the pressures of being an NFL quarterback, a first-round draft pick who has a spotlight cast on his every move. His ability to deal with pressure and adversity have kept him humble and grounded for as long as he can remember. And, there is no question that his humility has guided him through the choices he's made and the success he's encountered.
The quarterback plays with the weight of the team on his shoulders. He's often asked to fulfill the most demands, both on and off the gridiron. He directs the offense on the field, helps lead the team in the locker room and has a prominent voice in the media. His every move is scrutinized through a magnifying glass. When his team is winning, he may have one of the best jobs in the world. When not, it's quite the contrary.
It comes of no surprise to the Ravens' faithful that Flacco takes it all with a grain of salt. Charm City's own humble leader, he's a simple guy, dubbed 'Joe Cool' and is about as regular as they come. His calm, poised demeanor that so many thousands see each Sunday rarely wavers in his day-to-day life.
"I'm not sure it's exactly as cool and collected as it looks, but I like to stay pretty even keel," explains Flacco. "That's my personality, so it comes pretty naturally for me. It's not something I have to consciously do."
Joe is the oldest of six children in the Flacco family. His family-first upbringing instilled a quality of humility at a very early age. From then, until now, Flacco's nature has been to put those around him before himself. He is humble. He never thinks, 'me first.'
Aside from being a big brother, Flacco has had plenty of adversity to overcome. After committing to the University of Pittsburgh out of high school, Flacco later transferred to Delaware, where he would have a better opportunity to showcase his talents.
Despite what some would believe to be a step back for Flacco and his NFL dreams, the decision proved worthwhile. But it was a difficult choice that undoubtedly cut into his pride.
"Any time that you're told you aren't good enough, it's tough," says Flacco. "You try not to believe what they're thinking the best way you can, and you just continue to believe in yourself and your ability. Anytime somebody tells you that, it's a humbling experience, and you need to swallow that, deal with it and move on."
And despite it all, Flacco wouldn't have it any other way.
"Transferring was definitely something that I had to sit back and realize was necessary. It was one of the toughest decisions I've ever made, but at the same time, it was one of the easiest decisions I've made, because I knew it was what I had to do.
"I wouldn't have changed anything about what I did. I would do everything again exactly the way I did it, because it made me who I am today. And I had to go through all of that for a reason. I think when you've gone through adversity, it makes you that much stronger, and that's what it did for me."
Now a second-year pro, Flacco has been recognized for his ability to play at a level seemingly far beyond his years. His production has skyrocketed in 2009 and has helped turn the Ravens' offense into one of the league's elite. But even more impressive is the 24-year-old's display of composure, whether he's just connected in the end zone or in the arms of the opposition.
"When you're out on the field, it's easy," Flacco says. "You're playing football, and you're out there trying to win football games. That's really the only thing you have on your mind at that point. And when I'm not playing football, I'm the same person that I've been for the last 24 years of my life. I go out there and try to be as normal as possible."
To the thousands who watch Flacco gracefully move through a pocket full of pressure or throw a ball down the middle into double coverage without a second thought, he is one cool customer.
"Sometimes I can be a little overconfident. In order to be in the position that I'm in, you have to be a person who has a lot of confidence in himself and isn't going to question his abilities.
"That's the way I am, but with my personality, I hold it in a way where I keep that confidence to myself. Nobody else needs to know that."
Flacco gets it. He understands his role, and he hasn't let it change who he is as a person. Ravens fans want the confidence. His teammates thrive off of it. But it doesn't necessitate a display of arrogance.
"It's being comfortable with who you are," he affirms. "It's having inner confidence and not feeling like you have to change to please others. If there's ever a time when you're stuck in an uncomfortable situation, which you will be sometimes, humility is being able to revert to yourself."
Undeniably, Flacco has quiet strength. He's cool under pressure, and his confidence gives him the ability to maximize his talent on the field. But more importantly, his humbleness keeps his head on his shoulders and his feet on the ground.