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Countdown: 'Ruki Was a Steal


*In the days leading up to the NFL Draft, takes a look at some of the successes from the Ravens' scouting department. Sunday kicked off the series with undrafted free agent Jameel McClain. *


*In the sixth round, Baltimore found a gem in safety Haruki Nakamura, who was an unheralded player out of the University of Cincinnati. *


It has only been one year since **Haruki Nakamura’s** name was called out on draft day, but the Ravens don't need any more convincing that he is worth a sixth-round pick.

In fact, they believe they walked away with a steal.

Not much was publicly known about Nakamura heading into the draft. Even though he was a first-team All-Big East honoree as a senior, it wasn't like Cincinnati was a college football powerhouse.

Nakamura posted a career-high 95 tackles, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries, but he wasn't even invited to the annual NFL Scouting Combine.

Had he attended that event, he would have been given the opportunity to speak with all 32 teams across the league. Instead, Nakamura just continued to fly under the radar - which was a dream scenario for Baltimore.

"We actually started talking with Haruki when he was at the Hula Bowl," said Ravens director of college scouting **Joe Hortiz**, who noted that the initial conversation was sparked by player personnel assistant Mark Azevedo. "Then, he earned the Defensive Most Valuable Player for the game with a pick, a fumble recovery and pass breakup. We knew we had to keep an eye on him."

Further delving into Nakamura's game tape, the Ravens' interest was piqued even more.

At 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, Nakamura was never the biggest or strongest guy on the football field. He typically wasn't the fastest either.

Nakamura made up for what some would perceive as shortcomings with hard work and desire. Rare was a moment when Nakamura was not in the thick of the action. After playing mostly special teams as a freshman, Nakamura went on to start 36 consecutive contests, racking up an impressive 237 tackles along the way.

"The first thing you saw with Haruki was his playmaking ability in college," Hortiz said. "He was always very active, no matter what, he was always ready to make things happen, whether it was picking balls off, coming up on tackles, forcing fumbles, recovering fumbles. He was just constantly around the ball.

"He did it at Cincinnati, and he did it at the Hula Bowl."

Nakamura has been a welcome addition to the locker room. Always quick with a joke and a laugh, Nakamura's wide smile belies the fire of a fierce competitor.

"The intelligence comes across, and then you notice his charisma and passion for the game," Hortiz explained. "He's an outgoing person, and when we brought him here for a meeting, you got more of the same."

From the beginning, Nakamura's intelligence showed up during offseason minicamps and training camp. He seemed to intercept a pass in every other practice, prompting surprised thoughts that this sixth-rounder might make the active roster as a special teamer - not an easy feat.

As the season unfolded, however, no one in Baltimore was surprised to see Nakamura contributing not only on special teams, but on defense.

Nakamura finished third on the team with 14 special teams stops and was a regular contributor on former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's seven-defensive back alignment.

"With a lot of those late-round guys, you're just looking for him to contribute on teams," said Hortiz. "You anticipated a guy that would make it because of his toughness and attitude, but he kind of grew into that role as a blitzer and a guy that would help in certain run situations.

"With Haruki, we needed him to step up late in the season to help us win games. He did a fine job for us, and that's really just a testament to him and the way he plays the game."

Stay tuned tomorrow for a scout's look at fifth-round draft pick Dawan Landry!

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