Jameel McClain sat at a lunch table and easily chatted and laughed with some Ravens players.
It's just like the days when he was a Ravens linebacker from 2008 to 2013 – except one key difference.
"It's the same Jameel, but in slacks and a button-up," McClain said with a chuckle.
McClain, 31, has been hired as the assistant director of player engagement, which means he'll work under Harry Swayne and alongside O.J. Brigance in assisting the entire roster of Ravens players, and especially the team's rookies as they arrive this week.
McClain will help develop and implement life skills programs that prepare players for their career transitions into the NFL and for life following football. These efforts include financial advisement, social responsibility, family assistance and continuing education.
It's not a move that McClain had in mind for a long time, but one that made too much sense not to jump at. McClain said the possibility of working for the Ravens again came up in casual conversations with Swayne and General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
"It was just something that came together perfectly," McClain said. "An opportunity opened up and it just connected directly to who I am as a person.
"Naturally, I've always been a person who related to my teammates and players. Even after I was done playing, guys would be asking me, 'What should I do next? What's next in this process? Or what do I do in this situation?' I've always been someone who you could come talk to."
Players also trust McClain's advice because he's been through it all.
He grew up homeless in Philadelphia and battled his way into the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2008.
McClain became a starter in his third season and was part of the Ravens' Super Bowl-winning 2012 team. However, he suffered a career-threatening back injury that ended his season before the playoff run.
McClain fought his way back to being a starter in 2013, but was released by the Ravens the following offseason and signed by the New York Giants, where he started for one year and made a career-high 116 tackles and 2.5 sacks before stepping away from the game.
"I've been there and done it," McClain said. "I've seen a lot of different sides of life in general, from not having money to getting money. To having people that grab onto you for good reasons and bad reasons. Being able to see the spectrum, that helps."
Even after his playing days were over, McClain has been a role model for how to move on with life. He and his wife, Keisha, moved back to the Baltimore area (she's from here) and opened a Retro Fitness gym in Catonsville in January, which he says has gotten off to a roaring start.
McClain's schedule with the Ravens will allow him to continue to own and operate his gym, as well as his 53 Families Foundation, which helps provide necessary resources for youth to be successful.
"I always believed that to be a good example of something, you've got to live it," McClain said. "How can I preach what I don't live?"
McClain says the transition to a desk job works well because he has no itch to step back onto the field as a player. He is willing to help if asked to do some coaching, but specifically said he is not a coach and doesn't want to overstep.
"If anybody wants me to help, I'm here for it. I'll do anything anybody needs me to do to help the organization win," McClain said.
Somebody else stepping into the job would have had to feel their way into the organization. For McClain, it's just like old times. He's still moving into his office, which is still pretty barren at this point, but feels a lot cozier than it looks.
"Returning home is amazing," McClain said. "It's the most welcoming feeling you could have in the world. This organization turned me into the man that I am today. Everybody says the same thing, 'Well, you never left. You're home.'"