Jermaine Eluemunor’s feel-good story couldn’t have been scripted any better during his rookie season.
The London native, who moved to the United States at 14 years old to pursue his love of the game, was drafted by the Ravens, played in his first NFL game in London’s Wembley Stadium, then took home a postseason award.
Eluemunor’s sophomore season sequel wasn’t quite as made-for-Hollywood, however.
After making the Ravens’ 53-man roster out of training camp last year, Eluemunor was released three weeks later. He was soon re-signed to the Ravens’ practice squad and promoted back to the active roster a month after his release, but it was a wake-up call.
Now, as he enters his third season, Eluemunor has a golden opportunity in front of him.
The Ravens have a wide-open competition for the starting left guard spot and they’re giving Eluemunor every chance to win the job. He ran with the first-team offense throughout OTAs and minicamp.
“I was immature. I thought I had it made,” Eluemunor said. “I thought, ‘I got drafted, I’m in the NFL now. I wanted to make it and now I’m here.’ It took me getting cut last year to realize that getting here isn’t my dream. My dream is being here.”
A fifth-round pick, Eluemunor ended up playing in eight games, including two starts, as a rookie. He was named to the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie team. After he was brought back up to the active roster last year, Eluemunor started at left tackle against the Steelers and played in nine games.
Now Eluemunor is looking to make the jump from backup to starter, and he’ll have plenty of competition, though Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear that there is no front-runner at the moment.
If anybody, veteran James Hurst probably has the leg up because he has the most experience. Last year’s primary starter, Alex Lewis, is recovering from shoulder surgery. Rookie fourth-round pick Ben Powers will get a look as well. Eluemunor, though, got first crack at it in practice.
“I think each year, each practice, he’s had some good growth,” Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris said. “He played as a rookie. That’s tough. We put him in a very difficult situation, but he responded well. Last year, he played again at tackle.”
Eluemunor has the tools. He’s one of the Ravens’ biggest blockers overall, standing in at 6-foot-4 and 335 pounds. Only Orlando Brown Jr. is bigger on the offensive line. For a team that plans to run the ball a lot this upcoming season, having some more bulk in the trenches may not be a bad thing.
He also brings good mobility, given that he was a tackle in college and also played there in the pros. Eluemunor said he’s aiming to shed 10-15 pounds over the next five weeks so that he’s in better shape to go on long 14-play drives.
“Part of his deal is going to be getting himself in the kind of shape he wants to be in in the next four or five weeks to practice like he needs to practice and play, which I know he’s determined to do,” Harbaugh said. “But, he’s looked good in there.”
“He’s another big guy that can move and that’s very athletic,” D’Alessandris added. “I just saw continued growth and I said, ‘Give him a chance.’ So, I put him back in at guard and he’s doing a real nice job there. We’ll see how it all pans out.”
Asked about playing with the starters, Eluemunor said he’s “not reading into it too much,” and knows there’s a lot more to prove in training camp. But it’s of course nice to get the vote of confidence from coaches, and he doesn’t want to let them or himself down.
“After I was signed back to the 53 and started, I said I was never going to let myself get cut again,” Eluemunor said. “It was a big maturity thing. I know what it takes to be out there now and what you have to do get out there.
“I feel a lot better this year than I did last year and the year before. I was kind of sloppy my rookie year and last year I was overweight. This year, I’m a lot stronger. But I’m going to keep working, and run a ton this summer, so I can come back in the best shape of my life.”
Check out the action from the three days of practices.