Tom Matte, a Baltimore pro football cornerstone during the eras of both the Colts and Ravens, passed away Wednesday at age 82.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh opened his press conference Wednesday by paying tribute to Matte, who played running back for the Colts from 1961 through 1972 and was an analyst on the Ravens' radio broadcasts from 1996 through 2005.
"Just a 'larger than life' personality," Harbaugh said. "Love the family. Condolences to the family."
Matte and Harbaugh's mother were high school classmates in Cleveland, Harbaugh said, adding that Harbaugh's parents have had "a special bond" for decades with Matte and his wife, Judy.
After the Ravens hired Harbaugh as their head coach in 2008 and he came to Baltimore with his family, "one of the first people that welcomed us were Tom and Judy Matte, went out to dinner," Harbaugh said.
Matte came to Baltimore as the Colts' first-round pick in 1961 after a stellar career as a quarterback at Ohio State. Better known for his running than his passing, he quickly became a major contributor as a running back on Johnny Unitas-led offenses.
In 12 years with the Colts, he rushed for 4,646 yards, caught 249 passes for 2,869 yards and scored 57 touchdowns.
The signature moment of his career came in 1965 when injuries to Unitas and his backup, Gary Cuozzo, forced the Colts to play Matte at quarterback in a playoff game against Vince Lombardi's Packers. Matte performed well, but the Colts lost on a disputed field goal.
The loss put the Colts into the now-defunct Playoff Bowl, matching the second-place teams from the NFL's two divisions. With Matte again playing quarterback, the Colts blasted the Cowboys, 35-3.
"We just kicked their butts all over," Matte said in 2016.
He never played for another NFL team.
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti was among those who met him at training camp.
"Tom was one of this community's heroes," Bisciotti said. "I remember being so excited to meet him at Colts training camp when I was a kid. The way he embraced us was truly special. Many years later, when the Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996, it was amazing to then see our team embrace him. Tom will be greatly missed, and I send my heartfelt condolences to Judy and his family."
After his career with the Colts ended, Matte stayed in Baltimore, worked as a businessman known for his gregarious personality, and became a football broadcaster. Matte and Scott Garceau were on the call for the Ravens' radio broadcast of their victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl 35.
"A Baltimore treasure who came in 1961 and never left -- and gave his heart and soul to our town," Garceau said. "I had 40 years of great memories with my brother."
The Ravens made a team statement after Masse's passing: "Tom became an important member of the Ravens family as soon as we arrived in Baltimore. For 10 years, he served as an analyst on our radio team, with a highlight of calling Super Bowl XXXV. A multi-talented football star, Tom was a member of two Baltimore Colts championship teams. Fans – both from the Colts and Ravens – loved him dearly. He was a legendary figure in this community and in the football world. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Judy, and their family."