For Morgan State and Bowie State coaches, getting an invitation to shadow Ravens coaches for a full day at OTAs was a gift they eagerly embraced.
"I'm not going to lie, I'm not going to want to leave when the day's over," said Antone Sewell, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator at Morgan State.
The HBCU coaches were guests of Head Coach John Harbaugh and his staff, on Wednesday, offering the type of practical hands-on experience and networking opportunity that can lead to career advancement. The coaches spent a full day at the facility, attending meetings both before and after practice while getting one-on-one time with members of the Ravens' staff.
It was a meaningful experience for Sewell, who has been a college football coach for 20 years, grew up in Maryland, and can drive from his residence to the Under Armour Performance Center in less than 10 minutes. However, he had never attended a Ravens practice until Wednesday.
The day opened a new door for Sewell – one that could lead to more doors opening for all the coaches who attended.
"The NFL is football at its highest level," Sewell said. "It gives us an opportunity to sit down with these guys, talk over some strategies, confirm some things we already know and pick up some new things. This Ravens staff has been great to us from the time they reached out. They've really been transparent about anything that we've asked about."
As a Black coach at an HBCU, Sewell is passionate about creating more opportunities for qualified minority coaches. Sewell played at Bowie State and knew he would pursue a coaching career once his playing days ended. He loves the game and wants to make sure talented coaches at all levels have a legitimate chance to advance. Sewell saw the invitation from the Ravens as a steppingstone in that direction.
"I think it's very important," Sewell said. "In coaching and in most businesses, it's who you know and who knows you. It's a chance for us to get in front of these guys. Coaches want people around them who are not only good coaches, but good people. Now, if my name or one of our other coach's names comes up, they can say, 'I remember that guy. He's a guy that I wouldn't mind bringing into our organization, or I can recommend them to another organization.'"
Coming from a family of coaches, Harbaugh has always been passionate about the profession, and this was another example of his desire to give back.
"It's a chance for us to make a connection," Harbaugh said. "These guys are good coaches. Creating opportunity, that's exactly what we're trying to do."
The visiting coaches sat in on team meetings and asked questions of Ravens coaches, getting an all-access window into their daily routine. After observing the defensive team meeting led by Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, Avery Williams said he enjoyed sitting down one-on-one with Ravens Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Anthony Weaver.
"We talked in depth about a lot of things they do in terms of scheme, techniques they teach, etc." said Williams, Bowie State's Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator. "That's extremely beneficial in terms of developing myself as a coach, how he runs his stunts up front, which stance is best, reading people's eyes. To sit down with an NFL defensive line coach and pick his brain for an extended period of time was just a phenomenal opportunity for these coaching staffs.
"We'd like to see more HBCU players drafted, more opportunities for HBCU coaches, but I'm starting to see more opportunities presented. It's a matter of networking a little more, having opportunities like this, having conversations with the right people."
Sewell will return to the Ravens practice facility in June as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. He'll be counting the days.
"As much as I'm welcome here, I plan to be here," Sewell said. "Coaching is not a profession where you can just cold call somebody or send a resume and get a job. People have to know you, trust you and feel comfortable being around you to bring you into their circle.
"There are a lot of qualified African American coaches on all levels – Division II, Division III, high school. But if you don't know the people who are doing the hiring, it's going to be a struggle for you. That's why I appreciate what the Ravens did here, allowing us to make a face-to-face connection. It was beneficial for everyone involved."