Athletes use many things for motivation. For Patrick Queen, being called undersized has always fueled him.
The Ravens' first-round draft pick (28th overall) measured 6-foot-0, 229 pounds at the NFL Combine, lighter than the two inside linebackers drafted before him – Kenneth Murray (6-foot-2, 241 pounds) who went No. 23 to the Los Angeles Chargers, and Jordyn Brooks 6-foot-0, 240 pounds) who went No. 27 to the Seattle Seahawks.
If there is an implication that Queen will not be physical enough or strong enough to become a star in the NFL, he is not trying to hear it. Ray Lewis fell to the Ravens at No. 26 in the 1996 draft, partly because some scouts didn't think Lewis (6-foot-1) was tall enough or fast enough to be a standout inside linebacker.
Now Lewis is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Queen is the next Ravens' inside linebacker being asked to become a force in the middle of their defense. Queen says he is up for the job, and he admits that being labeled "undersized" rubs him the wrong way.
"I'm not going to lie to you man, I'm so tired of hearing that," Queen said. "I heard it all the way through college. It didn't matter. I played perfectly fine. Coming into the league, I'm going to be strong, I'm going to be fast, and I'm going to be smart and just try to bring that mentality I had in college into the NFL and turn it up a lot more."
Queen says he will also use Lewis' legacy in Baltimore for motivation. The standard for excellence at the position is high, most recently upheld by C.J. Mosley, who made the Pro Bowl four times before leaving in free agency to join the New York Jets in 2019.
"When you think about Ray Lewis, you think about an elite linebacker – speed, physicality, aggression, dominance," Queen said. "I feel like I'm more mobile than he was. Not taking anything away from him, he was a great linebacker, probably the best to play. But I've got a lot to live up to. The bar is set high."
Comparing any rookie to Lewis isn't fair, but Queen is bound to hear Lewis' name a lot while playing in Baltimore. Reacting to the Ravens' pick Thursday night, quarterback Lamar Jackson referred to Queen as "Ray Lewis Jr."
Queen also received a warm welcome from a variety of Ravens on Twitter.
Assessing Queen before the draft, Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta and the Ravens coaches and scouts trusted what they saw on tape. They saw a playmaker. Any concern about his size was erased by Queen's play against elite competition. The bigger the game, the bigger Queen played. He was the Defensive MVP of LSU national championship win.
"You base it on your experience, and you base it on your eyes, and you base it on what you see," DeCosta said. "We watched him in really big games against great opponents. We saw him play Georgia. We saw him play against Alabama. We saw him play against Oklahoma. We saw him play against Clemson. Those are some of the very best teams in college football, and he was one of the very best guys on the field in those games.
"As you gain experience as a scout and as an evaluator, you get better at your job. And you're looking for specific things, and when you see it, you know you saw it. And that kind of makes your decision easy. So, I think with Patrick, there are a lot of different qualities about him that really jump off the tape, and you see a guy like that, and it was kind of a no-brainer for us."
Queen said his conversations with the Ravens prior to the draft made him believe Baltimore would be a great fit for him. They weren't worried about his size, and now Queen is ready to reward the Ravens for giving him an opportunity.
"They asked me the size question in the interview, and just knowing from previous linebackers, they had a few undersized linebackers," Queen said. "It's just something I think they don't care about as long as what the tape shows, and I feel like my tape was probably some of the best out there. They believe in me and I believe in them.
"I feel like God put me in this position for a reason, but I feel like this is the best scenario, being a linebacker, that I could have been put in."