Rare Path For Harewood

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If Ramon Harewood wasn't working towards the dream of a multi-million dollar NFL salary, his millions probably wouldn't be far off.

The Ravens' sixth-round draft pick came to the league with a plus-3.0 grade point average from the esteemed Morehouse College, degrees in applied physics and engineering, membership in the widespread Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and a well-spoken and thoughtful demeanor that any boardroom would welcome. 

Had he not decided to pursue a football career as an unheralded but promising prospect, Harewood might be back in his native Barbados moving up some corporate ladder.

Instead, Harewood hopes to blaze a new trail.

"I wanted to try and do something different with my life," said Harewood.  "I'm the only one over here trying to make it."

Over here would be the United States.  Baltimore might be the final stop of a long journey (distance-wise) that began not too long ago.

Harewood was always an athlete.  He played cricket, soccer, rugby and volleyball all his life.  He was even a member of the Barbados junior national volleyball and rugby teams for a time. 

But the call to football, unexpected as it was, was greater.

In 2004, Harewood met Michael Grant, a track and field coach from Atlanta.  Grant was enamored with Harewood's 6-foot-6, 340-pound frame and immediately pitched a move to the mainland.

"He saw me at a rugby game and some track meets and was like, 'Dude, I'm telling you, you need to be overseas playing sports,'" laughed the laid-back Harewood.

At first, it wasn't an option.

After all, Harewood's hometown of St. Michael, Barbados, is estimated to have a population of just over 94,000. His Caribbean island houses only 280,000.  Harewood even originally enrolled at the local University of West Indies like most of his peers.

Still, Harewood eventually crossed the water, noting how another friend of his received a scholarship at an American school to play volleyball, his admitted first true favorite sport.

"I really wasn't interested in leaving, because when you're from a small town, you don't know anything other than that.  You don't really want me to leave," Harewood explained.  "But I got jealous, thinking, 'Man, everyone is getting these scholarships and leaving.  I want one, too.'"

Ending up at Morehouse, where Grant eventually became an assistant coach, Harewood took some time to get acclimated with a sport he had only previously watched on TV.

The class work was no problem, though.

Harewood could have given up his academic scholarship in favor of an athletic scholarship, but personal motivation and selfless generosity opted against that.

"At Division II, you only had a certain amount of scholarships," said Harewood.  "I could have gotten a full scholarship – tuition, room and board – whereas a lot of my teammates only got a half scholarship. That was a big part of it.

"And the main thing was because I wanted to keep my grades up, and even if you have an academic scholarship, you have to maintain a 3.0.  That way, I got to play football and keep my grades up."

Meanwhile, many of Harewood's friends back home were finishing school, getting ready to begin their profession or pursue further education.

"All my friends graduated already," Harewood said.  "In Barbados, our education is based off the British system. Once you leave at 18, you get a year off of college, and then you work towards your degree.  All I did since I was 14 years old was take subjects I liked, so when I was young, it was technical drawing, physics, that type of stuff. 

"If [the move] hadn't happened, I would probably still be back there playing volleyball and rugby."

And maybe even designing buildings.

At this point, Harewood is looking to make his mark back home by becoming the first Bajan to play in the NFL. 

His status as the 194th-overall pick in the draft already makes him somewhat of a legend. After his selection, Harewood's face adorned every national newspaper, and he currently has an interview request pending to promote tourism to Barbados.

But Harewood isn't letting the hype back home put him off task.  The reality of being a sixth-round pick – not to mention having only four years of organized football to his credit – means he is no lock to make the team.

"Right now, I'm just trying to be the best I can, getting my fundamentals and technique right," said Harewood.  "If I was to go back home, I might have a different perspective, but I haven't.  I don't know what's happening I just know they're all proud of me.

"My education is important to me, but right now, my priority is football."

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