Refusing to Give Up


A strange thing happened in the hospital following the injury.

It was the second game of the season last year and Dawan Landry had been carted off the field after losing all feeling in his extremities after a tackle.

His younger brother, LaRon (starting safety for the Washington Redskins), sat bedside and was uncommonly quiet.

Lying recumbent in the hospital room, Dawan had started regaining feeling in his fingertips, a welcome sign following a spinal cord concussion.

If anyone should understand the reality and brutality of the NFL game, it should have been LaRon.

But it was immediately following the injury and even the ensuing weeks that saw LaRon trying to convince his older brother to retire his cleats and walk away from the game – the game that had played such a pivotal role in their lives as children.

For LaRon, the injury served as a wakeup call to question the quality of life and future of his brother. For Dawan, the injury also forced him the face the unquestionable future.

Specifically, Dawan wanted to know when – when he could suit up once again for the Ravens.

As winner of this year's Ed Block Courage Award, Dawan has proven that an indomitable will and a tenacious effort can overcome the most serious of hurdles. The award, which is voted on by teammates, honors those NFL players who exemplify sportsmanship and courage.

But long before he was a starter on the Raven's defense, Dawan's road to the NFL was paved with hours in the gym and years competing against the best competition – namely his two brothers.

Dawan – the middle brother – knew that hanging around his older brother would benefit him down the line.

"My brothers and I were always pushing each other and because of that, we were constantly challenging ourselves," said Landry. "Growing up, you're bound to get better if you're playing with guys who are older and stronger than you. So I spent as much time as I could around the bigger guys."

When the brothers weren't proving themselves on the basketball court, on the field or in the yard, they were also given boxing gloves that became a natural measuring stick of their athletic prowess.

The older brother typically won, but it only served to fuel the competitive fire of the younger one.

Landry attributes his unrelenting spirit to two very important people in his life:

"My parents definitely," said Landry. "I was taught early on that you really had to go after what you want and I learned a lot from them."

Becoming a professional athlete was always the goal for  No. 26. In high school, he excelled in both basketball and football. He was recruited to play the latter at Georgia Tech not as a safety, but rather a quarterback.

However, after changing to the defensive side of the ball, Landry left Tech recording the third-most tackles in school history for a defensive back.

His physical style and consistency (he never missed a game his final three years in college) raised many eyebrows within the Ravens' scouting department.

It was apparent his mentality and approach to game were equally as valued when he eventually stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie opposite Ed Reed in the Ravens' secondary.

"It's really important to be tenacious in all aspects of the game – on the field and off it," said Landry. "All the success we have on Sunday is because of a total focus in the meetings, watching film and practicing the right way. You can't just expect to go out there and make plays. It doesn't work like that. You have to be 100% committed."

His rookie campaign was considered such a success that he was one of only seven players to receive a vote for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Landry went on to start every game of 2007 and was primed to continue raising his level of play in 2008 when he sustained a Jamal Lewis knee to the top of his helmet. In an instant, his season was over and his playing career tentatively in the balance.

Landry knew he would play again, but admits to struggling with the experience.

"That was a tough situation to deal with last season," said Dawan. "But it wasn't because of the rehab. I've always been a gym rat, so the physical part of it was not a problem. The hard part was having to watch the game and not being able to contribute on the field. It was especially tough because they had such a great season and you just want to be a part of it. I knew I was working hard to come back but that was difficult."

Fortunately for the Ravens, Landry exhibited the tireless determination ingrained in him at such a young age to return as a starter for the team.

This season, Dawan Landry has been a mainstay in the starting lineup for an injury-plagued secondary, recording 74 tackles and four interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.

Week in and out, he continues to live up to his nickname "Wop," a moniker earned for the violent sound of his collisions and tackles on the field.

Most certainly, he has proven to his younger brother, LaRon, that the decision to continue playing professional football was the right choice.

"We definitely are still competitive," said the elder brother. "Even to this day whether it's in a race or on the basketball court, we'll still go at it. I have older cousins who still won't back down to this day who I grew up with. I really don't see that stopping anytime soon, even after I'm done with my career."

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