It was one of Mexico's darkest days: Sept. 19, 1985. In a span of 36 hours, Mexico City suffered an earthquake of 8.1 magnitude, followed by a 7.5 quake aftershock. Mexico City and its surrounding states saw the loss of over 100,000 housing units, and some estimates put the death toll around 100,000. The earthquake was Mexico's worst natural disaster.
But on a day that would come to be known as one of Mexico deadliest, one of the best football players in the nation's history was born.
By all accounts, defensive tackle Salomon Solano is a superstar in his hometown of Tamaulipas.
Given the nickname 'Triple S' by his Mexican countrymen, Salomon Solano Salazar has adopted a new nickname 'Soly' [sol-ee] and is quickly emerging as a favorite in the Ravens' locker room.
"Soly's an awesome dude," fellow defensive tackle Amon Gordon said. "He's got a lot of charisma and character. He's a guy that just has a lot of life and puts a smile on the guys' faces."
It's not easy to miss Solano's smile, nor his locker. Adorned in Mexican attire, his locker symbolizes the cultural diversity that he brings to the Ravens' locker room.
"I try to teach them about my culture," said Solano, 22. "I mean, look at my locker. I have a little sombrero and a Mexican flag. Haloti Ngata and Kelly Talavou share their Samoan culture too. It's great to be able to share that with each other."
And while the Mexican/American cultural differences have been easy to overcome, the language barrier remains a bit of an issue.
"It's tough because he doesn't understand a lot of the slang and the verbage we use out on the field," said defensive line coach Clarence Brooks. "What's even more difficult about his situation is that he came later than some of the other guys, and he didn't know anything about our playbook."
Considering how that playbook is in a foreign language to the 6-foot-3, 321-pounder, finding a bridge to the language barrier has remained a difficult process. Fortunately for Solano and his coaches, help has emerged from an unlikely source, the Ravens' head food server.
"I try to help Soly whenever I can," Manny Tajeda said. "If he needs help understanding a play, I will help him. Whatever I can do."
Anyone who knows Solano knows they don't have to worry too much about his ability to adapt to new surroundings. As a member of the International Practice Squad Program, Solano has played for the Detroit Lions and the Rhein Fire, formerly of NFL Europa.
The International Practice Squad Program was made to enhance the development of elite football talent from around the world. To date, the program is in its fifth season and has had a total of 22 members since its start.
While Solano now enjoys his new digs in the Ravens locker room, his road to the NFL was not an easy one
"I was one of the first football players in my town," Solano said. "My dad always tried to put me in the highest level he could. When I was in junior high, I was playing with the high school. When I was in high school, I was playing at the college level."
Playing at an advanced level continued beyond high school as Solano joined the Mexican National Football Team in 2003 at the age of 19. Solano, like most of his fellow national teammates, continued their development away from the national team in the years to follow, but he did so unconventionally.
"Most the guys went to private schools like Monterrey Tech," Solano said. "I went to a public school where my dad was the coach, so it worked out good for me."
Under his father's tutelage, Solano excelled in his three years at Tamaulipas, with his best season coming in 2005, when he recorded 39 tackles and five sacks as a senior.
Despite a successful college year, Solano still faced the difficult task of trying to prove he was an NFL talent.
Lucky for him, that opportunity came his way, and he made the most of it.
"The scouts from NFL Europe came to the tryouts," Solano said. "They were really pleased with my play and invited me to play for Rhein Fire."
Solano played for the Fire for two years, recording a personal best 15 tackles in his second tour. Solano then joined the Lions' practice squad last season.
Already in his short time as a Raven, Solano has impressed. Although he only saw limited action in the fourth quarter against New England, he played well enough to double his playing time for the next game.
"I almost had a sack," Solano said. "I forced the quarterback to the side and someone else got the sack, but that was partly me."
Because practice squad players cannot dress for regular season games, Solano knows that whatever playing time he will get will likely come before the season starts Sept. 7.
Even though Solano may not be chalking up any personal stats this season, he and his coaches realize it's going to be a great experience for them all.
"This is going to work out great for everybody," Brooks said. "He's going to have a great experience, and I think we're going to have a heck of an experience being around him."