HALOTI NGATA PRESS CONFERENCE
E*_xecutive Vice President Ozzie Newsome, Former Head Coach Brian Billick & Former DT Haloti Ngata_*
(with Owner Steve Bisciotti's Closing Announcement)
Ozzie Newsome opening statement:"During the season, several guys came to me talking about [Haloti Ngata] retiring a Raven, and for me, I think that's really special. I think it's special for this organization, special for Steve [Bisciotti], that the players, whether they spent their whole career here, or four, five years, want the opportunity to be remembered as a Raven. As I thought back about Haloti, this is how the [2006 draft] process worked: During the season, Eric [DeCosta], who had just become the director of college scouting, would come in, and [I would tell him], 'You need to give me a list of players that I should start watching to prepare myself for the draft.' He talked about this junior defensive tackle at Oregon that they felt was going to declare. So, I always ask, 'Which games should I watch?' And Eric would give me the games. I remember putting on the tape on Haloti. Now, normally it takes you three games, four games, to decide where you think the guy should be and what kind of player it is. It took me about 20 plays, and I was like, 'Oh my goodness!' He was doing some rare things on the field. Then, my question to Eric is, 'This guy will never make it to us.' We were picking in the teens. 'He'll never make it to us.' And he goes, 'Well, you just never know. Just go ahead and do your work.' So, I did my work.
"We're sitting there in the draft. I think we're picking 13. Our good friend, Phil Savage [former general manager of the Cleveland Browns], is picking 12, one spot ahead of me, and Phil and I go back to when I retired in Cleveland and we both were working for [Bill] Belichick. And so, he calls me up and says, 'I know you want to make a trade,' and I go, 'Not really.' (laughter) He said, 'Yeah, I think because I have other people calling to jump ahead of you.' Very hesitantly – and I was very hesitant because somebody else was chirping in my ear, telling me, 'Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it,' – I made a trade with Phil, and I gave up a sixth-round pick to move up one spot in the draft. Now, we had been pretty good in that sixth round up until that point. I think we had taken 'A.D.' [Adalius Thomas], and we had taken Chester Taylor, so we were giving up a good player. But, we were getting a great player, a rare player, in taking Haloti and [the ability] to put him on the defense with the players that we already had.
"I'm going to sum it up with this and turn it over to Brian [Billick]. Another unique thing happened in the draft after we chose Haloti. Two of the most respected men in the National Football League called me and congratulated me on making the pick, and these are two men that I have the utmost respect for, that were behind us, and hopefully figured that Haloti would make it to them. They called me and said, 'Hey, what a great pick, Haloti Ngata.'"
Brian Billick opening statement:"I'll be honest, the first thought I had: 'Great, another player whose name I can't pronounce.' (laughter) That's all we needed. But, my memories of it were just what Ozzie had said, that Ozzie, in spending all those years with Ozzie, he hangs on to those draft choices like they're solid gold. Obviously, listening to the evaluations on Haloti, and during that evaluation, I reached out to Mike Bellotti [former Oregon head football coach], who I've known for years, and Mike told me, 'Brian, we could not practice with Haloti in there, because he was just too disruptive,' which told me, OK, this guy comes to work every day in practice. And so then to watch on draft day, watch Ozzie, who is a pretty cool, calm customer, feverishly making this happen … Because I remember Ozzie used to always tell me, we're not going to trade out of a blue-chip player, and if we have a chance, if we have to, and give something up to move up to get a blue-chip player, we would do it. And obviously, that was the evaluation on Haloti.
"But the thing that jumped out to me as the coach then when we have these players, I could see the tape, and like Ozzie said, you knew you had a great player. I knew via the people that I talked to [how] he's going to have a great work ethic. But when he showed up, what struck me, and I think the guys will tell you that, for a lot of different reasons, not the least of which is personal experiences at the time and things he was going through, he was an old soul when he showed up. He was a true pro, and you knew right from the get-go, the maturity, everything, the way he handled himself, there was a maturity that you don't typically see in rookies, and so you knew right from the get-go, this guy is going to be special. No matter what we do, he can absorb. We had kind of a veteran group, so obviously that's an important part of it, but on all phases of it, it was just obviously a great pick. And I learned to pronounce the name, kind of." (laughter)
Haloti Ngata opening statement:"Thanks, guys, I really appreciate that. This is amazing. I've always wanted to retire a Raven, and I just can't thank my Lord and Savior enough for the blessings and everything He's given me. I was just sitting here thinking, looking at everybody in the room, Seaside family, neighbors, friends that I've had throughout my whole career, massage therapists, my wife's friends – sister wives (laughter) – it's just amazing that you guys are all here, and I appreciate every one of you guys. I'm so glad you guys all made it here to celebrate this awesome day with me. It's just funny, because when I got drafted here, I couldn't be more excited just to be part of a defense that Ray Lewis and Michael McCrary started, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed. So, I knew that when I got drafted here, I was going to be safe, and I was going to maximize my talents because of those leaders that I had on the defense. And then, being able to transfer that over to younger guys like 'Baby' [Brandon Williams] … This defense and this organization is amazing. I couldn't thank [everyone]. It's just amazing, the feeling I have right now. I'm just overwhelmed with all the love that I'm feeling from everyone.
"One of my favorite stories when I got drafted here was, you get starstruck when you see some of the players, Ray Lewis and all those guys. I remember meeting Ray Lewis for the first time. Ray Lewis was like, 'Hey, I called you. You didn't answer. What's up? Why didn't you call me back?' I just froze and got stuck. (laughter) I was like, 'Uhhh.' I didn't know what to say, because you meet your heroes, guys you looked up to, and I just said, 'I'm so sorry, Mr. Lewis. I'll call you next time.' (laughter) And he started laughing, like, 'Don't call me that. Call me Ray.' It's just always fun. You start to get to meet these guys and see how hard they work, how hard they work on studying film, taking care of their bodies, it's just amazing. For me, I couldn't do anything but follow our leaders and just do the same thing, and they definitely helped me become a great player, and I appreciate those guys.
"Thinking about my parents now, every time I come out of the stadium, I'm always pointing up at the sky, and I'm thanking my Lord and Savior for blessing me with such amazing parents. They both passed away before I even got to the NFL, and so without them, I know I wouldn't be able to make it here in my younger years. I always thank the Lord for the amazing parents He blessed me with. I just always try to represent my parents to the best of my abilities and live them through me. Everything that you guys love about me is from my parents. The hard work, the humility, the community service all comes from them. Just know that things you like about me are from my parents, Solomone and Ofa.
"And then, having my siblings here, it's special because we've been through a lot as a family, just growing up, so I'm just so glad that they were able to make it here and be out here. And then to my beautiful boys – handsome boys, I should say. They get mad at me for saying beautiful. (laughter) I love you guys so much and hope you guys are proud of daddy, and to my wife, I love you so much. You're so beautiful and amazing, and I'm the luckiest man to be able to be married to her. I'm so excited to be able to retire a Raven, be a part of this community again, and I'm definitely going to be back more often and coming to games and just doing as much as I can to help this community out. I love being a Raven, so I'm just so, so happy to be able to be here and back again."
Ozzie Newsome drafted you, and I'm sure you're appreciative of that. Then he traded you to Detroit, and we sort of lost track. What were your thoughts when that happened? Obviously, there were a lot of things involved there. (David Ginsburg)
Ngata:"When I got traded, at first, I was kind of shocked a little bit, but to me, I understood that this is a business. They needed to do a business decision. I was against the cap a lot at that time. And so, I wasn't moving; they weren't budging. (laughter) They were like, 'OK, we have to trade you.' That's what happened, and I told Ozzie, and even John Harbaugh, 'I know it's a business decision. I love you guys. You guys have done so much for me, and we'll just kind of move on.' I told them, 'I definitely want to come back and be a Raven when I'm done.' That's kind of the story, and now I'm here."
Ozzie, what do you recall about that moment and how tough that was for you? (Jerry Coleman)
Newsome:"Anytime you have a player that had been in the franchise as long as Haloti, you'd like for them to be able to finish their career here. We got to an impasse. I understood where he was. I also understood the responsibilities that I had to Steve and the organization, and we had several suitors that were calling me about the trade, and Martin Mayhew, who was with Detroit, he and I were able to come to what I thought was a fair compensation, and I had to be the one to make the call to tell Haloti. Those are tough calls."
Haloti, do you have a favorite hit, tackle, sack, while you were with the Ravens? (Jamison Hensley)
Ngata:"I think you saw on the highlight [video show before the press conference]. (laughter) Breaking Ben's [Roethlisberger] nose. (laughter) I didn't do it on purpose, but it kind of just happened."
Ozzie, you're a Hall of Famer. You've drafted Ray Lewis, who's a Hall of Famer. Ed Reed is going in. I don't expect you to say something negative about it, but can you talk about Haloti Ngata as a Hall of Fame candidate? (Stan Charles)
Newsome:"When I, in my mind, think about a Hall of Famer, No. 1, did he play on a winning ball club? He did. Was he part of a Super Bowl? He did. Was he a dominant player in his era, at his position? He did. So, he's checked all of those boxes as far as I'm concerned. I'm not a voter, but when those guys, when his time comes up, those are the things that they'll be looking at, the number of Pro Bowls and all the different things. And then, the other thing that will happen, they'll talk to some of the players that played against him, and I'm sure they'll be saying, 'Yeah, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.'"
Haloti, you could have walked away and not gone through this. What motivated you to come here and make it official that you came in as a Raven and left as a Raven? (David Ginsburg)
Ngata:"I couldn't think of any other place to be a part of, organization to be a part of. A lot of what Art Modell first started and Steve continued on – this is an amazing organization. When you look at it now, they do everything right by their fans and the players and the people that work here. So, I just always knew that I wanted to retire a Raven, and I just couldn't wait to come back and be able to say that I retired a Raven. It's always been a dream of mine since I left here."
Haloti, you talked about being starstruck as a rookie when you first arrived. Was there a moment, a play, a day, a situation, when it clicked and you realized you were no longer starstruck, but you were part of this group? (Gerry Sandusky)
Ngata:"I just remember in training camp, my first training camp as a rookie, I messed up on a play, and Adalius Thomas saw me just kind of walking, because I was thinking about the play I messed up on. I hit the wrong gap, and then I started walking, but the ball was all the way on the sideline. I saw the whole defense running, and Adalius Thomas was running from the other side, running past me. He looked back at me and he was like, 'Hey, what are you doing walking?' and I was like, 'Man, I messed up on a play.' And he said, 'It doesn't matter. Run to the ball!' So, ever since then, I just ran to the ball. (laughter) That was my deal. That's when I'm like, 'OK, if I can just run to the ball all the time, I'm a part of this defense.' (pauses) I was about to say something we don't say outside of meeting rooms. (laughter) Just run to the ball!"
Haloti, you talked about being a part of this community. How would you describe your relationship with the fans and how they embraced you? (Mark Viviano)
Ngata:"I mean, a lot of them are here. (laughter)First, I think what people saw from me and getting to know me a little bit was through the Royal Farms commercials. (laughter)It was fun, but then the head coach shows it in the meeting rooms, and you're like, 'Dang it, that's embarrassing.' (laughter)Then you're dancing in your underwear and you're like, 'Why did I even do this?' (laughter)You do Royal Farms [commercials] and Baltimore is known for the Royal Farms chicken, and then people see you out in public and they're like, 'Hey "ROFO" chicken man!' (laughter)So, it's cool, that's how you connect with some of the fans. And then you start eating crabs with everyone, and then they love you even more. You're like, 'Yeah, I can eat crabs,' and they are like, 'Yeah, everybody eats crabs. Who doesn't?' And they love you even more. It's pretty fun that you're able to do some of the things that Maryland does, and 'ROFO' chicken and crabs is Maryland, and I love it, and I'm just glad that they can accept me as an eating person." (laughter)
Haloti, I can imagine you would not have had a hard time finding a suitor or another team. Why retire now, and what are you plans? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Ngata:"The last month of this past season with the Eagles … Usually, when I wake up in the morning, I'm sore, stiff, everything hurts – ankles, knees, back. But the last month of the season, I like woke up and questioned, 'Why am I still doing this?' So, that in my head was like, 'OK, it's probably the time where you're like, 'You should probably retire.' Once I'm questioning, 'Why do I play football?' Then it's like, 'OK, it's time for you to retire.' Then I talked to my wife, and we want to raise our boys, and I want to coach them in their sports. So, my plan is just to move back home – my son Max clapped; he's excited about that – that's cool. [I will] coach them in whatever sports they play and then coach high school football. Now that I have a choice of what to do, I definitely still want to be a part of the game, and coaching high school football is probably something I'll get into. And then being able to go camping and fishing with my boys is going to be awesome."
One of your former coaches, how instrumental was Clarence Brooks in your career, and do you think about him on a day like this? (Jeff Zrebiec)
Ngata:"Yes, huge. I invited his wife [Justa] out here to come to this today. She couldn't make it because of a family problem, but Clarence Brooks is such an amazing coach – a person that helped me become the player that I am, or was. He just taught me so much, to help me see things more clearly, helped slow down the game for me. Clarence Brooks was just … He was everything. My first nine years in the NFL, he just taught me so much and definitely was a father figure to me. I love the man so much, and Justa, just an amazing family. I'm just glad that I was able to play under him and know that he was proud of the way I played for him as a coach."
Haloti, has anyone here asked you to speak with free agent DT Gerald McCoy? _(Mark Viviano) _
Ngata:"He's here? (laughter)Yeah, we definitely got together and talked and did our little thing. He'd be an amazing, amazing, amazing player to have here, and as you guys know he's done a lot of amazing things in Tampa. But yeah, we talked, and I just wished him the best in wherever he decides to go, and if it's here, that's even better."
Special Announcement from Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti
"Thank you for being here. It goes without saying, we're as honored as you [Ngata] are that you came back for this. That goes both ways – more for the man than the player. We always knew where you'd end up [in the ROH] as a player, but I remember from the time I met you what a gentleman you were and how good you were to the other players, the younger players coming in. There has only been a couple of guys since I have taken over – a handful of guys – that I have had the luxury to see in person and be able to tell you that we want you in our Ring of Honor. So, boys, prepare to watch your dad [get inducted]. But, that being said, you're going to have to wait a little bit, because you [Brian Billick] are our next one, this year. (applause)
"This is the first you [Ngata] are hearing it; this is not the first Brian is. I talked to Brian a few months ago and told him how honored we would be and how lucky we are as an organization to have had [outstanding coaches]. I wasn't here with Ted [Marchibroda], but I was here with Brian and John [Harbaugh], and that continuity and the fact that you stayed in town and became such a great friend of John's says so much about you and your family, and that you continue to share in this. I'm glad you stayed; it's meant a lot to us.
"Haloti, you know why at our age we've got to get him in. (laughter)I would love to put you in this year, but we would feel terrible if something happened." (laughter) (Billick: "You're right, I just turned 65! So, yeah, you can wait your turn.")"Wait your turn, but we are thrilled to know that you are going to be coming back for games. I love it when the retired players come; a lot of them end up staying the game with me in my suite. I had Matt Birk last year, and Ed [Reed] and Ray [Lewis] are there a lot. Jacoby [Jones] was in last year. There are a bunch of players, and that kind of family environment is what we've strived for and what you all built for us. It's our job to respect the legacy that you all built and to be the kind of team that you're proud to come back to. So, thank you [Billick] and thank you [Ngata]. We'll see you [Billick] this fall. Thank you." (applause)
Brian Billick on being inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor in 2019
"I just, for my part, when Steve [Bisciotti] called, I just can't tell you how humbled I am. For [my wife] Kim and I, coming up we were talking about how it's [been] 20 years [since] Art [Modell] and Pat [Modell] and Ozzie [Newsome] and David [Modell] brought us in. And coaching years are like dog years; you've got to multiply it. For us to have been here, and for the organization to do that and reach out, it means a great deal to us. It really does. To be a part of the organization back then, to know that it's going to be a permanent fixture means a great deal to me, obviously. We have stayed here; it is home. And for John [Harbaugh] … John has been incredibly gracious to allow me to kind of hang around, and that's not an easy thing to do. I've loved doing the preseason games with my broadcasting partner, Gerry Sandusky, the best in the business, and I'm excited about seeing the next iteration and the next evolution in this organization. That happens, as Steve said, it goes on and on. But Kim and I are thrilled to death to be a part of it, and just so humbled and appreciative of the fact that we're going to be allowed that. Like you [Ngata], with your sons … My grandsons, they don't know 'Pop' but any one way, and for them to be able to see that is going to be something special for me."
Haloti Ngata on being inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor in 2020
"That's just amazing. You see those names up in the stadium, and it's just like, 'Man, that will be really cool to be able to be one of those players, to see your name up there as a Ring of Honor Raven. I'm just thankful and honored. Thank you, Steve [Bisciotti], for everything you've done for me and my family. I'm just excited, and I can't wait to come back and get that ring and be a part of that family."