News: Speaker proudly wears Ravens' Super Bowl ring, faith
Story by Lt. Col. Carol McClelland
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Well dressed, clean shaven, well-spoken and wearing a broad smile, for the non-football fan the five-foot-11- inch, 178-pound Texan didn’t fit the burly NFL football player and Super Bowl champion image. But the chunky, gold and diamond ring he wore gave it away.
Gridiron enthusiasts of course know placekickers are typically of slighter build than the rest of the team. As a former pro placekicker, Matt Stover, who football analysts site as one of the most accurate placekickers in NFL history, told Soldiers and civilians attending the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) Leader’s Professional Development session Feb. 12 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., that some members of his team had the perception of kickers as not being true football players due to the perceived non-physical and limited nature of their duties.
“Some of the guys would give me a hard time,” Stover said to the crowd of about 400. “I’ll never forget Mike Flynn [a former Ravens NFL center] would give me a hard time out on the field saying, ‘You kicker this or you kicker that’ and usually it had an F-word in front of it. But when I lined up in Cincinnati for a 50-yard game-winning field goal and nailed it, he looked at me and said, ‘Man, I’ll never make fun of you again. I have no idea how you just did that,’” Stover said.
“Don’t ever belittle someone’s job,” he reminded. “Everyone has a vital role. The same goes for in your family.”
In 1990 Stover was drafted by the New York Giants and received his first Super Bowl ring when the team beat the Buffalo Bills. He spent five seasons as a Cleveland Brown then became one of the original Baltimore Ravens when the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996. As the Ravens kicker for the next 13 seasons he earned a Super Bowl ring in 2000 when the Ravens beat the New York Giants.
At a 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) Prayer Breakfast for about 50 people earlier that morning he talked about how he had another Super Bowl opportunity in 2010, when he played for the Indianapolis Colts. He said he missed a 51 yard field goal attempt that would have tied that game with the New Orleans Saints when the Colts came up short. He showed the film that depicted the kick that went left of the field goal and immediately afterward when Stover raised both index fingers in the air and looked upward to the heavens. The television commentator said to the estimated 100 million people watching, “Matt Stover, a deeply spiritual man, does that every time, make or miss.” The clip ended with Stover sitting on the bench, dejected.
After the game and back on the bus feeling bad, Stover said he checked his texts and discovered 30 to 35 messages from friends repeating what NFL announcer Jim Nantz said.
“I began to cry because I knew it wasn’t about me. God gave me the opportunity to glorify Him,” said Stover, now 45, who still holds the record as the oldest participant and scorer to play in a Super Bowl when he was 42.
The kicker announced his retirement in May 2011 and was inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor that same year. While no longer playing in the spotlight on the field, he mentors younger Ravens players, encouraging them to think about life after professional football. He sat in the stands during this month’s Super Bowl between the Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
“I’m not going to say I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that Super Bowl. I was in the stands with my heart elevated up to here,” Stover said pointing under his neck. “Not as much as Justin’s [Tucker, current Raven’s kicker] though. But the NFL career is just a quick start in life. If you get ten years in, you win. But what are you going to do afterward?” He encouraged the audience to plan for life after the military as well.
This man of faith participates in numerous charities like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Boy Scouts and many other youth organizations in his home state and the Baltimore community. He created the Matt Stover Foundation, Inc. to pool professional athlete’s donations with funds from other individuals and organizations to provide financial support to under-funded educational, religious and other charitable organizations.
“He was so inspiring, humble, and engaging all at the same time. His message is so applicable to so many and I feel privileged to have met him,” said 20th Spt. Cmd. contractor and long time Ravens fan Pam Silcox, who attended the breakfast.