An Average Joe?

April 27, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

Many of you know it (and some of you don’t), but I’m the new sports columnist for the daily paper aimed at the younger set, B.

I write a short column for them every Monday and Friday.

The newspaper is free. It’s kinda ubiquitous around town the last two weeks. It’s orange. There are signs everywhere. And they called me a few months ago and asked me to write for them and I said “yes.”

The column is called, appropriately I think, Be More.

As a kid all I EVER wanted to be was the lead columnist of The Sun.

Instead, I’m the lead columnist for “a Baltimore Sun publication.” Who knew that when I left 16 years ago, they’d somehow invite me back?

So, why not? It’s been fun so far and their audience of folks younger than me is a whole new world for me.

Here’s a little preview of what’ll be in their editions tomorrow:

So the draft is over, and if you’re a Ravens fan like me, the weekend all comes down to one thing: Can Joe Flacco be a franchise quarterback for the next decade for the purple birds?

Will there be a parade and another presentation of the Lombardi Trophy to Baltimore because of Ozzie Newsome’s crafty dealing on Saturday? Or will Flacco be the “next” failed quarterback/scapegoat of the post-Brian Billick era?

Sure, the Ravens have always managed to score major coups in later picks and Ray Rice, Tavares Goodwin, Tom Zbikowski, Oniel Cousins, Marcus Smith, David Hale and all of the others will be held accountable.

But on draft day, when you trade picks and maneuver to use a first rounder on a quarterback, there’s a whole different level of expectations that come with the package.

And from what I saw of Flacco yesterday, he’s no “average Joe” when it comes to dealing with the bright lights.

I’ve been to all 13 of these “coronation” press conferences for the first players the Ravens have taken in the draft. Believe it or not, Ray Lewis was the only first-rounder to not participate in 1996, mainly because Jon Ogden was a much bigger deal because he was taken 4th, not 26th like No. 52.

And some years, the youngsters have looked blinded by the lights and intimidated by the mere presence of an NFL shield.

Yesterday, Flacco was unflappable.

Let’s hope he’s as cool in the pocket as he was on the dais in Owings Mills.

In the seemingly endless sea of TV talking heads this weekend, no one seemed to bet against the self-described “minor league”  Div. 1-AA Delaware signal caller. There were many – and I’m in this category – who think that Newsome might’ve “blinked” with the trade up into the 18th pick, when it didn’t appear that Flacco was in any jeopardy of being selected quite that early.

But Newsome and college scouting director Eric Decosta pulled the trigger, making the swap with Houston for three picks, and Flacco became the latest in a long line of prospective QB hopefuls here in Charm City.
 
He put his Philly accent on display – “all of us South Jersey guys say we’re from Philly,” Flacco said – and talked about reading defenses, being a “shot gun” style QB, his God-given size (he’s 6-feet-6) and how it works to his advantage.

He also clearly recognized the criticisms of him being a “small school” guy.

And when questions about his being a “savior” inevitably arrived, his response was cool and confident.

“I’m going to go play football,” he said. “Let everyone else label me. It’ll hurt my game to pay attention to that. I want to be in here working hard to be the best football player I can be.”

For the benefit of us all in the fall (and many falls to come), let’s hope he’s no “average” Joe on the field.

He managed to handle the media yesterday with aplomb.

Time will tell how he fares against the Steelers defense.

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