When it comes to humility on the Baltimore Ravens, defensive lineman Haloti Ngata may be the leader in the locker room in that category.
And despite his three Pro Bowl nominations and four-time All-Pro selections in his six-year NFL career, Ngata still hesitates to call himself one of the best football players in the NFL.
Too bad now, others said it for him.
Wednesday on NFL Network’s “Top 100″ players list-after watching dozens of players fall behind him-the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2006 was finally recognized as the ninth best player in the game.
He came ahead of fellow Raven defenders in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and even his fellow teammate in Terrell Suggs, the reigning defensive player of the year.
And showing up on the national stage yet again-there were few opportunities for Ngata to shy away from the limelight.
It’s ironic because Ngata hasn’t been reserved on the field-making plays all over and showing his athletic ability.
“I probably would have never dreamed of being the number nine player in the league,” Ngata said. “Being voted that by your peers, that’s pretty awesome.”
Despite playing hurt for half of the 2011 season, Ngata finished with a career-high 64 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles in a full 16 games.
Ngata was the third defender chosen behind Jets CB Darrelle Revis and Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware.
To be named the best defensive lineman in football and one of the most versatile guys on that side of the ball-it’s pretty neat, he said.
“There are some things that I can do with my athletic ability of mine that people notice,” Ngata said. “God just blessed me with these talents and abilities, and none of this could be done without him.”
Ngata was an integral part of the team that reached the AFC Championship game under coach John Harbaugh-a 23-20 loss to the Patriots-that still rubs Ngata the wrong way.
“That loss was the toughest because I felt like we should have been in the Super Bowl,” he said. “I’ve never felt as good as I did with a group of guys…our camaraderie was so tight-knit that it just felt that we were supposed to be there.”
He said that having the close group of guys in the locker room-with a lot of the same team returning in 2012-that helped get the bad taste out of their mouths.
“There isn’t going to be any hangover,” Ngata said. “We’re all ready to work and are all getting better together and better individually.’
“It’s just that time that we’ll get there…and get ready to roll.”
Unfortunately, Ngata knows that he will “rolling” without Suggs for much of this season-making his role that much important.
Ngata assured Clark and those concerned Ravens fans that he being 100% healthy makes’ Suggs’ absence a little easier to swallow.
“I’m ready to go,” Ngata said. “I’m really excited. Right now at this time, I’m usually ready to get back on the football field and hit some people…I can’t wait to get back.”
And Ngata mentioned that it’s not just on his shoulders to fill that void. Others are there to help him along the way.
“There are so many great athletes that we have behind Suggs with Upshaw, Sergio Kindle, and Chavis Williams. Those guys are so athletic and hungry right now.”
Ngata said a young player like Courtney Upshaw reminded him of his own enthusiasm his rookie season.
“He doesn’t want to do much other than just trying to get better. He looks hungry and ready to step up.”
He hopes that Upshaw, himself, and the rest of the his teammates improve together and continue to play at the top of their games. He says if that happens, that championship is attainable.
“I’m just happy that I can be able to help those guys, and I just hope that I can get better and try to get the Ravens to a Super Bowl.”
WNST thanks Haloti Ngata for joining Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Thursday! To hear more of the interview, check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net! Want a chance to meet and greet Haloti? Head out to “The Ngata Family Foundation Luau” October 1st at Michaels 8th Avenue which benefits wounded soldiers and their families! Tickets are available at www.ngata92.com