You’re more likely to find former Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde on the golf course than in front of a TV watching football these days, but he’s a fan of what NFL MVP Lamar Jackson accomplished in 2019.
The first starting quarterback in franchise history and 1996 Pro Bowl selection spent just two of his 21 NFL seasons with Baltimore, but Testaverde shared fond memories of his time with the Ravens and offered admiration for Jackson and his record-setting offense in an interview with WNST.net in Miami last week.
“I love it. I really thought they’d be here [for the Super Bowl] this week. I really did,” Testaverde said. “I thought he did a great job.”
The 56-year-old last played with the Ravens in 1997 and retired from the NFL after the 2007 campaign, but his team record of 33 touchdown passes in the inaugural 1996 season had stood until Jackson threw 36 to lead the Ravens to a franchise-best 14-2 record this past year. Jackson became just the second Ravens quarterback to be selected for the Pro Bowl as Testaverde received the nod after setting career highs in touchdown passes (33) and passing yards (4,177 yards) in an otherwise forgettable 4-12 season for Baltimore in 1996.
From one Heisman Trophy winner to another with South Florida ties, Testaverde was happy to see his single-season touchdown record fall to Jackson, an electric dual-threat quarterback whose playing style couldn’t be more different than the traditional 6-foot-5 pocket passer with limited mobility. Testaverde played for seven different teams in his career and scored the first touchdown in Ravens history on a 9-yard run at old Memorial Stadium in a 19-14 win over Oakland.
“At one time, somebody told me I held records in Tampa, Baltimore, and with the Jets. I don’t really follow football anymore,” said Testaverde, who quipped that he now thinks more about his golf swing than anything related to the game he played. “Unless somebody tells me what my stats are, I don’t really know what they are. I was actually watching some NFL football and watched a little bit of one of the shows that shows all the different games. The announcer said, ‘Oh yeah, Lamar Jackson just tied Vinny’s record.’ So, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool.'”
Living in Tampa, Testaverde may not pay close attention to football anymore, but he called his two seasons with the Ravens “some of the best times” of his career playing for the late Ted Marchibroda and a city that was starving for the NFL’s return after a 12-year hiatus. The former Miami Hurricane said he still has his helmet with the original Ravens logo and keeps in touch with a handful of former teammates from those years.
Asked to reflect on the impressive tradition established as the two-time Super Bowl champion Ravens will enter their 25th season in Baltimore in September, Testaverde said the fans’ enthusiasm was evident from the start of that first training camp in Westminster.
“The city supported us, and we felt it. It was like, ‘Man, we are ready to go,'” Testaverde said. “I remember the first day we went to practice and we had a walk-through. Normally, walk-throughs are just that. We’d walk through the plays to get ready for the regular practice so when we go full speed, we kind of have an idea of what everybody is doing, especially during those first few days when guys are unfamiliar with the plays still.
“That first walk-through, guys were running full speed. Coach Marchibroda was like, ‘We’re going to be great because these guys go full speed!’ His mind was blown; my mind was blown. I was like, ‘Guys, we’re going to get hurt.’ We’ve got no pads on, and we’re hitting each other.”
Despite enjoying retirement away from the spotlight of the NFL, Testaverde still has ties to football as son Vincent Jr. — also a quarterback — just signed with the British Columbia Lions of the CFL after spending last summer with the Buccaneers and enjoying a brief time with the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers.
The longtime NFL quarterback made clear he isn’t doing much heavy lifting in preparing his son for professional football. A once-strong right arm responsible for 275 touchdowns, 267 interceptions, and 6,701 passing attempts in a long NFL career is officially worn out.
“I throw lefty when I have a catch with my son,” said Testaverde as he laughed. “I’d get sore from holding a clipboard right now.”