Updated Thu, Feb 7, 2013 10:55 am
Thirty-nine months ago, Garrett Downing was wrapping up his second and final season as host of WOUB's award-winning high school football show, "Gridiron Glory."
Now Downing can say he's the proud member of another award-winning team: the 2013 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
"After the game on the flight ride home on Monday, they [members of the Ravens] passed around the Lombardi Trophy on the plane," said Downing, who is a digital media staff writer for the franchise. "Even in my wildest dreams I don't think I ever could have predicted that I would be holding the Lombardi Trophy on the plane ride back from the Super Bowl... It was pretty remarkable."
Upon graduating from Ohio University in June of 2010, Downing worked for over a year as an online content producer for WEWS NewsChannel5 in Cleveland before landing his job with the Ravens in November of 2011. The Gahanna, Ohio native has also worked with The Columbus Dispatch, The Washington Post and the Las Vegas Sun, among other publications.
As if holding the fabled Vince Lombardi Trophy wasn't enough, Downing's status as a member of the Ravens organization earns him another bonus: a Super Bowl ring.
"I feel like I'll be too nervous to wear it, but at the same time you don't want to get something like that and put it in storage," Downing said. "Getting that [ring] is going to make it a little more real, when you have a Super Bowl ring to call your own."
While the Baltimore Ravens certainly appeared to be a Super Bowl-caliber team early in the season after winning nine of their first 10 games, head coach John Harbaugh and his men limped into the playoffs after losing four of their last five regular season games.
"They were really nobody's pick going into the playoffs, but sometimes a team gets hot at the right time," Downing said. "I think the Ravens got hot, they got healthy and they also got Ray Lewis playing in his final games."
Lewis, a future Hall of Fame linebacker who has been the face of the Ravens franchise for 17 season, made Downing's job all the more enjoyable both on and off the football field.
"What you see is what you get with him," Downing said of Lewis. "He is somebody who the players really respect, they really rally around. I think part of it, especially for the younger guys on the team, [is that] they grew up watching him... He's an iconic figure. He's somebody that, when he walks out to practice, guys kind of almost stop and look at.
"The things that he says and the way he inspires his teammates is real. You saw, when the Ravens didn't have him this year, they weren't as good of a team. When he was on the field, they were Super Bowl champions."
But Downing made it clear that Lewis isn't the only member of the Ravens organization who inspires others to give 100 percent.
"The organization here is known as being one of the best organizations, if not the best organization, in the NFL, and I think the reason for that is because they really do create a family atmosphere here," Downing said. "Whether it's a letter from coach Harbaugh around Christmastime or something small like that, you do feel like you're apart of [the Ravens]. I think that the organization does a great job of making everybody who's on staff here feel like this is their championship and that's cool to be apart of."
The championship celebration spilled into Baltimore on Tuesday as the team returned home to celebrate with a victory parade.
"It was unlike anything I had ever seen," said Downing, who noted that over 200,000 Ravens fans came out to show support for the team despite rainy conditions. "It was an amazing showing. To see the community embrace the team, that makes it fun to be part of because you feel like you're part of something that's bigger than football games, and it's awesome to see the way a city connects with something like a football team and the way it can really galvanize a city."
Although the offseason has officially begun for players on the Ravens, Downing said he hasn't had the chance to kick his feet up just yet. With the team still on the verge of holding its end-of-the-season press conference and the NFL combine just a couple of weeks away, sleep is still an afterthought for the Bobcat alumnus.
"It's been a roller coaster these last 72 hours and I wouldn't have it any other way," Downing said.
Though many Ohio University students and graduates pledge their allegiances to other teams in the AFC North, Downing's story makes it a little easier for Bobcat Nation to celebrate the success of the Purple and Black.