Plank's office, in the Ivory building, overlooks a swath of the city's waterfront that remains more industrial than prettified — the view from his desk is of the huge liquid storage containers of Westway Terminals next door, which will soon sport blown-up images of local sports heroes Michael Phelps, Cal Ripken and Ray Lewis, all Under Armour endorsers or partners.

For Plank, sports are a way of celebrating a city, even branding it. After a year in which Phelps exited the Olympic stage as its most-medaled star, the Orioles finally made it back to the postseason and the Ravens won the Super Bowl, Plank sees these triumphs as part of the story that needs to be told.

"We are a city that's in need of new branding," he said. "We need to find what that voice is. … We're so much harder on ourselves than people on the outside are. We need to overcome that. We need to be proud of our city.

"That's why things like the Super Bowl are so important, where we have the ability for everyone to celebrate and be proud. I was lucky enough to be in New Orleans for that game, and that sense of pride, seeing all those purple jerseys (I call it the Baltimore tuxedo) and perfect strangers giving high fives and handshakes — that type of civic pride is something that's very, very special."

Plank would love for his horses at Sagamore Farm, which he bought in 2007, to become something of Baltimore's third professional team. His foray into this rarefied world of thoroughbred racing is an unlikely tale.

"So my love of horses began in College Park, with me and 10 friends on two couches and a keg of beer in the back of a truck, heading to Pimlico at 6 a.m. to mark our place in the middle of the Preakness infield, where we never saw a horse run," Plank said wryly.

And yet over the years, Plank saw how the Preakness was being "taken for granted" and was alarmed at talk that the state might even lose the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

In recent years, Plank's Preakness party has become something like the local version of Vanity Fair's Oscar-night fete, the hot ticket that draws celebrities and corporate bigwigs, as does the company's tent at the finish line at Pimlico on the day of the race itself.

"We need more great days in our city. It's the one day of the year … outside of maybe a Monday Night Football game or a G7 summit in Annapolis or something, where people from all over the country, if not all over the world, are saying, 'Look what's happening in Maryland today,' " he said.

Plank thinks the scene should be even bigger, showing the city's best side to outsiders — and those Under Armour would recruit to its ranks.

"When you see the azaleas are out, the flowers are blooming, it smells like fresh-cut grass and there's a race and there's an experience happening, and there's just theater — it's energy," Plank says.

Plank bought the farm in 2007, which despite a storied history of spawning champions had fallen into disrepair.

"He likes to work on broken things," Mullikin said. "It provides a challenge for him."

Expanding aims

The farm has been restored and has seen some successes on the racetrack — something, Mullikin said, that feeds "that competition we miss now that we're in our 40s and not playing sports ourselves anymore."

The farm has taken Plank down yet another path: There are two spring-fed creeks, whose waters are a constant 56 degrees. With 530 acres at his disposal, Plank started thinking about what else he could do with the land, such as plant grapes.

"But I'm not really a wine person," he thought.

He hit upon another proud, and lost, Maryland tradition: rye whiskey. Plank hired someone from the Maker's Mark bourbon distillery in Kentucky and expects to produce his first batch of Sagamore-born rye in three years. He's tasted an early batch and says it has a cinnamon quality.

Under Armour, though, remains Plank's day job — and given that he rarely sleeps more than four hours a night, his are long days.

Its origin story is by now familiar and yet no less impressive: During his playing days, he felt weighted down by the cotton T-shirt he wore under his football uniform and thought there had to be a new kind of undergarment that would wick away rather than retain perspiration.