There's not a lot of traffic early Sunday morning on Interstate 83 and many motorists seem mellow as they head out to church or to shop for groceries.
But all that changes when Greg Hudnet barrels down the highway in his Ravens car — a bright purple and black 1952 Buick.
Drivers honk. They smile. They wave. They give the thumbs up. They pull out their cell phones and take pictures.
And Hudnet is a great photo op. He's on his way to a Ravens game and wears his Baltimore Birdman uniform. His chest is loaded down with gold and purple beads of all sizes. He wears purple camouflage pants, a short-sleeved Ravens shirt and black tape under his eyes. He even has purple sneakers.
Luckily his car has a lot of headroom, because he's also wearing a purple hat that is topped with a miniature Ravens football helmet. A stuffed dog sits inside the helmet and a small toy bird perches next to it.
"It doesn't matter where I go in the state, people love this car and I love to take it places," says Hudnet, 63, of Parkton, who retired in 2008 after 36 years with the Baltimore County Fire Department. "Not a week goes by that I'm not going somewhere in this car."
'Anything purple, anything Ravens'
Hudnet grew up in Essex and graduated from Kenwood High School. He has always loved both football and cars. He still remembers watching the Baltimore Colts beat New York Giant in the 1958 game referred to by many as the "greatest game ever played."
About seven years ago, Hudnet bought a purple and white 1952 Chevy that he decided to turn into a Ravens car. He painted it black and purple and started taking it on the road.
He goes to all Ravens home games and his wife Linda, joins him today. She shakes her head when she talks about her husband before he became a crazed Ravens fan.
"When he was with the fire department, he always left the house in a starched shirt and a uniform," she says. "Now, he goes online to buy purple beads and anything purple, anything Ravens."
Minutes after pulling into a parking lot near M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Birdman, the Ravens Super Fan, is the center of attention.
"Dude, you're my hero," says Jim Gray, of Parkville, as he shakes Hudnet's hand.
"Excuse me, do you mind if we take your picture?" asks a trio of young women as they huddle around him for a photo.
The Ravens car is in the spotlight, too. Fans peer in to see the dashboard signed by plenty of Ravens and Colts players, too.
"It took me six years to get Ray Lewis' autograph," Hudnet says. "It's right there in the middle of the dashboard since he's number 52 and this is a 52 Buick."
The car features purple dice on top of the door locks, the Ravens logo in the middle of the steering wheel, dozens of beads hanging from the rear view mirror and inside door panels covered with a Ravens' felt blanket.
Gets his orange on, too
But game tailgaters aren't the only ones to snap pictures of Hudnet and his car. In fact, both his cars.
He also owns a bright orange 1941 Plymouth, his Orioles car that he shows the other half of the Baltimore sports season.
He takes his cars to parades, grand openings, parties, weddings and fundraisers. If both cars are requested at an event, one of his three sons will drive the Orioles car.
Hudnet's cars are so popular that he had to start a second Facebook page after his first one got overloaded with 3,230 friends and 820 photos.
When he is paid a fee for his appearance, every dollar goes into his favorite charity: Maryland Safety Education and Identification Program or MDCHIP, a child identification program run by Maryland Freemasons.
Hudnet is a member of the Masonic Lodge 134 in Freeland and chairs the CHIP program in Maryland.
He and members of Ravens Roost 118 of Parkton recently spent two days at the Hereford Fall Festival where they gave out free identification kits to the parents of 66 children.
"Greg is very dedicated to this program. He goes all around the state to promote it," says Fred Laser, secretary of the Freeland Masonic Lodge. "It's a real service to the community."
Hudnet spent an evening at the Pioneer Pub, where the Roost meets, to train members on using the computers needed for the CHIP program.
"He had dinner before the meeting wearing his whole outfit, beads and all," says White Hall resident Chris Garcelon, president of Ravens Roost 118. "He is a great guy who's really devoted to this. I don't know how he finds time to do everything."
Hudnet's charity work earned him induction last year into the Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association. Hudnet submitted an application showing he promotes fan fellowship, encourages sportsmanship and supports charitable activities.
He joins other Ravens fans who have been inducted in the Association, including Captain Dee-Fense, Fan Man, Camo Man and Maniac.
This summer, he attended an Ultimate Fan reunion in Ohio. He and other fans visited patients at Akron Children's Hospital where Hudnet gave out purple beads to all the kids.
"There are some weeks I have four or five places to take the car. I'll spend hundreds on gas and that comes out of my own pocket," he said. "But I still love doing this. It's great to see the looks on people's faces when they see me and my car. And I'm helping a good cause to keep kids safe at the same time."
To learn more about the Baltimore Birdman, search Greg Hudnet or Baltimore Bird Man on Facebook. To contact him about an appearance, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun