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Ex-Baltimore Colts star Tom Matte enjoys role with new Jacksonville Ravens Roost

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Even though he had a long and successful career with the Baltimore Colts, Tom Matte isn't above showing his enthusiasm for the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

In fact, the Glen Arm resident is a prominent member of the fledgling Jacksonville chapter of the Council of Baltimore Ravens Roosts that was recently granted a charter by the organization.

"My memories go back to the old Colts Corrals," said the former halfback, who gained 4,646 yards and scored 45 touchdowns for the Colts from 1961 to 1972.

Matte was perhaps the most famous fill-in ever in the NFL, reprising the quarterback role he learned at Ohio State under legendary coach Woody Hayes.

After Hall of Fame signal caller and Baltimore icon Johnny Unitas and able backup Gary Cuozzo were sidelined with season-ending injuries near the end of the 1965 season, Matte guided the Colts to what could have easily been a 10-7 victory over the Packers in Green Bay for the right to represent the National Football League against the upstart American Football League in the first Super Bowl — although the game was not called by that name then.

Instead, Don Chandlers' 22-yard field goal attempt with 1:58 remaining, which was clearly wide to the right, was called good by referee Jim Tunney.

The Packers ultimately prevailed in sudden-death overtime, 13-10, despite the courageous effort by Matte, who passed for 40 yards and ran for 57, in his first-ever start at quarterback in the NFL.

To diehard Baltimore fans, however, the Colts were the real champions that season and every season, for that matter, until Robert Irsay bought the team and eventually moved it out of state after gutting the team of stars, such as Matte and Unitas.

That's why the Colts Corrals were so cherished by players and fans alike.

"They were very important to us," Matte said about the Corrals. "They invited us and we would show up. They'd feed us. It meant a lot to us. The interaction between the players and the fans was tremendous."

These days, Ravens — the current minimum salary for an NFL players is more than $400,000 — won't need handouts from a fan organization to have a good meal.

What they will get is a better connection with fans.

The idea behind the Roosts is for fans to enjoy each other's company, root for the team and raise money for good causes.

To the latter point, the Jacksonville group, according to chapter president Kim Erickson, plans to provide funds for the volunteer fire companies in Jacksonville and Long Green. It will also help the Phoenix Wildlife Center.

She and her new Roost No. 131 mates are especially looking forward to a "Christmas in July" fundraiser.

"We are selling tickets for $15, which will include a big selection of food and Happy Hour pricing for a cash bar," Erickson said. "We will have a silent auction with Ravens gear/memorabilia as well as some signed Colts photographs and Orioles things, too. We also will have a few surprises and giveaways lined up and will have a 'Fill the Boot' fundraiser for the Jacksonville Volunteer Fire Department."

The event takes place Thursday, July 25 at Chops Restaurant and Lounge, from 7- 10 p.m.

Erickson said she and other fans began broaching he idea of forming a Roost "in November. We're kind of in a bubble out here, so we wanted to get something started."

Matte was amenable to joining the Roost once he heard about its possible formation from neighbor Scott Grabner, who put him in touch with Erickson.

"He just showed up," said Erickson, an interior designer from Phoenix. "I thought he might just want to be an honorary member. But he wanted to be a full member."

Matte said he will try to recruit other former Colts living in the area to join the Roost, including Sam Havrilak, Bruce Laird and Rick Volk.

"So many fans live out here," Matte said. "It's a melting pot of people, farmers, lawyers. It doesn't matter who you are, just come out to have fun. There are no prima donnas."

The Roost, which holds meetings the second Tuesday of every month at Chops, in the Manor Shopping Center in Jacksonville, is still hoping to attract new members and is willing to drop a $15 sign-up fee. Annual dues are $35.

"People should feel free to drop by to ask questions if they're interested," Erickson said.

Her email is RavensRoostJacksonville@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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