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Harford's 'Godfather' of Ravens fanatics 'is in the house!'

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Harford County's Matt "Fan Man" Andrews is no stranger to the Super Bowl.

The Forest Hill resident and "Godfather" of Baltimore Ravens super fans won two tickets to the team's first Super Bowl appearance in 2001 in Tampa, Fla., live on TV with Carson Daly.

At the time, Andrews, now 72, was still pretty green, as far as his experience with National Football League playoffs goes. After all, his young franchise hadn't spent much time in the playoffs.

So he called his friend, John O'Neill, better known as "St. Vince," who is his super fan counterpart for the Green Bay Packers.

"He said, 'It's magic... magic. Things will happen. But you always have to be dressed up. You always have to have your complete outfit on," Andrews remembers.

Andrews stopped at a McDonald's outside of Tampa to put on his homemade helmet, feathered jacket, Mardi Gras beads, face paint and other items. Being one of few dressed out Ravens fans, he got the attention of Daly's representative. And before he knew it, he was on TV competing for two tickets.

He nailed the trivia last question as the clock ran down, and won.

"Baltimore Fan Man is in the house! Linda I love you!" he shouted into the microphone, knowing his wife, Linda, and family were watching. Daly handed him the tickets, and he got to see his team handily defeat the New York Giants, 34-7.

Twelve years and several close calls later, and the Fan Man's Ravens are again competing for a world championship in what many regard as the biggest stage in professional sports. But this time, he's not taking any chances.

"Things have progressed," he said. "Unlike Super Bowl XXXV, I wasn't dreaming. Now I'm experienced, so I don't have to dream. I can plan."

With more than a week left before the game, he had already arranged for travel, lodging and secured a ticket for the big game.

"I know the ropes," said Andrews, who got the "Godfather" handle from former Ravens tight end Todd Heap.

12 years later...

In those 12 years, more has progressed than Andrews' ability to attend a Super Bowl. Several other super fans from Harford County and elsewhere have latched on and become his "posse."

It's the Fan Man, his fan bus – a short school bus covered in purple and filled with paraphernalia and memorabilia - and the Bus Boys: Ravin' Rick, Camo Man, Maniac, Off The Hook, Poetic Justice and Wild Bill, who comes along for "Pittsburgh Squealer" games.

"There's been multitudes of guys who have come and gone," says Gary A. Waesche, alias Off The Hook. "The nucleus of who we are right now is I think who we will be."

They don't all come to every game, or rally, or event.

Ravin' Rick joined Fan Man for a Ravens rally at Looney's in Bel Air the Friday before the team traveled to Denver to face the Broncos in the AFC playoffs divisional round. The two took the stage, led a cheer and talked some smack about Peyton Manning.

Off The Hook, Wild Bill and Rick all hopped on the fan bus very early on Saturday, Jan. 26, to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge. Super fan Major Offense, Andrews' daughter Tressa and a few of his other friends tagged along.

For most of the morning, Fan Man and the Bus Boys were the center of attention. With the Ravens eight days away from a Super Bowl, hundreds came dressed in their purple and black.

And the crew could hardly walk 10 steps without someone stopping them and asking to take a picture. They never refused, and they never toned down their enthusiasm. Even as the day wound down, and most of them had been up for 12 hours, Fan Man was still dancing in front of the bus.

The evolution of Fan Man

Fan Man is from Pittsburgh and moved to the Baltimore area in 1965 with his wife. Then a teacher, and trying to start a family, Andrews was unable to invest the time and money into football super fandom with Baltimore's then-team, the Colts. But he was still a big fan.

"We still love our Colts," he said. "When they left, it was heartbreaking. It just ripped the heart right out of your body."

And for 13 years, after the Colts snuck off in the night to Indianapolis in 1984, Andrews wandered from team to team. Being a Pittsburgh native who left and rooted for the Colts, he wouldn't go back to being a Steeler fan; he rooted for the Washington Redskins for a while, but never with the same fervor.

"There was no dying love for any one team," he said. "If I missed a game, an NFL game on Sunday, so what?"

Then the Baltimore Ravens came, breathing life into Baltimore's football lovers, and especially into Andrews.

At first, says Andrews' daughter, Tressa, she and her mother were concerned that he might be taking it too far.

"He might've lost his mind," Tressa said, remembering when her father created the Fan Man. "But I knew why he started it, so I was really excited that he got the chance to actually venture out and do things he's probably been wanting to do for a while."

The Andrews' family has a tradition of super football fans: Matt is the nephew of Baltimore Colts super fan Willie the Rooter, to whom he has a sign paying homage above the driver's seat in his fan bus. The sign is covered with small football stickers with Baltimore Colts players' names – and they're all signed by the players.

Andrews says Willie was loved by both players and fans, and that inspired him.

"He was that kind of guy, he went the extra mile," he said. "And we all do remember - I remember him forever and ever."

And Tressa Andrews said she'll be glad to continue the family tradition when her father is no longer the Fan Man. (She and some of the Bus Boys agree that he won't retire his Fan Man helmet and feathered jacket while he's alive.)

It's in Andrews' will that he be cremated and his ashes placed in the back of the fan bus.

And that those attending his funeral will be encouraged to tailgate.

To watch a video of Fan Man, please go to http://www.baltimoresun.com/videogallery/74207508/Sports/VIDEO-Fan-Man-The-Godfather-of-Ravens-football-fans.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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