Baltimore Ravens recognize their young Harford fans

Look at the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium during a Ravens home game and you'll see a wide variety of faces. The seasoned fans who have been around since the Colts were still in Baltimore. The fanatics of all ages who scream their heads off after every touchdown and boo as loudly as possible when the other team scores. And in recent years, the young ones who have barely begun to grasp the game, but know they're watching magic.

Ravens fans are getting younger and younger, but that doesn't mean they're any less loyal. The parents and older fans who have paved the way are the ones to thank for that.

Dale Davis, better known as "Maniac" in Harford County's Bus Boys pack and named the 2003 NFL Ultimate Fan for the Baltimore Ravens, was part of the large group of people — mostly from Ravens Nest No. 1 — to paint the county purple with Ravens logos stenciled onto sidewalks last week.

With the AFC Championship Game coming up Sunday between the Ravens and the New England Patriots, the anticipation of a Ravens return to the Super Bowl continues to build across Harford County.

During last week's monthly nest meeting (they meet at the Main Street Tower), Davis said he saw a little boy and his mother walking down Main Street in Bel Air and they snapped some photos of one of the purple and black logos.

"As they were leaving," Davis said, "the little boy said, 'Mommy, wait.'" He said the boy walked back to the Ravens head, knelt down and kissed it.

"We like to see fans get started," Davis said.

Davis isn't the only one who recognizes the young fans.

The Ravens will host a pep rally Friday at Ring Factory Elementary School in Bel Air as part of their Purple Fridays celebration.

The 20-minute rally will start at 9:50 a.m. and is one of many stops during a day-long caravan to visit schools in surrounding counties and Baltimore City.

Ring Factory is one of only seven schools that have been part of the Purple Friday Caravan during the football season, Harford County Public Schools said in a press release Thursday.

The state Department of Education named Ring Factory a Blue Ribbon School earlier this week, so it's been a time to celebrate success – in the classroom and now on the gridiron.

The Ravens cheerleaders and mascots will be at Ring Factory to get the kids pumped up for Sunday's game.

Davis commented that if a child loves something as much when he's young as the adoration he's seen for the Ravens in Harford County, he can't imagine what it will be like when these younger fans grow up.

According to Davis, kids, especially 11 and younger, can relate more to the fans and the Bus Boys — who are always decked out, head to toe, with Ravens gear, face paint, colorful beads and elaborate outfits — than to the players.

"We do look likes clowns, even though we're ultimate fans," he joked about why the children enjoy the way they dress. "They see the beads and all the artifacts that we wear around our neck. That's fascinating to them."

At the most recent playoff game between the Ravens and the Houston Texans Sunday, Davis said he saw more children than he has "in a long time."

"There's a lot of young fans there," he commented, saying parents were bringing their children, some as young as 5 years old. "We love to see that."

Several years ago, Davis bought a set of wings made out of purple feathers from a costume shop in Towson. The owner had originally purchased those wings in Las Vegas.

Davis wore the wings to games, including to the last one of the 2005 season.

He said as he was coming out of the stadium, a boy approached him and said, "Mister, I love those wings."

The boy's father asked where Davis had gotten them, and he said they originally came from Las Vegas and had a thousand purple feathers. The boy then asked his father for something similar as a Christmas present.

"When a little kid comes up to you and you see the look in their face and you see what they want," he explained, "I gave them to him."

Davis told the boy that one day he would be an ultimate fan, too.

In 2008, Davis ran into a man having a conversation about their beloved Ravens in Bel Air and heard the man say to his friends that "the Maniac" gave his son these purple wings three years earlier and has had them hanging up in his bedroom ever since.

"No way would you think you would run into this gentleman again," he recalled. The man told the group that he always wanted to thank Maniac, but didn't know who he was.

Davis handed the man his card, which has his photo in full Ravens regalia and name on it, and asked if that was the guy with the wings. When the man answered yes, Davis said, "That's me."

"What are the chances of running into this guy?" he asked.

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