Ten years ago, the curtain fell on Memorial Stadium. Fittingly, in the final pro football game played on 33rd Street, it was a strong-armed quarterback who brought down the house.
On Dec. 14, 1997, the Ravens' Eric Zeier passed for three touchdowns as Baltimore edged the Tennessee Oilers, 21-19, before a crowd of 60,000, including John Unitas.
A decade later, Zeier remembers every detail down to the post-game revelry when Unitas, then 64, sidled onto the field, shook Zeier's hand and thanked him for the festive sendoff.
"That [memory] has been with me for a long time," Zeier said. "It was the perfect way to salute a stadium that held so much history."
One of the shortest of the 14 quarterbacks to start for the Ravens, Zeier, 6 feet 1, spent three seesaw seasons with the club. Resigned to a backup role, he often played best in his first start off the bench and twice passed for more than 300 yards in a game.
"I took pride in having myself ready to go all of the time," said Zeier, an effective scrambler. "But after that [initial start], when teams had the opportunity to prepare just for me and could keep me in the pocket ... that's when the struggles set in."
He still holds several team records, including longest completion (92 yards) and most consecutive pass attempts without an interception (175).
Zeier might be the only Ravens substitute ever to receive a 900 percent raise, signing for $2.3 million in 1998 as a restricted free agent after earning $233,000 the year before.
"My wife enjoyed furnishing our new house in Owings Mills a little more after I signed the new contract," he said.
Zeier retired in 2001. Now 35 and living in Franklin, Tenn., he is CEO of a new company called Team Doctors, a national network of sports-trained physicians offering elite service to business executives. Hobbled by football injuries, Zeier was one of his firm's first clients, undergoing surgery in September.
"The last tiny sliver of cartilage from my left knee is gone," he said. "My goal is to rehab to the point where I can squat enough to line up a [golf] putt."
• With the Ravens: 1996 through 1998.
• Other teams: Cleveland Browns, 1995; Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1999 and 2000; Atlanta Falcons, 2001.
• Current jobs: CEO of Team Doctors, Atlanta-based medical corporation; color analyst for University of Georgia football games.
• Career statistics: 301 completions in 537 passing attempts for 3,520 yards, 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Finished 1997 season with passer rating of 101.1.
• Fun fact: In last game held at Memorial Stadium, Zeier defeated then-Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair.
• College: Georgia, where he set 67 school records, passed for 544 yards in one game and led the nation in total offense his senior year (314.3 yards per game).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun