"C.J. was never a quitter," Tracy said. "He started basketball at age 8, later than most, and was put in a [weaker] league because he didn't know how to play. His team was mostly girls and they lost every game. He'd come home and cry but we wouldn't let him quit. The last game of the season, the coach didn't even show up so Clint Sr. coached the team — and they won. C.J.'s whole attitude changed."

C.J.'s freshman year at Theodore High, he led a fast break in a contest against a heated rival.

"C.J. drove straight to the basket, jumped over a defender and dunked the ball," Bobcats coach Philip Roebling said. "I thought, 'Wow — and we have this guy for three more years?'"

A 6-foot-2 center, C.J. led Theodore in scoring averaging (17 points) and rebounds (nine) as a senior and took the team to the state regionals for the first time, but all the while it was clear his future was in football.

"Another kid might have quit the team that year, after getting a football scholarship to Alabama. But he didn't," the coach said. Roebling also coached freshman football at Theodore and recalled an incident that forged C.J.'s reputation there.

Action, not talk

"We had another talented kid, Todd Neal, who kept jawing that he could 'outdo' C.J.," Roebling said "C.J. never said a word. But they were our two best players, so we lined them up against each other, gave C.J. the ball and told Todd to tackle him."

Mosley flattened the kid.

"That stopped the talking," the coach said. "Nobody wanted to tackle C.J. after that."

In four seasons at Alabama, C.J. played in 51 games, made 319 tackles, five interceptions and 6.5 sacks. He became only the fourth player under Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban to receive consensus All-American honors in multiple seasons.

C.J. was projected as a first-round pick as a junior and he had just celebrated his second national championship. However, he didn't consider leaving school early, intent on graduating and proving to NFL officials that he was an every-down linebacker.

"I didn't want to leave without my degree," said C.J., who graduated with a degree in general studies. "I didn't want to leave anything on the table if I had left my junior year."

It seems that everybody who knows C.J. has a story about his humility, his faith and his devotion to his family. As a freshman, C.J. befriended Fuller Goldsmith, a young boy who was diagnosed with leukemia. Alabama had a ton of established stars at the time, but Goldsmith admired C.J. because he kept to himself. Goldsmith's father sent a text message to C.J. late Thursday night, vowing that the family will be at his first Ravens game.

C.J. can't wait to get to know the fans in his new football home.

"I'm about giving back and doing the right thing," C.J. said. "[Fans] shouldn't see my name in the paper about any arrests or doing something stupid. They don't have to worry about that. I'm trying to win a Super Bowl and be part of a great defense. Just be a great person and a great player."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com