There was activity everywhere, not that DeAngelo Tyson paid much attention to any of it.
The time between the morning walk-through and the afternoon practice at the Ravens' facility is the NFL's version of rush hour. Players move rapidly around the building with different destinations in mind, some heading to the cafeteria, some to the training room and others using the time to fulfill media requests.
Tyson, the Ravens' second-year defensive end, stood in the middle of it all last week, leaning against a wall outside the locker room and willingly talking about things that he once would barely address even with the few people that he trusted.
A couple of his teammates made playful comments on their way past him. Elvis Dumervil stopped and listened in for a moment. Yet, Tyson, who said so little as a rookie that teammates would pause when he did talk, was undeterred.
"When you talk about it, it lifts a burden off your chest," Tyson said. "There have been plenty of times that people would try to get a story and talk about my childhood in the boys' home and I just wasn't comfortable with it at that point. I felt like I would get judged. But I'm more comfortable than I've ever been to tell my story."
Kim Lamb likes to say that Tyson is "Statesboro's child," a product of the Georgia city where the young boy who became her third and oldest son grew up. Abandoned by his birth parents, Tyson, 24, spent the majority of his young life at Joseph's Home for Boys, a long-term group home in Statesboro that provides a stable living environment for troubled or deserted kids.
He became the first child to go from that home straight to college, his football talent earning him a scholarship to the University of Georgia. The Ravens selected him in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, and he has two sacks this year as part of the team's defensive line rotation.
Along the way, Tyson has been strengthened by lessons on love, trust and forgiveness. He's come to terms with his birth parents not being in his life, embraced the Lambs as his new family and gotten married to his high school sweetheart. Tyson and his wife, Shabrae, have three kids.
"He didn't have the traditional upbringing with Mommy and Daddy there together and a happy home with a little white picket fence," said Kim Lamb, who was Tyson's seventh-grade teacher and ultimately welcomed him into her family with her husband Chris and their two sons, Taylor, 21, and Jake, 18. "But he has more than what many people have, and he has so many people that love him."
Finding safety and stability
Everywhere you look in the Ravens locker room, you'll find examples of perseverance, of players who overcame rough childhoods and broken families. Jameel McClain was homeless for a time as a kid. Courtney Upshaw moved from house-to-house, some without electricity or running water. Michael Oher's difficult upbringing was documented in the award-winning movie, "The Blind Side."
Tyson doesn't recall everything about his childhood, but he remembers how the turbulence began.
"I had an abusive relationship with my biological mother," he said. "She always made it seem like that I was the troubled child when I really wasn't. … Nobody wants to be scared of your mom. Your mom is supposed to be there to comfort you and protect you, but I felt like I wasn't treated the way a mother should treat their child."
Already suffering without a father figure in his life, Tyson isn't sure when his birth mother finally reached her breaking point and realized he had to go.
He was 11 when, upon his mother's request, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services found him a new home. The Joseph's Home for Boys housed males ages six to 21 and provided a structured environment for kids badly in need of it.
When Tyson arrived at the home, he was the youngest of approximately 15 boys.
"DeAngelo was different than most kids that came," said Suzy Wagner, a house mother and administrative assistant who worked at the home for more than two decades. "At a young age, he was very, very big, but D's always been very quiet. He fit in well and got along with everybody."
Tyson was supposed to be in the home for 30 days before his status would be reviewed. Thirty days and almost seven years came and went, and Tyson was still at The Joseph's Home for Boys.
"I felt comfortable and safe," Tyson said. "It kind of got me out of the situation I was in with my biological mother. I believe that was God's plan to get me out of that situation. At the time, you don't look at it that way. You're in the fourth grade so you say, 'Why am I here with these other boys? I should be with my parents.' But as things got better with my life, I thought, 'Maybe I should have been in the boys' home because if I wasn't, I probably wouldn't be playing football or be in the NFL.'"
Football and family