Eugene Monroe

Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe lines up against the Green Bay Packers in October. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / October 13, 2013)

Growing up in Plainfield, N.J., Ravens left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe would rise at dawn whenever his father was heading out for his latest contractor job.

As the youngest of 10 brothers and five sisters, Monroe quickly became accustomed to the value of a blue-collar work ethic and the importance of sacrifice. They were qualities he primarily learned from his parents, John Monroe and Stephanie Green.

When Monroe's father died, his uncle, Eugene Green, became his most influential mentor. Green works for the Plainfield sanitation department as a garbage man.

"We would get up at 4:30 a.m. when my dad had to go to work, and my family has always been all about hard work," Monroe said. "We've always had an attitude of being ready to go all the time. When my dad died, my uncle came into the picture.

"All my uncle knew was working hard for everything he had. Being around people with a work ethic like that will kind of mold you into the same type of identity."

That's been evident in Monroe's progression at each stage, applying those family lessons as a Parade Magazine All-American in high school, an all-conference offensive tackle at Virginia and now in the NFL with the Ravens.

Monroe has made a smooth adjustment to his new surroundings since being acquired by the Ravens in an Oct. 3 trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for 2014 fourth-round and fifth-round draft picks.

He's been an upgrade at left tackle with his athleticism and superior conditioning compared to former left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who was traded to the Miami Dolphins following Monroe's arrival.

Monroe is assigned the critical job each week of protecting quarterback Joe Flacco's blindside. He's graded out the highest of any Ravens offensive lineman this season and has allowed four sacks and 10 quarterback hurries in eight starts, according to Pro Football Focus.

"I'm as comfortable as can be," Flacco said. "I think he's doing a great job. I think he's playing really well."

Drafted in the first round in 2009 by the Jaguars with the eighth overall pick, Monroe has never played for a team that finished with a winning record or made the postseason.

Now, Monroe is in the thick of a playoff chase with the Ravens (7-6) currently holding the edge for the sixth and final AFC playoff berth heading into Monday night's game against the Detroit Lions.

"Yes, it's definitely different, especially compared to the last few years," Monroe said. "I fit right in. I'm around some great guys. I'm excited to come to work every day just to grind."

Inside the Ravens' locker room and on the practice field, Monroe has become known for his diligent, serious nature. The 6-foot-5, 306-pounder is disciplined enough in his diet and exercise regimen that his low body-fat percentage and sculpted build resembles an oversized tight end.

"Eugene's done a good job making that transition and learning this offense," right guard Marshal Yanda said."He's a hard worker with a good attitude and a good guy. He approaches his job like a pro."

None of this comes as a surprise to Monroe's uncle.

"We come from a family of workers, and Eugene has always been awesome," Green said. "He's been one of the easiest kids to deal with because he works so hard. Once you point him in a direction and teach him something, he learns it right away and applies himself.

"He's very grounded. He's the hardest worker I've ever seen. It was really gratifying to have somebody like the Ravens say, 'We want you.' We just hope he can stay in Baltimore now that he's with a winner."

Monroe's wife, Nureya, is from Columbia and her family lives in Maryland. And their daughter, Farah, is now able to frequently see her grandparents on her mother’s side and Monroe’s family has been able to attend more games.

“This has been great,” Monroe said. “My daughter gets to have the experience of being around her grandparents and the rest of her family where they would only get to see her a couple of times per year when I was in Jacksonville being so far away. It’s been a good situation.”

When the Ravens traded for Monroe, they did so with no intentions of merely renting him for the remainder of the season. They hope that he provides a long-term solution for the left tackle position.

No contract discussions have been launched, according to sources, but the Ravens are pleased with Monroe and will attempt to hammer out a contract with him after the season. He's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

"Hopefully, that happens, but that kind of thing is a weird thing to deal with," Monroe said. "It's too early to say anything about that. It's not really important right now. What's important is the Lions. Everything else will take care of itself when the time comes."

If the Ravens don't retain Monroe, it would come as a surprise to his teammates.

"They made that trade for a reason," tight end Ed Dickson said. "Hopefully, they make the right decision and keep him here. He's very physical and he's very athletic. With him here, we keep the pocket clean for Joe."

The Ravens have had more flexibility in the running game and passing game since Monroe's acquisition, benefiting from his mobility and technique to stonewall pass rushers and create holes in the running game.

"I feel like I'm athletic enough to fit into any scheme," Monroe said. "Luckily, we're doing a lot of things that I've done before. I don't think I'm limited in any fashion when it comes to being able to run a particular style of offense. I'm definitely confident in my abilities as an offensive lineman. I work to do whatever is asked of me. I took it as a challenge when I got here to get adjusted and learn as quickly as I could in a new environment and a new system, and I think I did a good job of that."

awilson@baltsun.com

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