By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
9:16 PM EDT, May 2, 2013
Ever since their season ended, former Towson quarterback Grant Enders and wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard have been honing their timing with a regular series of throwing sessions.
Now, the undrafted free agent rookies are eager to put that rapport to work at the Ravens' three-day rookie minicamp that starts today at team headquarters.
Sheppard agreed to terms on a three-year contract, while Enders is attending the minicamp on a tryout. Both had hoped to hear from the Super Bowl champions ever since taking part in the Ravens' local prospects day in March.
"It's definitely going to make it a little easier to have one of my teammates there," said Enders, an Old Mill graduate. "I've been working out with him all the time. It's always been us throwing, working on everything, and he's one of my good friends. So, that should definitely make things more comfortable.
"The Ravens have always been my favorite team growing up, and I'm still a big fan, obviously. It's really neat to have this opportunity to get a chance to play for the team I've been cheering for. It will be awesome. To be able to do some more drills and put on the pads, it should be a really cool experience."
The Ravens' undrafted free agent class carries a distinctly local flavor.
Headlined by former Maryland tight end Matt Furstenburg, the Ravens also agreed to deals with former Pennsylvania defensive end-outside linebacker Brandon Copeland (Gilman) and West Virginia offensive guard Jeff Braun (Winters Mill).
Gardner-Webb offensive lineman Steve Demilio (Severna Park) and Virginia Union cornerback Andre Kates (Surrattsville, Friendship Collegiate) accepted invitations to try out at the minicamp.
Furstenburg was the highest-rated of the Ravens' undrafted rookies and received a $10,000 signing bonus.
The New Jersey native ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. Furstenburg caught 16 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns as a senior for the Terps. He chose the Ravens over the Carolina Panthers after getting a telephone call from Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
"It's pretty great," Furstenburg said. "I talked to John Harbaugh and I thought it was a good fit and a good tight end situation."
It doesn't get any more local than Sheppard, a speedy 6-foot-3, 215-pound McDonogh graduate who lives in Owings Mills near the Ravens' offices
"It felt like I was at home when I stepped into their facility," Sheppard said. "I'm blessed to be going there and have a good friend of mine in Grant that will be there, too. It's really exciting. I'm just anxious and excited to show the coaches what I can do and play football again. I'm going to try not to make this bigger than what it is, but it's a huge opportunity.
A native of Sykesville who also attended the Ravens' local prospects day, Copeland is an All-Ivy League selection whose grandfather Roy Hilton played nine seasons for the Baltimore Colts.
"It's awesome," Copeland said. "My granddad is so excited that I'll be playing for the Ravens. He's a huge Baltimore guy. It's a blessing."
Copeland is athletic enough that he could play at several positions on defense. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds 30 times with a 34 1/2 inch vertical leap.
"I had a great feeling when I worked out for them and left the facilities," Copeland said. "I couldn't predict it, but I'm very happy to be brought back. I'll play anywhere from defensive end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, tight end or fullback. I hope to be able to help this team out and compete for a chance to play on Sundays."
Growing up in Westminster, Braun used to attend Ravens training camps every summer when they were held at McDaniel College.
Braun emphasized that he didn't choose the Ravens simply because he's a fan, though.
"I'm [as] familiar as an outsider could feel with the organization because I've followed them my whole life, but I had to make my choice based on a business decision," Braun said. "The Ravens were the first ones off the bat to call. Right after the draft, I had already talked to my agent and we got the deal done. I had a top-five list of places we wanted to go based on the coaches and the situation of that team. Baltimore was first on my list."
Demilio was an all-conference selection at Gardner-Webb who took part in an NFL regional combine at team headquarters but was snubbed for the NFL super regional combine in Dallas. The Ravens liked Demilio's speed — at 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, he runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.9 seconds.
"I'm super excited. It's unreal," Demilio said. "I was bummed after the regional combine when I didn't get the invite to the super regional. I guess the Ravens' scouting department and coaches saw something in me that the guys running the super regional may not have seen.
"The Ravens thought I was worth bringing in. It's exciting. It's gratifying and reassuring. You get nervous. You wait for the phone to ring and then you're so excited when it finally does."
The Ravens will get their first glimpse at high draft picks like safety Matt Elam and middle linebacker Arthur Brown at a three-day rookie minicamp that starts Friday. It will also be the first — and perhaps only — opportunity for several undrafted local standouts to make an impression on the Ravens coaching staff. Below are some of the local prospects expected to attend:
Player, pos; Ht, Wt; local connection; Status; Key 2012 college stat;
Jeff Braun, OL; 6-5, 316; Winters Mill High; Signed; Third-year as starter for West Virginia;
Brandon Copeland, DE; 6-3, 280; Gilman; Signed; Team-high five sacks for UPENN;
Steve Demilio, OL; 6-5, 300; Severna Park; Tryout; All-Conference pick for Gardner Webb
Grant Enders, QB; 6-3, 215; Towson (Old Mill); Tryout; 2,337 passing yards and 19 TDs;
Matt Furstenburg, TE; 6-4, 245; U of Maryland; Signed; Caught 31 passes for 348 yards;
Andre Kates, DB; 5-10, 195; Surrattsville/Friendship; Tryout; Five INTs for Virginia Union;
Gerrard Sheppard, WR; 6-2, 215; Towson (McDonogh); Signed; Caught 30 passes for 310 yards;
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