Bill Tessendorf, the longtime Ravens trainer who retired last month, was recognized Monday night by the Ed Block Foundation as part of its sponsor appreciation kickoff dinner.
It's an honor that touched Tessendorf because it came from an organization named after the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts.
"I'm awestruck because the man that it's named after, I got to know and meet," Tessendorf said Monday night. "It also means I've been around for a long time. I'm speechless, really."
The longest-tenured NFL trainer, Tessendorf stepped down after his 38th season with the franchise and after building one of the most respected training staffs in the league.
Tessendorf, 61, received the National Athletic Trainers Association's Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award in 1998 and the NFL Physician Society's Fain Cain Memorial Award as the outstanding NFL trainer of the year in 2009.
Known as "Bill T" and "Tess" around Ravens headquarters, Tessendorf was named the vice president of medical services in 2005.
The Ravens have promoted Mark Smith to replace Tessendorf. But, according to former Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, Tessendorf will not soon be forgotten.
"He was always very honest with you, whatever your situation, but he always made you feel like you were going to be all right and you can get back out there," said Ogden, who attended the event Monday night. "He was always straightforward, but you knew you were in great hands. You knew you were with one of the best."
Ogden added: "You hear horror stories around the league about other trainers and other medical staffs. I have no horror stories about Baltimore's training staff because it was always done right. They're going to miss him around there."
At Monday night's dinner, Tessendorf participated in a question-and-answer session with The Sun:
What does it mean to be honored by the Ed Block Foundation?
This is not something I expected to have. Like [equipment manager] Ed Carroll, we're in the background. [The Ed Block Foundation] is something that no one has in the country. It's built to honor one of my professional colleagues in Ed Block. This honor is a tribute to him and to me.
When did you know you wanted to become a trainer?
I knew I wanted to become a trainer after inorganic chemistry. I went to school thinking I might be a chemical engineer. Inorganic chemistry was a freshman-year class that convinced me otherwise. I worked in high school as a student trainer, and I kind of liked it. A long time ago, a brilliant man — my dad — said, "You ought to go into something that you like to do every day," and that's exactly what I did. I still love what I do. I'm just tired of the hours.
Of all the players whom you brought back from injury, are there one or two whom you are most proud of?
I'm proud of all of them because they worked hard. I look at Jamal [Lewis, running back] coming off a torn ACL [in 2001] and breaks a record that stood for a couple of years. I'm still proud of the accomplishment. It's hard to rank anyone. It's more being associated with people, the J.O.'s [Ogden], the Ray Lewises, the Ed Reeds, the Derrick Masons. I consider them my friends, and I hope they do the same.
What was the toughest year for you as a trainer?
There was that year we ran out of roster space [a team-record and league-high 19 players ended the 2009 season on injured reserve]. It's always a struggle because you want to get the players healthy enough to where they can perform and do what they want to do. You don't have to push our players. Our players are highly motivated.
What was the strangest injury you encountered?
We had one player [who] dislocated his elbow and his wrist on the same play in the Silverdome. We had to chase him off the field at halftime because he wanted to play the second half. He was a tough bugger.