Despite dealing with painful toe, ankle and back injuries, Ravens starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was a big factor in the Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
He led the Ravens with a team-high nine tackles, including one for a loss, against a dynamic pistol offense orchestrated by dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Although 49ers running back Frank Gore piled up 110 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, the damage could have been much worse.
"Man, it's awesome," Ellerbe said. "To be able to compete and help my team win and be able to play through the whole game and play through pain, it's been a long season for me, but it feels good."
A former undrafted free agent from Georgia, Ellerbe's draft stock plummeted because of a knee injury.
During the playoffs and all season, Ellerbe emerged as an important player. He finished with a career-high 89 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks this season.
In the playoffs, the Ravens beat four excellent quarterbacks: Kaepernick, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
"For us to play against Hall of Famers like Brady and Peyton Manning, we knew we had to come in here and beat this young guy," Ellerbe said. "None of them were slouches. That makes it so much sweeter. Kaepernick was a guy who can throw the ball as wellas run it. He's got a long stride. He's fast.
With the win, the Ravens sent retiring inside linebacker Ray Lewis out in style.
"It's a blessing, man," Ellerbe said. "God is good."
An unrestricted free agent who's developed into a true three-down linebacker, Ellerbe is expected to be a priority for Baltimore to try to retain. The Ravens will get back $4.35 million against the salary cap with Lewis' retirement.
Ellerbe wants to be back and says he will give the Ravens a fair shot at re-signing him as he also considers his other options.
"This is all I know," Ellerbe said. "It's a family-oriented team. Guys love each other and fight for each other. I would love to be with a team like this."