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Harbaugh's first impression of Joe Flacco: determined and driven

The Baltimore Sun

It was nearly five years ago, and the Ravens were giving serious consideration to drafting towering Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco had come highly recommended by Northeast area scout Joe Douglas, a former center at the University of Richmond who's now the Ravens' national scout.

So, the Ravens sent a big delegation to the Delaware campus to check out the 6-foot-6, 245-pound New Jersey native. That included coach John Harbaugh, then-offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, general manager Ozzie Newsome and scouting executive Eric DeCosta and other staffers.

During that private workout, which didn't stay private for long, the Ravens came away convinced that Flacco had the arm strength, mechanics and athleticism to be their quarterback. They were already wowed by how he performed during the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

The private workout at Delaware was the big moment for Flacco, but they still needed to get to know their future Super Bowl winning quarterback more as a person.

That was just as pivotal because being a quarterback has a lot to do with how a person deals with adversity on and off the field, the pressures,everything that goes with being the guy.

So, the Ravens brought in Flacco for a dinner in Baltimore and meetings at their training complex as they thoroughly vetted his background. Unlike many other draft prospects, there was no dirt to find. No skeletons in his closet.

Flacco was what he seemed to be: a clean-cut, low-key young man from Audubon, N.J. from a good family. The only thing they felt like they needed more information was why it didn't work out for Flacco at Pitt where he transferred after he couldn't beat out Tyler Palko, a future NFL journeyman.

Palko was a local guy from Western Pennsylvania, whose father was a high school football coaching legend. He got the nod over Flacco.

Rather than sit on the bench, Flacco left. And he flourished in former Delaware coach K.C. Keeler's free-wheeling offense.

The Ravens drafted Flacco with the 18th overall pick, manuevering around to land him after realizing how costly it would be to trade up for Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, whom they also had graded highly.

Today, the decision has been borne out by Flacco's strong performances in the clutch.

He had 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in this postseason, delivering three touchdowns in the Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers and being named the Most Valuable Player.

So, what did Harbaugh think about Flacco after that dinner in Baltimore before the 2008 draft?

"It was a dinner that we had at a place called Tark's in Baltimore," Harbaugh recalled Monday morning at a news conference. "We sat down, and, for a couple hours, sat and talked. Joe impressed me as a guy that was really determined to be really good. It felt like he had a lot to prove. Joe came up the hard way. Joe is not a guy that had everything laid out perfectly before him in college. He dealt with the adversity.

"I just felt like he was a guy that would do whatever it took to overcome whatever to be the best that he was going to be. That's proven to be true. He's a guy that no matter what happens, no matter what criticism he felt in front of him, no matter what disappointments he might have, he steps up and he bounces back and he comes back and goes to work."

And Harbaugh doesn't think Flacco's going to change.

"I think he'll be the same with this success," Harbaugh said. "I think he'll be right back there in OTAs and minicamps. He'll be going to work just like maybe we had lost this game. He'll be just as motivated and just as determined. That's one of the things that makes him great."



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