It’s so seldom that things work out the way they’re supposed to work that I’m a little shocked. It’s interesting to me because it’s so hard to look at a 16-year-old kid and say he’s a first-round NFL draft pick and that Tom Lemming did that when he was 16, it’s unbelievable. You know, baseball scouts look at 22-year-old college students and whiff completely. I’m really impressed that someone was able to see that in him so early.
And I’m impressed by him. It would have been so easy for him to give himself an excuse to fail and to not listen to people, to rebel. It would’ve been so easy for him to give himself an out. He worked very hard to get to where he is.
In fact, the one thing that slightly disturbed me about this whole process is, I watched these guys who supposedly project the draft and actually have no idea what will happen, these guys on ESPN. Todd McShay went on the TV and said he was one of the three greatest character risks of the draft. This kid has unbelievable character. I say that as someone who has occasionally been on the wrong side of him. I’ve seen that he’s sensitive and occasionally a little fragile. But to get where he is from where he was, is an unbelievable act of courage and determination and willpower and all the things you need to succeed in anything in life. For people not to see that – even if they didn’t have this book to read – for people not to see that is appalling.
I think what happened was, I think the Ravens were unbelievable lucky that he fell to 23 in the draft. Several things happened. The Raiders having these brain seizures when they drafted. Al Davis, I think, is single-handedly responsible for him falling a bunch of places.
I think that had Michael had a more stable college coaching environment – had he played with the same coaches for four years in a successful football program – I think he’d be a top-5 pick. But what happened was, the scouting types in the NFL went for some data on him, some anecdotal stuff on him, and they called all these fired Ole Miss coaches who were kind of bitter and disgruntled, and they reflected more on them than they did Michael.
I just watched this kid for so closely for so long. I could tell you that he’s not a perfect human being, but he’s just a really solid kid. It’s incredible to me that he got this little bit of a rap. I think you’re going to be delighted. The Ravens have such a great track record in the draft.
I was secretly hoping the Ravens would reel Jonathan Ogden back in. Jonathan Ogden has a role in The Blind Side. I don’t remember what chapters he’s in. I spent time with him, though; I wrote about him. I’m hoping they can reel him back in to tutor Michael because I’d bet he’d be the perfect coach. And he’s the only one bigger than Michael, so maybe Michael would listen to him.
It seems like he’s in a really solid place. I don’t know how many of these teams I’ve spent time with – maybe four or five of them – and Baltimore is a really good organization. I think he’s in a good place.