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At 5 feet, 10 inches and 200 pounds, Haruki Nakamura may not boast the kind of size that front-office executives and scouts drool over when it comes to playing safety in the NFL.

But that didn't prevent the Ravens from using a sixth-round pick on the Cincinnati product in 2008 despite selecting Tom Zbikowski three rounds earlier.

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Nakamura has heard the whispers about his less-than-ideal frame and turned them to his advantage.

"That's been my motivation since high school," he said. "I always thought I was one of the better football players on every team that I've been on. Here, I'm on a team of superstars, so I really can't say that. But in high school, I was the little guy. I got visits from some of the big schools, but I never got the scholarship. Cincinnati granted me the opportunity to play in the Big East Conference, which was a BCS-bound conference, and it was just one of those things where it was the best opportunity I could ask for. I was, fortunately, a three-year starter there, and that's where a confidence built that I could play NFL football, and ever since I've been here, I've felt like I belong in the NFL."

Secondary coach Chuck Pagano emphasized that he views Nakamura as much as a starter as he treats Ed Reed, Dawan Landry and Zbikowski.

"I kind of liken him to a Jimmy Leonhard-type of guy," Pagano said. "Jim's 5-8 and 185, but Jim's a really, really good player in this league, and Haruki is the same way. So you can look at him and say that he isn't your prototype from a physical standpoint – height, weight and all of that stuff – but he brings so much to the table with just the way he plays the game, his knowledge of the game, his instincts and his passion for it."

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