Less than two months from now, Baltimore Ravens defender Josh Bynes will be in the thick of what's expected to be an intense training camp competition for playing time at inside linebacker.
But on Tuesday, Bynes was the special guest at the Carroll County Times Athlete of the Year Awards Banquet, engaging those in attendance during a 20-minute speech that detailed his career, focused on overcoming adversity and encouraged those in the audience, especially the high school athletes, to find their true passion and be diligent in their pursuit of it.
"It was really inspirational," said Winters Mill's Sara Bollinger, the Times' Volleyball Player of the Year. "I'm glad he got to talk because it gives me motivation for college."
Century's Haley Bordner, the Times' Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, agreed.
"It's really inspirational to hear from somebody who's kind of been in our position at a young age, went through a lot, a lot of adversity and injuries," she said. "It's really nice to hear from someone who's gone through so much and been so successful. So I think he did a great job and I definitely loved hearing him talk."
Bynes, 23, is entering his third season with the Ravens.
He joined Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent most of the season on the Ravens' practice squad.
He suffered a broken back during training camp leading up to last season but battled back from the injury and was once again signed to Baltimore's practice squad before being promoted to the Ravens' active roster just more than a month into the season.
Once on the roster, Bynes quickly emerged as a valuable member of Baltimore's special teams. And when injuries continued to mount at the inside linebacker position late in the regular season, Bynes stepped into a key role on the defense, starting three games at inside linebacker during the latter part of the regular season. And he played well despite it being his first substantial action at the position in the NFL. He had 13 tackles against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in his first career start and later had nine tackles during the Ravens' regular-season finale.
But the Bynes play that is probably most memorable to those in the Baltimore area is Bynes' game-clinching tackle of San Francisco 49ers kick returner Ted Ginn on the final play of Super Bowl XLVII.
Bynes is one of only a few players on Baltimore's roster to win both a Super Bowl in the NFL and a national title in college.
He played collegiately at Auburn, where he was a three-year starter at inside linebacker, the Tigers' leading tackler as both a junior and a senior and the defensive leader of Auburn's 2010 team that won a national championship with Cam Newton as its quarterback.
And now entering his third season with the Ravens, less than two years after Bynes was pessimistic about any future in the NFL - a story he recounted Tuesday night - Bynes is one of the leading candidates to challenge for a starting job at inside linebacker as Baltimore looks to replace both Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe.
But Tuesday, he was in Westminster to address the crowd at Martin's. He also took pictures with those who won awards, took pictures with and signed autographs for anyone who came up to him and cordially interacted with those who approached him following the banquet, sticking around to talk to some attendees long after the event technically ended.
"Had great time at Carroll County Times Athlete of the year Awards!," Bynes tweeted late Tuesday night. "Think I gave a good speech!! Lol."
Bynes told the Times at the event that it was a "great feeling" to connect with the athletes in attendance Tuesday night.
"I was this age about five, six years ago and it takes you back in time to see how you felt when you were this young," Bynes said. "It's crazy. I'm blessed with the opportunity to play in the NFL.
"There's a lot of opportunity out there to do what you want to do in life. ... I've just been everywhere I possibly can to spread the word on what guys have done for me and what I've done on and off the field. ... I'm just all for giving out the word of what God has given me and blessed me with the talent to play football."
Times staff writer Jake Rill contributed to this report.