Ravens: Harbaugh, coaches host clinic at McDaniel

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh runs an excercise with youths during the Ravens Football Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster Saturday.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh runs an excercise with youths during the Ravens Football Camp at McDaniel College in Westminster Saturday. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

The crescendo of clapping had reached its peak, rhythmic noise surrounding John Harbaugh as he exhorted hundreds of football players to get even louder.

And then the Baltimore Ravens coach changed gears, asking for no clapping after previously directing them into a numbered series of claps.

While conducting the inaugural Ravens football camp at McDaniel College along with his coaching staff Saturday morning, Harbaugh was greeted by silence with no one falling for the break in the routine.

"I was shocked," Harbaugh said later. "All these years of coaching and never has a group gotten that right with no claps. It's always a smattering of claps and somebody not paying attention. I was stunned. They really listened. Even the young kids got it right."

Addressing 400 Carroll County youth and high school football players at a clinic sponsored by Under Armour that included football drills, Harbaugh delivered a message of life lessons of perseverance, teamwork, respect and having fun.

"A team is tight and tight-knit," Harbaugh said. "Nothing can separate a team, not anybody on the outside or the inside. There's nothing like this great sport to learn life lessons, and one of those lessons is hard work. We're going to have a fun day."

Huddled around Harbaugh after he wrapped up his talk, the players followed his lead when he asked them: "What's our name?

And they responded, just like his NFL players:"Ravens, Ravens, Ravens!"

For Harbaugh, working with the youngsters brought him back to his roots as a high school player who learned the game from his father, former Western Michigan and Western Kentucky coach Jack Harbaugh.

"There's nothing like high school players' raw enthusiasm for the game," Harbaugh said. "I wonder if I can do this? Can I really throw a pass? Can I really tackle someone? One of the great things about football is it teaches some of the most important life lessons.

"You get knocked down, you got to get back up. You drop a pass, you got to go play the next play. You have a great triumph, you score the winning touchdown. And they don't care about that on the next play. You got to come back and do it again."

It was a receptive group of listeners, including Manchester Valley running back and cornerback Michael Conaway.

The rising junior caught several passes during one-one drills supervised by Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler and secondary coach Teryl Austin.

"I thought it was really great what coach Harbaugh said," Conaway said. "He said a lot of things about teamwork and doing the right things. It was really positive."

At first, Harbaugh thought there were some Pittsburgh Steelers loyalists attending the session because a few South Carroll players were wearing black and gold cleats.

"This is Ravens country," Harbaugh said. "It's Ravens country, all the way up into Pennsylvania. It's Ravens country anywhere there's a Ravens fan is how we look at it."

The camp featured a lot of individual instruction from the Ravens' coaches.

Whether it was offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, defensive coordinator Dean Pees, tight ends coach Wade Harman, offensive line coach Andy Moeller, assistant offensive line coach Todd Washington, defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery, linebackers coaches Don Martindale and Ted Monachino, offensive quality control coach Jason Brooks or quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, the players got to work closely with coaches accustomed to overseeing millionaire football athletes.

And the Ravens' coaches got an assist from over 40 area coaches to teach fundamentals.

"It's a lot of fun, and it's really cool to pull something like this off," Ravens senior offensive assistant Craig Ver Steeg said. "This is really well-organized, and these kids catch on fast. The timing is great. It's like being in Owings Mills. We're back in the day here."

Ravens director of player development Harry Swayne wrapped up the session with a talk about life skills that focused on remaining motivated and being accountable.

"The most important thing you can have is character," said Swayne, a starting offensive tackle on the Ravens' Super Bowl championship team. "You need the character to support your talent. Not everybody wins all the time, but that doesn't mean everybody can't be a champion. When I got here in 1999, there was a defensive player who every other play would say, 'My bad, coach. I made a mistake. I won't do that again. That's on me.'

"I thought, 'This young fellow makes a lot of mistakes, we can't win like this.' But it wasn't that he made a lot of mistakes. It's that he was holding himself responsible for his mistakes. That guy happened to be No. 52, Ray Lewis. You can all see Ray's talent. I'm here to tell you, he's got just as much character to support his talent."

The Ravens decided to shift training camp going forward to their $34 million training complex in Owings Mills after previously holding camp in Westminster each summer since their arrival in 1996 until last year following the NFL lockout.

Being back in Carroll County for a day brought back memories for Harbaugh.

"When you walk back on campus, you feel like we should be coming back to training camp," Harbaugh said. "The fields look great. We're going to miss it here."

The camp concluded with competitions in the afternoon, including youth football games and a seven-on-seven tournament for the high school players.

"There's some football talent there with the high school guys," Harbaugh said. "There's some really good players here. There's a lot of enthusiasm for the upcoming football season in Carroll County.

"These are great kids. They're working hard and they're having fun. That's what it's all about."