Brian Billick couldn’t remember what directional Florida school in Tampa the Ravens practiced at ahead of Super Bowl XXXV — “Central, Southern, whatever's in Tampa,” he said — but he did recall exactly when he felt certain of victory.
In a video shared Monday of a 2015 interview at the Thuzio Executive Club, Billick explained the importance of “gatekeepers” such as Shannon Sharpe, whose leadership in 2000-01, the former head coach explained, meant Billick could focus on coaching, not the locker room. Or the bus trips.
That was Billick’s “one rule” as the team prepared to face the New York Giants at the University of South Florida, about a half-hour away from the team hotel. “I wasn’t a coach that had a lot of rules,” he said. “Never had, and wasn’t going to do it all of a sudden at the Super Bowl.” He told the Ravens his only demand was that they all take the team bus, escorted by police, to and from practice.
“I want to know that everybody gets there and I want to know everybody gets back,” he said.
Sharpe made sure of it. After the team’s first practice, as the Ravens were heading to the team buses, Billick eavesdropped on a conversation between his star tight end and a rookie.
“They didn’t know I was behind him,” Billick said. “And the rookie looks at Shannon and goes, ‘Hey, my aunt and uncle are here. You think Coach will let me ride back to the hotel with them?’ And it would’ve been very easy for Shannon to go, ‘Yeah, sure. Go ask Coach. It’s not my job.’ The players’ term is ‘Stay out of my lane.’ ‘I don’t need to worry about that. Let Coach do it; that’s what he gets paid for.’
“But Shannon was one of my gatekeepers, and without blinking, he said, ‘Coach said we’re going to and from practice on the bus. Get your ass on the bus.’ And I didn’t have to do that.”
Billick’s next auto assignment for his team was more inviting: Two days after the Super Bowl, the Ravens were paraded past screaming fans in 73 military-style Humvees for a Baltimore victory parade.