The legend of Ravens rookie guard Robert "Snacks" Myers and his awesome nickname was launched inside the Tennessee State cafeteria.
Raised in nearby La Vergne, Myers arrived on the Nashville campus five years ago as a hungry young man. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound future fifth-round NFL draft pick haunted the cafeteria and typically was the first player to enter and the last to leave.
That's when Tennessee State coach Rod Reed started to call the hulking young offensive lineman "Snacks," after taking notice of Myers' habit of eating several smaller items of food, including bags of chips and pretzels, before the main course was served.
"'Snacks' definitely has a big appetite," Tennessee State offensive line coach Russ Ehrenfeld said in a recent telephone interview. "He's huge, but he carries his weight very well and is powerful and explosive."
The nickname stuck, cemented when teammates and Reed saw Myers open the trunk of his car to retrieve football equipment on the way to practice. Inside of the trunk were a bunch of snacks that "Snacks" was protecting from his roommate.
There was no escaping the nickname from that point. Not that Myers wanted a different persona.
"I absolutely love my nickname," he said. "It's a nice identity for myself. Sometimes, I even forget that my real name is Robert because everybody calls me 'Snacks' now. It's fun. ... It wasn't that I was eating a lot. I was just hanging out in the cafeteria a lot. I just like to eat a little bit at a time."
During a dinner at Outback Steakhouse with his agent, Tom Santanello, leading up to the NFL draft, Myers devoured an entrée salad, the biggest steak on the menu and a side of chicken tenders.
The heaviest that Myers says he's ever tipped the scales is 335 pounds. That was after a trip to California in college.
"We got him right back in the gym when he got back to school," Ehrenfeld said. "I think he ate a lot of Mexican food when he was out West. We've never had any issues with his conditioning. He's a hard worker and is just a naturally big man."
Myers, a biology major, combined his love for food and football as a senior when he was named an All-Ohio Valley Conference blocker for the second year in a row.
Hoping to be named to the prestigious Senior Bowl all-star game, which is sponsored by Reese's, Myers ate Reese's peanut butter cups the night before road games as a senior. He thought the chocolate and peanut butter snack would give him luck, and that an invitation to the Senior Bowl would follow. It did.
"It was something I did to keep me focused on my goal," Myers said. "And they're delicious. It's kind of funny, but it paid off."
A raw talent ...
It was at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where Myers first met Ravens offensive line coach Juan Castillo. They hit it off immediately. Castillo met with Myers again at the NFL scouting combine. Then, Castillo traveled to Tennessee State to evaluate Myers in a private workout and met with him again during his official visit to the Ravens' training complex.
So, it was hardly a surprise when the Ravens selected Myers in the middle of the draft, as they acted on Castillo's strong recommendation. Signed to a four-year, $2.44 million contract that included a $168,000 signing bonus, Myers was drafted 176th overall after starting for three years in college. He built a reputation for having a nasty streak and was a mauling blocker presence on an offensive line that allowed just 1.17 sacks per game last season.
"I felt like a college kid getting recruited again because coach Juan put so much time in," Myers said. "You could tell that he really wanted me to be here. He makes sure I understand stuff and get everything down.
"He cares a lot and is a great teacher. He takes a lot of time with me and is very patient. He's a tough coach, but he's fair and he makes you better."
A former standout linebacker at Texas A&I, which is now Texas A&M-Kingsville, Castillo has a history of working with offensive linemen from smaller colleges going back to his days as a Philadelphia Eagles assistant.
"He does like to work with the small school guys," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Juan likes athletic, tough guys who are hardworking guys, and that's what he came back and told us. He really likes the upside. He thinks he has a chance to really develop into a starting offensive lineman in this league. Juan really felt good about him."
Myers displayed a feisty streak during the Ravens' offseason practices when he got into a brief scuffle with linebacker Albert McClellan. Myers didn't back down an inch from McClellan, a tough, physical veteran.
"'Snacks' is a gentle giant until he gets riled up," Ehrenfeld said. "He has a lot of self-control, but he'll only be pushed so far. He's a very aggressive player."
Myers' technique is a work in progress, though, and he's regarded as a long-term developmental prospect.
"I developed a [bad] habit with my hands in pass protection in college, and it's kind of nerve-wracking" to have that problem, Myers said. "I know it's early, but I want to get that fixed. With good coaching, I'm trying to get my muscle memory down and get my hand punch the way Coach Juan wants me to punch."
Although Tennessee State competes at the smaller Football Championship Subdivision level, it has a strong tradition of sending offensive linemen to the NFL. Under Ehrenfeld's tutelage, six Tennessee State offensive linemen have gone to the NFL in the past three years.
Tackle Anthony Morris was drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Raiders this year. Last year, guard Kadeem Edwards was picked in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and center Demetrius Rhaney went in the seventh round to the St. Louis Rams.
From 2001 to 2004, former Tennessee State offensive lineman Bennie Anderson started at guard for the Ravens before leaving as a free agent.
"We take a lot of pride in what we're doing and these are very talented guys," Ehrenfeld said. "I'm a very demanding coach. If they work hard and listen, they have that potential to make it in the NFL. I don't sugarcoat anything.
"We coach them hard. There's no secret formula. It's about hard work. 'Snacks' is a fun-loving kid, but he's serious when he gets out on the football field. I'm very proud of him."
Myers, who started 35 of 46 games in college (including his final 29), said playing for Ehrenfeld made a big difference.
"The guy is very passionate about what he does and he wants you to be perfect," Myers said. "You never want to let him down and you love playing for him. Coach E yells a lot and he's always on you even before practice starts. He reminds me a lot of Coach Juan. I've been lucky to have coaches like that who care so much about you."
... with time to develop
The Ravens are well-stocked at guard with starters Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, but both are heading into contract years. They have guard John Urschel, who was selected in the fifth round of last year's draft and impressed in limited playing time.
Barring an injury, Myers is unlikely to play extensively as a rookie. He'll have time to refine his blocking techniques and learn from Castillo.
"I just want to develop my craft and become a great football player and be technically sound," Myers said. "I would like to be able to play some snaps this upcoming season. I'm really excited about taking my game to the next level.
"Juan is my man. He's going to show me a lot. He emphasizes pass protection. Once I get it down, I'm going to become a very dominant player. I know that I can improve on everything."
In the meantime, he'll continue to stand out for reasons beyond his play. Myers' copper-tinged, curly hair is long on the top and appears to have a mind of its own as it sprouts in several directions.
"It's the wild look," Myers said. "My friends called me a diva because it's shaved and faded on the sides and colored on the top. In college, my coaches thought I should cut it down, but I kept it.
"It's just something else to have fun with. I had a Mohawk once, but that didn't really work out too well. Not everybody can wear their hair like I do, so it's just something different."
And then there's the snacking, though Myers is trying to embrace a healthier diet. Nicknamed "Quadzilla" at the scouting combine because of his huge, muscular legs, Myers is learning the value of proper nutrition.
The Ravens employ a team nutritionist, Sue James, who advises the players. In conjunction with James, the Ravens' catering staff color-codes every piece of food. Red is marked as high fat, yellow is moderate and green is low.
Instead of gobbling down Doritos and Little Debbie Snack Cakes the way he did in the past, Myers now enjoys blue corn chips and guacamole. His favorite cheat snack? French onion dip and potato chips.
"I just changed the quantity and what I eat," he said. "I eat good stuff right now. I try to watch what I eat."
Position: Ravens offensive guard
Baltimore Orioles Insider
College: Tennessee State
Size: 6 feet 5, 330 pounds
Hometown: LaVergne, Tenn.
Drafted: Fifth round, 176th overall
Background: All-Ohio Valley Conference second-team selection played in Senior Bowl all-star game. Biology major started 35 career games. Lettered in football and wrestling at LaVergne High School where he played left tackle as a senior and placed in the regional finals in wrestling. Participated in ROTC in high school
— Aaron Wilson