Entering his eighth season with the Ravens, Lardarius Webb still sometimes drives around and does a double-take. He looks out the window, sees his face on a billboard around Baltimore and his heart drops.
As a third-round draft pick out of Nicholls State in 2009, Webb never could have imagined such a sight or such a position, where he can be the role model he never had growing up.
"It's truly a blessing," Webb said. "To be a role model where kids look up to and want my autograph and just want pictures, I never thought it would go that far. But it was always a dream to want to be that guy."
Webb is that guy now, as he found himself at another podium Wednesday afternoon at the United Way headquarters, where he promoted his upcoming charity softball game. Posters on both sides of the podium showed his picture, and two middle schoolers from the local New Fit Kids program accompanied him.
Webb's seventh annual charity softball game is June 12 at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. Proceeds will support underprivileged children in the Baltimore area.
"I think a lot of kids need a role model, someone they can look up to," Webb said. "I was one of those kids that was young that really didn't have a role model but Michael Jordan, someone I never met. I always want to be a great role model, someone that can give back because I was one of those kids that didn't have it."
Webb grew up in Opelika, Ala., where there were no NFL teams within 100 miles. The closest recognizable football players were nearby at Auburn.
"It's so different from a role model that you look up to that you don't know and you can't feel and can't touch," Webb said. "I want to be a role model where, 'He's real. He's a real person. I can be that guy.' And it kind of motivates them a little bit more."
Webb, now a veteran safety for the Ravens, has become a leader with the team as well. Just four current players have been with the organization longer, and just 10 have been in the league longer.
Webb also transitioned in the offseason to play safety, where he started the final two games last season after switching from cornerback.
"Now I get to be the vocal guy on the defense — make the checks, put people in their spots, tell them when they're wrong — and it kind of makes them listen to you a little bit more," Webb said. "It makes it feel like you have a little bit more control over that defense."
In particular, Webb has begun to mentor the Ravens' two rookie cornerbacks, Tavon Young and Maurice Canady. Webb noted that he and Young have a similar stature (Young is listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Webb at 5-10 and 182 pounds) and Canady sits next to him in team meetings.
Having spent as long as he has with the Ravens, Webb has in the past learned from now-departed players such as Ed Reed. Webb can only hope to reach that level one day, but in his mind, the billboards around the city are a good start.