Baltimore Ravens

Ravens coach John Harbaugh will never forget Muhammad Ali's visit

As the family of Muhammad Ali prepares to lay the legendary heavyweight champion to rest in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. Friday, his 2012 visit to the Ravens facility in Owings Mills still resonates with coach John Harbaugh.

Asked after the team's practice Tuesday what he recalled about the visit, Harbaugh had an interesting memory.


"I was surprised at how big he still was," Harbaugh said. "Obviously he had been fighting Parkinson's for 30 years, and the effects of it were clear. …Yet you could tell if he stood straight up, you wouldn't want to stand in front of him. That was the physical part of it.

"Then the presence part of it was the thing that struck me the most. He had a presence that is hard to describe, but it was a giant presence, kind of like a king. He had that kind of presence that you just respected not just who he was, but how he carried himself."


Harbaugh said Ali was still able to communicate despite the Parkinson's limiting Ali's his ability to speak.

"He didn't have to say anything," Harbaugh said. "Everything he needed to say was being communicated by how he carried himself. The thing that struck me the most was, because of that warrior-type of – for lack of a better term – that presence he had, he was great with our players, our coaches and us. He was great with us! He put his arm around you. He was great with you. Still, there was kind of that man-to-man thing where he was The Man; you felt that."

Harbaugh said he stayed in touch with Ali's family throughout the 2012 season and eventually invited them to the Super Bowl in New Orleans. He said Ali had a different way of communicating with the Ravens' children, whom he'd invite over and pat on the head. The young kids would look at him more as a 6-foot-3 teddy bear come to life.

Harbaugh said he'll remember Ali's visit forever.

"It was a lifetime experience moment," Harbaugh said. "It was one of those moments you remember for the rest of your life."