Gino Gradkowski grew up following his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers, but after the rival Ravens took him early in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft, the Delaware interior lineman couldn't have sounded more pumped about joining the Ravens in a Saturday conference call with Baltimore media.
An example: "I'm elated right now because Baltimore plays football the way it's meant to be played."
And another: "I was hoping that Baltimore would be one of the places that I would end up."
And one more for the road: "I'm really excited to meet [veteran center Matt Birk] and pick his brain about football. It's a perfect scenario, and I just couldn't be happier."
He may still have a slight hint of a Pittsburgh accent, but Gradkowski should fit in just fine in Baltimore, according to the coaching staff. Ravens coach John Harbaugh described him as tough, athletic and quick-footed. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron raved about Gradkowski's versatility and said, "We love the way he plays. … He's not going to have to come in here and adjust his style of play one bit."
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound lineman played both center and guard at Delaware, which is where he landed after transferring from West Virginia amid a regime change.
The Ravens plan to let Gradkowski, the brother of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, get his feet wet at guard, where he will be in the mix with Jah Reid and Kelechi Osemele for the starting spot vacated by Ben Grubbs.
But they have also indicated that they would like to eventually move him to center whenever Matt Birk, who signed a three-year contract this offseason, retires. In that scenario, a former Delaware center would be snapping the ball to a former Delaware quarterback.
"Gino Gradkowski, a center from Delaware. Who would have thought? We were going to bring Joe [Flacco] some more weapons, and we got him a Delaware center," Harbaugh said Saturday. "Joe is excited about that. … Obviously, [Gino] comes with a football family in Pittsburgh. So he is thrilled to be in Baltimore he said."
It sure sounded like it on his introductory conference call.