Typically when the Ravens’ season is over, I do a column for PressBoxOnline.com running through the various playoff teams and trying to determine which squad is most worthy of receiving Baltimore’s bandwagon support.
I passed on that column this year. The Ravens’ exit was too sudden and painful to think the fan base was ready to quickly jump on board and root for anyone else. Combined with the Steelers and Patriots pleasantly not being a factor for a change, I’ve sensed a strong “yeah, whoever” vibe from the majority of Ravens fans.
But Super Bowl LIV is going to happen, and there’s a really amazing local connection that deserves a little more conversation and interest during the buildup to the game.
Spoiler: it ain’t Terrell Suggs.
To be clear, I certainly am not rooting AGAINST Suggs. There were a handful of Ravens fans who thought it was lame that Suggs was reportedly only willing to play for the Ravens after he was waived by the Cardinals and then decided to report to the Chiefs anyway. Not only does it not bother, it actually further endeared me to Suggs that he (reportedly) attempted to manipulate the system because he wanted so badly to try to get back to Baltimore.
But it’s impossible to feel any sort of strong emotional feelings about Suggs trying to win a second Super Bowl title with the Chiefs. It’s … kinda weird. It’s not just that he’s a “rent not buy” figure in KC, he’s more likely not even renting and instead staying at the team hotel for a few days because it’s such a short stint there. On a 53-man roster, he’s been about the 60th or 70th most important part of how the Chiefs made a Super Bowl.
Celebrating Terrell Suggs as a Chief would be slightly more relevant than celebrating Andre Smith had the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Recognizing Terrell Suggs’ role in getting the Chiefs to the Super Bowl is akin to recognizing Jim Norton’s role in “The Irishman” getting a Best Picture nomination.
To be fair, Suggs could certainly have a big game in the Super Bowl, at which point it would feel slightly more like he was worthy of being called a “two-time Super Bowl champion” instead of a “two-time Super Bowl champion.*” And I swear this isn’t a shot at Terrell Suggs. He’s one of the five most important players in Baltimore Ravens history (and still will be even after Lamar Jackson ultimately takes one of those spots). He’s a worthy Hall of Famer.
But at the moment, he’s even more of a mercenary than Sylvester Stallone in “The Expendables.” If he wins, neat, but either way, the result of this football game will have absolutely no bearing on his legacy to absolutely anyone at all.
There IS an amazing local story in this game, though.
This will be the first Super Bowl appearance in the solid four-year career of Woodlawn, Md., native Kendall Fuller. But it’s so much more than that. The 24-year-old Chiefs cornerback is, of course, the fourth of four brothers from our backyard to reach the NFL. Technically speaking, they’re not the only family to achieve the accomplishment. Rob, Chris, Dan (Maryland) and Glenn Gronkowski did the same, but Glenn played in just one career game.
The Fullers all became legitimate NFL players. Kyle, a cornerback with the Bears, is a two-time Pro Bowler. Corey, a wide receiver, played five seasons for the Lions and Saints. Vincent, a safety, scored four DEFENSIVE touchdowns in a career that included six interceptions and 163 tackles.
The Fullers may well be the most remarkable athletic family in our city’s history. But for all they’ve done in 20 combined NFL seasons — Thanksgiving games against each other, leading the league in interceptions, picking off future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, etc. — this will be the first-ever appearance in a Super Bowl for any of the four Fuller brothers.
You want something to root for? Root for Kendall Fuller. Root for Vincent Fuller Sr. and Nina Dorsey-Fuller, who remained rooted in the exact same house even after their sons began making NFL money — Vincent Sr. works in Baltimore schools and coaches kids in track. Root for parents who produced not only four NFL players but three college graduates (Kendall is still expected to finish his own degree at Virginia Tech), one of whom (Vincent Jr.) has already transitioned to a career as a lawyer.
I’m not telling you to root for the Chiefs, necessarily. The presence of almost-certainly-really-bad-guy Tyreek Hill makes that tough for me to do, personally. And I have no beef with the 49ers. Kyle Juszczyk was a solid player and good dude during his time in Baltimore, and former Raven Raheem Mostert has an unbelievable story.
But as far as “Baltimore” stories go, there are few better than the Fullers. I’m genuinely happy for them, and they deserve a little more love around here in the buildup to the title game.