Former Denver Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe can’t wait to join the Ravens in Baltimore, but after eight years with the Broncos, Wolfe and his wife are keeping the Denver community in their heart.
The lineman has yet to move to Baltimore due to the travel and safety guidelines, but for him, becoming a Raven has been a long time coming.
“I feel like it was always meant to be. I thought that I always fit that system, I fit the city,” Wolfe said on Glenn Clark Radio April 22. “I see what they’re all about. I felt like it was only a matter of time.”
The acquisition of Wolfe, signed to a one-year deal in March, is part of Baltimore’s offseason objective to improve its front seven. The Ravens acquired Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars via trade and re-signed Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward to help out the defensive line. And through the draft, the Ravens brought in linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison as well as defensive linemen Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington.
Wolfe is hoping to build on Baltimore’s defensive tradition, rattling off names like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Tony Siragusa.
“You think about all the great players that have played there, and you think about all the great defenses in these top-one or two defenses in the league, top-five every year,” Wolfe said. “I just think about this tough, hard-nosed defense that they like to play — doesn’t give up an inch; the bend, don’t break.”
Though he grew up just 40 minutes from Pittsburgh, Wolfe was actually a Packers fan and couldn’t stand the Steelers — an opinion that Ravens fans can agree with just fine. By the time the 2012 NFL Draft rolled around, Wolfe had had enough of Pittsburgh. He was told the Steelers would select him with the 24th pick. He ended up going No. 36 to the Broncos.
“I always think back to when they told me they were going to draft me and then they didn’t. I always carry that little chip on my shoulder every time I play against them,” Wolfe said, adding, “Every time I play I think back to that feeling I had — that disappointing feeling — and being like, ‘You know what? I’m going to make them pay for that.’”
The Ravens won their Week 5 and 17 matchups against the Steelers last season, and Wolfe is looking forward to when the two AFC North teams will face off another two times next season.
“Everybody in my hometown is a Steelers fan,” Wolfe said. “You think I can’t wait for that? I cannot wait.”
Wolfe grew up in Lisbon, Ohio, where he didn’t have much stability in his family life. He explained he had a “stern” stepfather, whom he lived with shortly after he divorced his mother. He has no relationship with his biological dad. As a teenager, Wolfe bounced around friends’ homes for several years without a permanent place to call home.
One of Wolfe’s biggest struggles as a kid was getting his lunches from school, like many kids today still do — but the COVID-19 pandemic is causing difficulties for food programs.
“On the weekends it was hard for me to get food because school was so important for me to get my food,” Wolfe said. “That’s how I got my lunch.”
That’s why Wolfe and his wife, Abigail, donated $10,000 through the Wolfe Pack Foundation to support emergency child care and food programs to the YMCA of Metro Denver.
“What my story started with was nothing; now I have everything,” Wolfe said. “I have a beautiful family, beautiful home. I get to do what I love for a living, so it’s really important to me to pay it forward to these kids that have nothing.”
Wolfe also wants his story to serve as motivation for kids who are in a similar position he was growing up. He went from a kid with nothing to a Super Bowl champion with 33 career sacks. He’s coming off a career-high seven sacks last season.
“I think it gives them a little bit of hope that if he can do it, maybe I can do it. I try to tell them, ‘It doesn’t have to be football,’” Wolfe said. “You just have to find something that you love and chase that dream and eventually it’ll work out for you.”
The foundation’s campaign has raised more than $11,000 so far in its efforts to help hungry kids and families in the Denver community. To learn more, visit justgiving.com/campaign/Wolfe.
“We just wanted to make sure we could help out the kids in the community here in Denver,” Wolfe said, “and I’m looking forward to doing some things in Baltimore as well.”
For more from Wolfe, listen to the full interview here: