Two decades after winning a Super Bowl, Larry Webster is in the early stages of a new career.
A 10-year NFL veteran and an all-conference defensive tackle at the University of Maryland, Webster now works as a Special Police Officer at the Howard County Sheriff’s Office. He says he has wanted to be in law enforcement from a young age, and now he’s getting that chance.
“My grandfather was a police officer in Pennsylvania … and he held himself to a high standard,” Webster said. “He did his job and still was liked by everybody. He had a commanding presence with himself — not being intimidating, but being respected from all walks of life. He had a commanding presence and he could give knowledge and wisdom to make you think of the consequences that you could put yourself into, or make you think [of] the rewards that could come.”
Webster returns often to that theme of rewards and consequences. He’s experienced plenty of both in his life.
After warming slowly to the game of football — he still recalls getting tackled and flipped on his back by a kid half his size in ninth grade — Webster became a star for Elkton High School. Then 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, he played running back and defensive tackle. A strong performance at the Big 33 Football Classic all-star game earned him scholarship offers from Maryland and Richmond, and he committed to the Terps while visiting campus.
Maryland initially recruited Webster as a tight end but switched him to defensive tackle after he arrived on campus. He became a bright spot on largely subpar teams. Coached by Joe Krivak, the Terps went 20-34-2 in Webster’s five seasons with the program and reached a bowl game only once. Webster, though, earned second-team All-ACC honors twice and was named Maryland’s team MVP as a redshirt senior in 1991.
“He wasn’t one of these guys that was expected to carry the team defensively, but he did,” longtime Maryland play-by-play broadcaster Johnny Holliday said. “He was always in the right position, very seldom injured. He was always in tip-top condition.”
The Miami Dolphins selected Webster in the third round of the 1992 NFL Draft, and he started 16 games for them across three seasons. Webster then signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1995, which turned into a homecoming the next year when the franchise moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens.
“All my friends and family [could] come see me play and it’s nothing but a hop, skip and a jump away,” he said of playing in his home state.
Webster’s most productive year in Baltimore came in 1999, when he started 16 games and recorded 32 total tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks. He was primarily a backup in 2000, when the Ravens put together one of the best defensive seasons of all time and rode the strength of that unit to a Super Bowl victory.
“[Webster] was one of those guys everybody loves — always practiced hard, worked his tail off, always prepared to do what he needed to do,” said Michael McCrary, the Ravens’ former Pro Bowl defensive end. “It didn’t matter what position. He’d go play linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, nose [tackle] — you name it, he could play them all.”
Webster spent one more year with the Ravens and played his final season with the New York Jets in 2002. He played in 136 games throughout his NFL career, tallying 36 starts, 186 total tackles and four sacks.
Football brought about plenty of rewards, but Webster’s actions off the field were met with harsh consequences. He was suspended three different times for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy — and the third of those suspensions cost him the entire 1996 season. He also admits to not having been financially prudent as a player, and poor spending and investing decisions left him in dire financial straits after football.
“As a young man, you’ve got a little money and you’ve got a lot of people in your life and you don’t know what they’re there for, and you’re the one just really splurging,” Webster said. “I thought football was going to last a long time, but [was] not looking down the road as far as savings and stuff like that. So I did waste a lot of money, but I’ve lived and I’ve learned.”
The years since Webster last put on pads have been up and down. He spent three straight summers (2007-2009) in the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship Program under the guidance of Rex Ryan, his former defensive line coach. Ryan was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 and the Jets’ head coach in 2009.
Webster joined Baltimore Polytechnic Institute as a volunteer assistant football coach in the fall of 2009, also working as a hall monitor at the school. After Roger Wrenn retired in 2012, Webster was named Poly’s head football coach. He coached the Engineers for two seasons, going 3-7 and 6-4 before he and the school agreed to part ways.
Coaching gave Webster an opportunity to guide young people through his experience.
“As a head coach, I was implementing things that I’ve learned through my years of playing [and] holding kids accountable,” he said. “I always told them, ‘There’s three parts to this pie’ … respecting your parents or respecting your guardian, respecting your staff and your teachers in the building and acting accordingly, and definitely respecting your coach.”
Webster’s post-playing career has gone in a handful of other directions as well. He has worked as a security guard and driven trucks for Amazon. He moved to Miami in 2016 and remained there for three years.
But he saw a chance to enter law enforcement when former Maryland teammate Marcus Harris — with whom Webster said he has remained close since 1987 — won Howard County’s sheriff election in November 2018. Webster asked Harris if there was a way to bring him on, and the opportunity as a Special Police Officer presented itself in 2019. Webster joined the office that November and graduated from the Maryland Correctional Academy this March.
“I passed that with a 93 average — I was two points away from getting a Distinguished Cadet,” Webster said. “I was shooting for it. I shot for the moon, but fell short and landed on the clouds, so I was very proud of myself.”
Webster now spends his workdays at the Circuit Courthouse in Ellicott City, Md., screening people and objects entering the courthouse and accompanying offenders set to appear in front of a judge. With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, there are extra protocols in place for all people in the courthouse, but Webster said the work is beginning to feel normal again. (His position is considered essential, so he continued working even when the courthouse was closed to the public).
At 51, Webster is as appreciative of life as he’s ever been. He believes he’s lucky to still be here after seeing close friends and former teammates and opponents die young. Every day is a chance for him to use his experiences — the rewards, consequences and everything in between — to help steer someone on the right path. And he’d have it no other way.
“I don’t take life for granted. It’s a blessing every day. The good, the bad and the ugly — it’s still a blessing. When I open my eyes up, I know it’s going to be a great day,” Webster said. “I could be walking down the street and a bird poops on me — ‘Just wash it off!’ I don’t get mad at it, or try not to. You take the blessings. ‘At least I’m here to get pooped on by a bird.’ Even though people might look at it different, I look at life now [knowing] tomorrow is not promised.”
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics and the Baltimore Ravens
Originally published Sept. 2, 2020.