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Joe Flacco: a Blue Hen with a golden arm

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Joe Flacco: a Blue Hen with a golden arm

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Maybe Delaware is the new Quarterback U.

When Joe Flacco takes the field with the Baltimore Ravens against San Francisco, he'll be the second former Blue Hens quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Rich Gannon was the first with Oakland 10 years ago.

That's more than powerhouses USC, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida combined. It's one more than Miami, Michigan, Tennessee, Penn State, Florida State, Syracuse, Nebraska and Pitt.

Stanford, UCLA, BYU, Maryland and Washington State also have two. Only Notre Dame, Alabama, Purdue and California have three.

Quite an impressive feat for a second-tier football college in the second-smallest state in the U.S.

It's a good thing Flacco didn't turn to baseball when he hoped or he may not have even made it to the NFL.

The story goes like this. After his junior season at Delaware, Flacco went to then-coach K.C. Keeler and told him he'd like to pitch for the Blue Hens' baseball team in the spring. Keeler and other coaches persuaded him to concentrate on football.

Over the years, the context of that conversation has been reported different ways. Flacco set the record straight this week, making it clear he simply wanted to play two sports and wasn't considering quitting football.

``K.C. misrepresents that,'' Flacco said. ``I just wanted to play baseball because I liked baseball. I never was giving up on football. I always had a lot of confidence in my ability there. I just wanted to have a little bit of fun.''

Flacco had an outstanding senior year and led Delaware to the FCS championship game against Appalachian State. He wowed Baltimore's scouting department in a long workout before the draft and ended up being selected by the Ravens with the No. 18 overall pick in 2008.

Since then, Flacco has done things no other quarterback has accomplished during the Super Bowl era.

Flacco is the first quarterback to lead his team to a playoff victory in each of his first five seasons. His six postseason wins on the road rank first and he leads the league with 62 victories since 2008.

``I'm really happy for him and as a former Blue Hen, I'm really proud,'' said Gannon, who was the NFL MVP in 2002 when he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl, a loss to Tampa Bay.

``His career is off to a terrific start and you can only imagine what will happen next Sunday if he's able to get the job done and win a world championship.''

Flacco has padded his already remarkable resume this month. In three playoff games, he's thrown eight touchdown passes and not a single interception. His biggest achievement, though, is beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road in consecutive games to help the Ravens win their second AFC championship.

``This isn't just instant success,'' Gannon said. ``You go back and study the guy and this has happened over the last five years. He has some rare talent. He can really throw the ball and he has good mobility for a guy his size. He's going to get better and the team around him is going to get better.''

The 28-year-old Flacco grew up in South Jersey and starred at Audubon High School, a short ride from Philadelphia. He went to Pittsburgh at first, but transferred to Delaware after redshirting his freshman year and playing in just three games in 2004. Flacco didn't get a transfer exception from then-Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt so he had to pay his way to Delaware.

If he has any student loans bills remaining, Flacco can easily pay those off after this season. He's eligible to become a free agent and surely will get a lucrative contract from the Ravens.

All he cares about now is hoisting that Vince Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 3.

``I think it's just one of those things you dream of when you are a little kid,'' he said. ``You watch Joe Montana and those guys light them up in the Super Bowl. So, to be here at this point is pretty special.''

Gannon exchanged text messages with Flacco before the AFC title game at New England last week and spoke to him several times during the season. As a broadcaster for CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio, Gannon has covered many of Flacco's games and knows him well.

``I don't think Joe cares about individual awards,'' Gannon said. ``He's always been a team guy and they wouldn't be there without him. I think he's misunderstood. A lot of people think he's aloof or he's not into it, but a lot of young players don't like to deal with the media. He's ultra-competitive, he's become one of the leaders of that football team and he's done an outstanding job.''

And to think Flacco went to Delaware, a school that's produced fewer than 25 NFL players and only five were quarterbacks. Scott Brunner, Jeff Komlo and Andy Hall are the other three.

Flacco and teammate Gino Gradkowski, a backup offensive lineman, will be the fourth and fifth former Blue Hens to play in a Super Bowl. Gannon, Ivory Sully (Los Angeles Rams) and Ben Patrick (Arizona Cardinals) were on losing teams.

``To have this opportunity is pretty cool,'' Flacco said. ``There are a lot of people in this league that can't say they've ever gotten to this point, so it definitely feels good to get here.''

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AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

AFC North: Steelers' Antonio Brown posts, deletes video of Mike Tomlin insulting Patriots

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has created a new firestorm heading into the Patriots-Steelers AFC championship game, by posting a Facebook Live video from the locker room in which coach Mike Tomlin referred to the Patriots as “a--h----s”.

Tomlin was giving his postgame address to the team after the Steelers’ 18-16 playoff victory over the Chiefs.

While Tomlin was speaking, Brown was streaming the locker room scene on Facebook, unbeknownst to Tomlin.

The coach talked about the Patriots having a head start in preparation, because they won their divisional game Saturday night, while the Steelers-Chiefs game did not end until late Sunday night in Kansas City.

“When you get to this point in the journey, man, not a lot needs to be said,” Tomlin said in the video, which Brown has since deleted from social media.

“Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We just spotted these a--h---s a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We’re going to touch down at 4 o’clock in the f---king morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for their a--. But you ain’t got to tell them we’re coming.

“Keep a low profile, and let’s get ready to ball like this up again here in a few days and be right back at it. That’s our story.”

Well, it’s a little late for the Steelers to keep a low profile now, after Brown’s video went viral.

This is why most coaches don’t like cameras in the locker room immediately after games. The statements are candid. The concept of what is said in the locker room, staying in the locker room, is lost.

Now Tomlin, Brown, and the Steelers will have to deal with the fallout. But it will only raise the AFC showdown, with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

RELATED: STEVE SMITH'S BEST TRASH TALK

 

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Former Ravens great Lewis tweets at Brady to stop complaining

Former Ravens great Lewis tweets at Brady to stop complaining

Even though Ray Lewis is retired, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady still gets under Lewis’ skin.

The former all-time great Ravens linebacker went to Twitter to voice his displeasure during Saturday’s AFC playoff game, after Brady complained about a hit he took from Jadeveon Clowney of the Texans. Brady thought the hit was late and wanted a penalty called on Clowney. Brady screamed at referee Pete Morelli, asking for a flag that wasn’t thrown.

Lewis thought Brady was out of line.

“It’s Called Football Brady,” Lewis wrote on Twitter.

Brady has never been a popular guy in the Ravens’ locker room - understandable considering the past battles the two teams have had. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs refuses to mention Brady by name, preferring to go with cryptic references like, “That quarterback up North”, or “You know who I’m talking about.”

Not that Brady is losing any sleep over what Lewis and Suggs think. Brady is going to another AFC Championship game, while the Ravens can only watch. That’s just more reason for Lewis to find Brady particularly irritating at this time of year.