Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has been spotted over the years in the
River Hill High School
gym, cheering on Megan Rosburg and the Hawks girls volleyball team.
Megan, the daughter of Ravens assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, is a former all-state volleyball player and in 2010 was named Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year. Her father, in his fifth year with the Ravens, was the guest speaker at the school's leadership conference.
River Hill is located in Clarksville, Md. — a half-hour southwest of Baltimore. And today is Purple Friday.
It's been a Ravens-inspired celebration across Charm City since 2007 when workers and schoolchildren are encouraged to wear team jerseys and all things purple. The season's most important Purple Friday is today — in advance of Sunday's Super Bowl in New Orleans when the hometown AFC champions face the San Francisco 49ers.
"Most people are going to take part because we're a Baltimore team and we're a Maryland school," said Hawks lineman Logan Kirby
Jerseys of Lewis, wide receiver Torrey Smith and quarterback Joe Flacco are expected to be prevalent.
"Most people like the big names, with the biggest name being Ray Lewis. You see a lot of No. 52 everywhere," said Kirby.
Members of River Hill's football team, who went undefeated this season, have another connection to the NFL team. The Hawks have played five times at M&T Bank Stadium — home of the Ravens — winning four state championships in the past six years, including their 18-14 win over Huntingtown in the 3A state football championship game on Nov. 29.
And their coach, Brian Van Deusen, has been named Ravens Coach of the Week five times.
The majority of the team roots for the Ravens. However, given the proximity to another NFL city — 50 minutes north of Washington, D.C. — some players cheer for the Redskins and RGIII. And still some root for other teams altogether.
Logan Kirby is a New England Patriots fan. His younger brother Brian is a Green Bay Packers fan. Their teammate Anthony Corrao
is a Philadelphia Eagles fan. But this week? The stragglers appear to be jumping on the purple bandwagon.
"Most of my teammates do root for the Ravens," acknowledged Corrao.
And his favorite player?
"If I were a Ravens fan, my favorite player would definitely be Ray Lewis," said Corrao. "Ray would be my favorite because of the high level he plays at, and the emotion he brings to the game on and off the field."
In fact, Corrao wore No. 52 — the Ravens' inside linebacker's number — this season.
"I wanted to wear that number because of the admiration I have for the way he plays and the inspiration and leadership he brings to the team every Sunday," said Corrao, who was second in Howard County with 9.5 sacks and was named to the All-County second team this season.
Corrao, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound junior lineman joined Kirby and senior Justin Nestor
in helping the Hawks hold opponents to fewer than 10 points per game, with six shutouts this season.
The equally-sized Kirby said every defensive player tries to get No. 52 when jerseys are being distributed to the Hawks squad.
"There's all the legacy behind it," he said. "Being a Maryland team you can represent (Lewis) and maybe get some of his spirit just by wearing 52."
Some of the spirit of the other Ravens players may also have transferred at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Playing the state championship in Ravens Stadium was indescribable," said Corrao. "The feeling you get when you run out of that tunnel is surreal. When you're warming up and you look around and think this is where the Baltimore Ravens play, you get shivers through your spine. Winning the state championship was the cherry on top of an unbelievable season. The win makes all the hard work and sweat the team put in preparing and practicing worth it."
Kirby described playing in the stadium as a life-changing experience. "It's just a great stadium," he said. "You can walk out there and you can imagine every seat being filled. Having gone to an actual Ravens game, then playing on the field you can just appreciate what a professional football player has to go through on a Sunday. It was awesome to win the game."
Using a pro locker room was also a thrill.
"You put all your jerseys and your pads in there and you take a picture of it," said Kirby. "I have my same stuff as (running back) Ray Rice does in this locker room. It's really cool."
One River Hill player who isn't jumping on the bandwagon is Hawks starting tight end
. But that's because he's been firmly planted in the Ravens' corner as long as he can remember.
"I'm a huge fan of the Ravens," said Daniel. "It was definitely pretty cool watching them win three games in a row to get to the Super Bowl."
He also attended a football camp this summer with his younger brother Brady at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., where the Ravens team previously held its training camp. The youth camp featured currently injured Ravens cornerback Ladarius Webb.
"It was a great experience," said the 6-foot-2,195-pound Cory Daniel. "We got autographs from him and he talked about what it took for him to play in college and then in the NFL. And he talked about being a high school student first and athlete second."
With the Hawks trailing in the fourth quarter of the state championship game, Daniel, a four-time All-American wrestler, had a catch for a first down on a crucial drive that resulted in River Hill's first lead of the game. Playing on an NFL field was a special experience for the junior.
"It was one of the greatest feelings in the world because I knew it was the highest possible setting for a high school football player," he said. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Like Daniel, the Kirby brothers are also star wrestlers for the defending state champion Hawks. Logan wrestles at 220 and Brian wrestles at 170. Anchoring the undefeated team at heavy weight is defensive end Nestor, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound guard on the football team.
While Nestor respects the play of Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Ed Reed, he's no fan of Lewis or the Ravens. In fact, he's a Indianapolis Colts fan and is "confident that the 49ers will win the Super Bowl."
However, Nestor appreciated the opportunity to play at Ravens Stadium: "There is no better feeling than walking onto the field through the tunnel entrance," he said. "It's like being in a pit when you look up and you see the Jumbotron and you look at the sky and see the stars."
Aside from celebrating Purple Fridays and playing in Ravens Stadium, Corrao pointed out another commonality between the Ravens and the Hawks — a tradition of winning.
"Over the past few years both teams have been very successful, going far in the playoffs, if not winning the entire championship," said Corrao. "Also, the expectation of winning and being successful ties us together because every year the goal is a championship and nothing less."