The players that compete each week in the NFL know the physical demands, pressure and challenges this environment brings. This is the pinnacle of sport for them and for American Football worldwide. The NFL is a cauldron that only allows the best of the best and spits out those that waiver, get old
or lose focus. The history books are filled with stories of once good players that lost it in various ways. But there are those that stand out, that
you look at and think “how has he done that? What makes him tick?” and so on. The players that surpass the status quo, that through their lives stand
above the norm are always a privilege to meet and have amazing stories to tell. Interestingly though they are so often left in the media shadows whilst
the latest, fastest and brightest stars have their stories told.
Lardarius Webb by his own admission is a veteran of the sport. Born in 1985 with nine seasons under his belt he should be taking it easy and looking at
other options after Football. However, fate gave him a second chance when team mates were injured and he was asked to return to the starting team ahead
of the new season kick off. What makes this a great story is that he didn’t just come back but he is playing, what some consider to be some of his
best football ever. So how does a 31-year-old veteran find form like this when, as Lardarius explains to me, he is “playing with people born in ’95!”.
I caught up with him after practise ahead of the Ravens match against the Jags in London. Strong, athletic and with only a few flecks of grey that hint
at age, Lardarius is a model to sportsmen and women as well as “regular people” the world over. He is a statesman in a time where good examples are
needed against a backdrop of so many negative football stories. When I ask him about his form he is very quick to point out that “it’s the guys around
me” and he then runs down a roll call of the front 7 names. He knows the players, the team and is very quick to make sure that the focus isn’t on him
but on what they are doing together. Lardarius continues in this vein as we talk about him and team. For him it’s about the guys and how much they
help him and it being a team game, not about his success or limelight or current form, he just isn’t interested.
There is razor sharp focus with Lardarius. He speaks about his team mates and what they do but he is crystal clear that just to be where he is today requires
relentless commitment. When talking about diet, training and the off season Lardarius laughs as he explains “you can’t take time off out of season,
like the young guys, you gotta stay on it”. It’s about paying attention to the small things for him, these are the things that make the difference
to him and are his focus. For many it would be a pain, a cost but to Lardarius it is just what needs to be done without complaining, it just is what
it is and what is needed to be where he is and what he is. He didn’t so much as grumble once grumble, just saw it as funny that his age meant he could
do things the young guys could do and they look up to him for it.
“I’m the veteran and I like to teach them from my experience” Lardarius told me of how he sees his role and time in the club now. He is playing out of
his socks but he has another purpose too, to educate, mentor and instil the values he has learned in his career. As we talk about this and his project
with kids he really comes into his own as he talks about giving back and how when he isn’t working he is coaching high school football and running
his foundation, the Lardarius Foundation: http://www.lardariuswebbfoundation.org.
This is a player with a huge heart, full of passion and desire to give, to equip and motive all who come across his path.
A modern legend and role model in an age when so many are shallow he stands as an athlete with character and depth set to change lives and it was a privilege
to spend time with him.