OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The last time the Baltimore Ravens picked an inside linebacker in the first round of the NFL draft, a fellow by the name of Ray Lewis developed into one heck of a football player.
C.J. Mosley was a 3-year-old when the Ravens selected Lewis out of Miami with the 26th overall pick in 1996. Mosley ultimately would admire Lewis and the way he played the position, so the Alabama linebacker was beyond delighted when Baltimore took him with the 17th overall pick on Thursday night.
“I feel great about it,” Mosley said. “Growing up I was a Ravens fan because of Ray Lewis, my favorite linebacker. I got to meet him this past summer going into my senior year. He gave me a lot of insight. So I’m excited to add to that tradition.”
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The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker in 2013 and was the SEC defensive player of the year. He started all 13 games at weak inside linebacker and was Alabama’s leading tackler for the second consecutive season.
Baltimore lost linebackers Jameel McClain and Arthur Jones during the offseason. Although Mosley can play inside or out, he will likely be teamed with Daryl Smith in the middle of the Ravens defense.
Mosley will be asked to perform as he did at Alabama. He will not be required to play as well as Lewis, who played in 13 Pro Bowls and retired with two Super Bowl rings after the 2012 season.
“I would never want anyone, nor would C.J., to have to come in here and try to be the next Ray Lewis,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “He needs to be C.J. Mosley for our football team to be successful.”
Said Mosley: “I’m not trying to go in there and be the next 52 or anything like that. I’m going in there to be C.J. Mosley and help the team win.”
The Ravens were looking for a safety, but passed on Calvin Pryor of Louisville and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Before the draft, Baltimore lost a coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys, who picked 16th. Dallas took Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin, a player the Ravens coveted at a position they need to fill.
At that point, Mosley knew he would be Baltimore’s pick.
“I was pretty much waiting for the phone to ring, and it did,” he said.
The Ravens couldn’t have been happier with how things played out.
“I know we got better as a football team because of the way C.J. plays,” said Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end who played at Alabama. “And I know we really got better as an organization because of the person C.J. is.”
Coach John Harbaugh added, “He’s a really good fit for our football team and our defense. He’s a great fit from the standpoint of the position he plays and how he plays the game. I think he’s a real good fit for our personality as a team. You’re going to love his work ethic and his personality.”
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Mosley deflected 19 passes, had five interceptions and caused two fumbles while at Alabama. He returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns.
“He’s fast, instinctive, smart, playmaker,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “People always ask about best player available and what that means. He was the best available player on our board and he would’ve been the best available player on our board at 10.”
Newsome said the Ravens initially received several phone calls while they were on the clock.
“By the time we got to six minutes, there were no calls,” he said. “So we’re just elated to have C.J. Mosley as a part of our football team.”
Little did Mosley know that when he met Lewis last summer, the two would forever have a connection as the first two inside linebackers drafted in the first round by the Ravens — 19 years apart.
Mosley won’t soon forget the encounter.
“I felt just like a little kid at a candy shop,” he said. “I see him all the time on TV, all the great speeches he’s done. That’s just something I can knock off my bucket list. I’m just glad I got the honor of seeing him.”
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