AFC Championship primer: Meet the Patriots and Ravens
Learn about some of the impact players on both the Ravens and Patriots with these fun facts.
By Ashley Melfi
While in high school, cornerback Kyle Arrington was nicknamed, "Deion," as in Deion Sanders, by his teammates. His coaches called him "Leon" in reference to a commercial that presented a player who was "too cool” to listen to his coaches. A Hofstra grad, Arrington led the league in picks in 2011.
Patriots' rookie tackle Marcus Cannon battled cancer this summer before becoming a member of the active roster.
Tight end Rob Gronkowki and his brothers, Denver Broncos tight end Dan and Dallas Cowboys fullback Chris, are the first trio of brothers to play in the same era in the NFL since the 1920s. They started a website, Gronknation.com, selling autographs and Gronkowski-branded items.
Tight end Aaron Hernandez is well known for his numerous tattoos, each of which has a special meaning. He has one tattoo that honors his late father, Dennis, and others that read, "If it is to be, it is up to me," "Some do. Some don't," and "Self made."
29-year-old veteran defensive back Nate Jones, who was a finance major at Rutgers, spent the 2005 off-season working for Merrill Lynch. He completed the NFL's business management program at the Harvard Business School in 2006.
For the fourth time in his four-year career, linebacker Jerod Mayo led the Patriots with 103 tackles, the only New England defender to top 100.
Bill Belichick admitted that releasing defensive tackle Gerard Warren before the season was a "hard cut." Warren found his way back on to the team in September.
Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker has started a trend with his playoff mustache. Originally a Twitter joke, Welker's “stache” has earned the tagline "Wear it Like Welker."
In December 2010, running back Danny Woodhead dressed up as "Dan," a Modell's employee, and tried to sell his own jersey. Watch the Youtube video here.
In high school, center Matt Birk attempted golf before trying football.
Long snapper Morgan Cox and tackle Michael Oher played against each other in high school in both the regular season and state championships Cox's junior year. The two became friendly with each other.
Quarterback Joe Flacco, stuck behind starting quarterback Tyler Palko, transferred from Pittsburgh to Delaware in college.
In college at the University of Alabama, linebacker Jarret Johnson was a 285-pound defensive tackle. But when the Ravens experienced a rash of injuries in the 2005 season, then-defensive coordinator Rex Ryan had Johnson switch positions. Johnson had to lose 15 pounds and completely change his mechanics.Punter Sam Koch was an honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2004 and 2005, and a Ray Guy Award semifinalist in 2005.
Defensive end Cory Redding, USA Today's Defensive Player of the year in 1999, also excelled in track and field, winning the Class 5A title in discus in both his junior and senior years.
Ravens safety Ed Reed joined the team in 2002. He has received eight Pro Bowl nominations — including one this season — and has played in nine postseason games.
Running back Ricky Williams took a break from his football career by taking a one-year sabbatical to study holistic medicine. He stayed in Nevada country as a student of the ancient Indian medical system, Ayurveda.