Winning teams keep finding Ravens' James Ihedigbo
BALTIMORE -- James Ihedigbo finally is on the path he was meant to travel.
At least that's how his Ravens teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo sees it.
"It took him a little while to get here but this is where he's supposed to be," Ayanbadejo said. "And he fits in perfect."
Sunday's AFC Championship Game will be the fourth straight for Ihedigbo. The fifth-year safety / special-teamer played in two straight championship games for the Jets in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, then played in last year's championship game with the Patriots, coming close to winning a Super Bowl title but losing to the Giants.
But for Ihedigbo, this shot at a Super Bowl feels different. Ihedigbo believes in Baltimore's defensive system and philosophy. It's similar to what he played with the Rex Ryan-led teams earlier in his career. So his assimilation into the Ravens' meeting room and locker room was seamless.
Not to mention, his mother, Rose, lives in Abingdon, Md., less than 40 minutes from the Ravens' home field, M&T Bank Stadium.
"I was talking to B.A. the other day," Ihedigbo said, referring to Ayanbadejo, "and he was like, 'You know what? You're a long-lost Raven. It's like you're a missing brother that was gone and now you came back.' "
Signed to a one-year contract with a base salary of $700,000 this past offseason, Ihedigbo, 29, was brought to Baltimore to provide depth to both the Ravens' special teams and their secondary. In 69 games over five seasons, he has 143 tackles and six sacks.
"This league is about adapt or die," Ihedigbo said. "That's truly what it's about. So when you have an opportunity, you make the best of it."
Ayanbadejo said Ihedigbo fits "the mold" of Raven life, highlighting the safety's smarts, aggressiveness and athleticism.
"We don't just have guys that can do A, B, C or D," Ayanbadejo said. "We want you to have the whole myriad of the alphabet in your arsenal. You have to be a complete football player. And he really is one. Also, the way he pays attention to detail, the way he studies -- and then the great man that he is off the field."
Many NFL players have ended their careers having never reached the playoffs. But not Ihedigbo. Reminded that he's come painfully close to winning a Lombardi Trophy in the past four years, he smiled and said: "This year is it."
Ihedigbo said luck has nothing to do with his ability to land on his feet, and more importantly, play on some of the biggest stages.
"It's kind of crazy, right?" Ihedigbo said with a smile. "Winning teams just love me, I guess."