It is an exciting day, recognizing kicker Matt Stover as he officially retires at the Baltimore Ravens training facility in Owings Mills, MD.
Stories and bios will tell of his records, Super Bowl appearances, work in the community and impact throughout the football franchise of Art Modell and now Steve Bisciotti.
I’m going to a little more of a personal level, seeing as I was Stover’s ground camera for 3 seasons, from 1997-1999.
As a video intern and then coordinator, the bulk of my duties during practice were following the specialists and the special teams coach, getting ground level views of their techniques while kicking, punting or doing kickoffs.
It was there, spending hours upon hours with Stove, that I really learned to appreciate him as a person and a professional. He was always focused and had a plan. He could be a little goofy at times, but would turn around and joke about how much of a dork he was, so it was okay.
During my first year in 1997, this was written by Peter King with the guys I worked with each day: Art of the Field Goal (Sports Illustrated, October 06, 1997).
Instead of simply rambling on, I’ll honor Stove’s #3 and share three quick memories of him.
1) Pizza Fridays: Every Friday of the season as team drills would get going, the Pizza Hut delivery guy would pull up behind the building, right near the field and drop off what I imagine was 30-40 pizzas (maybe more?) to the players dining room.
Being the veteran that he is, Stove pulled me aside that first week and let me know the drill for Fridays. Seeing O’Brien always ran extra special teams plays at the end of practice, a majority of the players would make their way in for lunch while Stove would often be one of the last guys back in the building.
My responsibility, from then forward, was to sneak in and find the single large, thin crust pepperoni and jalapeno pizza, hide it in Stove’s locker and get back out on the field before anyone noticed, while he guarded the camera.
That happened at the end of every week for 3 seasons – and Stove would always come through with a generous holiday bonus for me and my extra effort on his behalf. I still pick up a slice of jalapeno and pepperoni now and then.
2) McDaniel College Parking Lot (Training camp 1999): It was Brian Billick’s rookie year as a head coach and he came in wanting to make a mark and establish “his” team in Baltimore. By mid-August it looked like Stove may not be a part of that plan as seen in Mike Preston and Brent Jones’ note Bentley/Stover showdown `a dead heat,’ Billick says (The Baltimore Sun August 11, 1999).
I had stayed on the field late to shoot some free agent try-outs and bumped into Stove in the parking lot outside the locker room as we both were ready to make our way back to the team hotel.
He stopped me and asked to talk. In typical Stover fashion he jumped straight to the point and didn’t hold back. He knew I had been very upset when punter Greg Montgomery was cut at the end of the 1998 training camp (no offense, Kyle) so wanted to prepare me for the worse.
Stove explained he had no idea what Coach Billick was going to decide and wanted me to know, in case he wasn’t there the next day or the day after, that he appreciated all I had done for him. I was shocked.
We all know now that Coach Billick made the correct decision in the coming days/weeks. And as much as that moment rattled me, the fact Stove went out of his way to tell the lowly 3rd video guy meant a ton and helps guide me in dealing with people everyday.