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Matthew Judon scoffed at the question.
he’d be an every-down force against both the run and the pass?,
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,Did he believe that in just his second NFL season
“Do you think you could be a good reporter? Did you?” the Ravens linebacker shot back at his interviewer. “Like, but I believe in myself.”, this is what I do. I love playing football. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, raining, sleet, come on. I mean, hot — I’m going to go out there and play. Everybody keeps asking me, ‘Do I think I can?’ Yes. I believe in myself. I don’t think y’all believe in me
If that seems a bit prickly, well, you have to stand in Judon’s shoes to understand where he’s coming from.
The current AFC Defensive Player of the Week envisioned himself as this kind of player all the way back to his childhood days dancing around the fields of West Bloomfield.
No one else shared his outlook.
edgy demeanor.,Not a single Division I program came sniffing. The coaches at Division II Grand Valley State were happy to have him, but they saw a lanky kid who might grow into something, he sensed he might be rubbing some players and coaches the wrong way with his loud, not a surefire NFL prospect. Even when he got to the Ravens as a fifth-round pick last year
So if Judon didn’t hold on to his vision with unusual ferocity, he never would have gotten here. When you get past his armor of self-belief, a more nuanced person emerges.
who range from the eighth grade to age 32.,Judon grew up the sixth of 10 children in a family that came together when his mother, Pieretta, Earl Hairston. Judon’s self-described “edge” softens when he talks about his siblings, married his stepfather
“We always had to work,” he said. “We were never given handouts. We never had anybody to help us. So we always leaned on each other. … There’s something about that bond you have with nine other people that you can go to at any time, for any reason.”
His college coaches, who had him for six years at Grand Valley (he redshirted his first year and then again when he tore his ACL as a junior), say his upbringing gave him an unusual social intelligence.
“I think it made him a selfless person, ‘What can I do to help the team?’ “,” said Grand Valley defensive line coach E.J. Whitlow, and that translates to football. With him, who became close with Judon. “You understand it’s not just you in the world, it was always
Judon agrees that his family life directly impacted his football life.
“Everybody’s different in this world,” he said. “And you can’t treat one person how you treat the next person. That’s how I am with my siblings. Some I’m more sensitive with and some I can joke with. It’s different conversations with different folks,
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, and I do feel like I understand people more,
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, just by reading body language.”
not just the most gifted player but the guy who could be counted on to lift a younger teammate’s spirits or to demand accountability in the Grand Valley locker room.,Judon became a foundational piece for coach Matt Mitchell’s program
” Mitchell said. “And everyone listened.”,
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,“He had a big voice
you can hear the tenderness in his voice when he recalls the songs he sang and the mentoring words he offered the campers.,When representatives of Camp Sunshine, a program for cognitively impaired people ages 12-50, Judon quickly stepped forward. Again, visited a team meeting in search of volunteers
That outgoing, reached out to give him pointers., compassionate side has endeared Judon to Ravens teammates as they’ve gotten to know him over the last two years. Defensive stars Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley have taken him under their wings. Of course, and Judon convinced them he was worth the effort. Even players from the other side of the ball, that’s not just because he’s a likable character. NFL veterans decide rapidly whether a young guy can play, such as All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda
” Suggs said when asked what’s impressed him about Judon this season. “Because we expected it.”,“Nothing
which have included a 14-tackle,Judon played in 14 games and delivered five sacks as a rookie, but Ravens coaches anticipated a big leap based on what they saw in the offseason. It didn’t happen right away, 2-sack game against the Bears and his career-best outing last Sunday against the Packers., as Judon managed just six tackles and no sacks in his first four games this season. But he’s blown up over the last six weeks
and when you get out there and you know what is going on around you and what other people are supposed to do,
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, “He just continues to improve,
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,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He is a very talented guy,
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,you make good decisions. He has done that.”, a very smart player. He does not make the same mistake twice. He understands the concept of the defense
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has seen enough from Judon to know he wouldn’t want to play against him.
” he said. “I’ve been impressed with him as soon as he’s gotten here.”,
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So how did Judon transform from a guy who didn’t register at all with Division I recruiters to a key piece for one of the NFL’s best defenses?
The answers lie in his six years at Grand Valley.
he didn’t know exactly what he was.,When Mitchell first glimpsed Judon as a 225-pound teenager playing in the Detroit suburbs
Judon’s Ravens teammate,
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,also played at Grand Valley. He wanted to know if Judon had spent his whole career in the little-known program., Brandon Carr
he’s going to be special,“If a guy goes that route, he has the biggest chip on his shoulder,
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,the biggest work ethic, man.”,” Carr said. “And just being here this year and seeing his work ethic
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