Pleasant rushes past adversity Ravens defensive end rebounds from injury, loss to win Block honor

November 20, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Ravens defensive end Anthony Pleasant's 1996 season has been an uphill battle since the first play. Literally.

On the first play of the season-opening, 19-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders, Pleasant sprained his right ankle so severely that his foot went numb for nearly a minute. He thought his season might have ended barely after it had begun.

Pleasant, who later found he had suffered a stress fracture, spent the next five weeks going through the most frustrating experience of his seven-year career -- rehabilitating the ankle, unable to play or practice.

All of which has made his comeback that much more gratifying to Pleasant, his coaches and mostly, his teammates, who voted for Pleasant as the Ravens' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, which was presented to him last night.

Each year, a player from every NFL team is honored for exemplifying commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Winners of the award named after the late Baltimore Colts trainer are selected based on team effort as well as individual performance.

"I guess my year has fit the description of what this award is about," said the soft-spoken Pleasant, who is 6 feet 5 and 280 pounds. "This really puts a perspective on things. I look back over this year, and I know that if I didn't have Christ in my life, I don't believe I could have endured all of the things I've gone through. It's been a struggle at times."

Besides battling through a serious injury, Pleasant will remember 1996 for its off-the-field emotional trials. In early June, while he was getting settled in the Baltimore area, Pleasant's 50-year-old mother died of a heart attack. Three weeks ago, his infant

daughter, Hanna, suffered second-degree burns on her neck after she spilled hot coffee on herself in an accident at home.

Hanna endured a skin graft operation and came home from the hospital yesterday, two days after her father produced a heartening moment during his own comeback. During the Ravens' 38-20 loss to San Francisco on Sunday, Pleasant scooped up a fumble by Terry Kirby and returned it 36 yards to set up a go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter.

"I try to be humble," said Pleasant, who played his best game since returning to the lineup a month ago. "[Rookie cornerback] DeRon [Jenkins] caused the fumble, and I just happened to be there to pick it up and run with it."

Pleasant That sounded like typical Pleasant to teammate and fellow defensive lineman Tim Goad, an Ed Block Courage Award winner with New England in 1994.

"He said every step he took on that run killed him," Goad said. "But every time you ask Anthony how the ankle is, he just says it's OK. You never hear him complain.

"I've known him for two years now," Goad added. "He exemplifies what this award stands for. You've got to have a strong inner self to come back the way he has. You've got to dig down deep with something that can't be taught."

Defensive line coach Jacob Burney is a huge fan of Pleasant's for the same reason.

"Anthony has that something that sets guys apart from others, not just by being bigger, faster or stronger," Burney said. "No one around here wants to be out on the field as badly as he does. No one. He's just made of the right stuff."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: Memorial Stadium

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WLIF (101.9 FM), WJFK (1300 AM)

Line: Ravens by 4

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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