Ravens' McCrary lines up for shot at public service

June 08, 1999|By Ken Rosenthal

Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary sat at a play table assembling Lego pieces, trying to get 11-year-old Joey Crenshaw to smile.

"See?" McCrary said quietly, his eyes sparkling. "This is a stretcher I made for the quarterback."

Crenshaw, a fifth-grader at Cromwell Valley Elementary, all but yawned, telling McCrary he wanted to be a baseball player.

McCrary then went to Plan B, bribing the kid with an offer of a Lamborghini.

"They're illegal in Maryland," Crenshaw said.

"No, they're not," McCrary replied. "Only certain types are."

Soon after, the cameras started rolling, with Crenshaw reading aloud from "Where Fish Go In Water," and McCrary gazing at him with pride.

The scene was one of many filmed yesterday for the longest-running public-service campaign in television history, featuring the NFL and the United Way.

The spots, lasting 10 and 30 seconds, will show one of the Ravens' biggest kids -- and most ferocious players -- at his gentle best.

Holding a toddler. Playing with children. Posing with handicapped adults. Flashing his multi- million-dollar smile -- fill in the blanks, Art.

The shoot took more than four hours, and director Lee Anderson had to contend with intense heat, screaming children and McCrary's craving for a sausage-and-pepperoni pizza.

The United Way ads, produced by a California-based company for the last 26 years, always prove worth the trouble. It's quite a sight when stars of America's roughest, toughest sport appear out of uniform to mingle with the less fortunate.

Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden filmed a spot in 1997 at the Druid Hill YMCA. Yesterday was McCrary's turn, and he happily volunteered his time even though his future in Baltimore is in question as he enters the final year of his contract.

The Ravens asked McCrary to participate because of his outstanding record of community service with the Maryland Special Olympics and Police Athletic League.

The NFL asked the United Way of Central Maryland to find a location where it could shoot a variety of scenes on short notice, and the chapter selected the Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens (BARC) in Towson.

Some of the participants yesterday were from BARC; others were children from nearby elementary schools, and pre-schoolers who attend the facility's day-care center.

McCrary, surprisingly enough, said he wasn't that familiar with the United Way spots, explaining, "I don't watch football." But he recently filmed a spot for the State Department of Transportation, and is relaxed in front of the camera.

Not that yesterday went exactly according to plan.

The 6-foot-4, 270-pound McCrary once blew out his knee when his dog pulled him down the steps. Holding Olivia Sanders on his hip during the first scene proved nearly as damaging -- and Olivia doesn't turn 3 until next month.

"I'm not used to carrying a kid," said McCrary, a bachelor whose forearms glistened with sweat as he stood in front of BARC headquarters on York Road. "My back is killing me."

The first scene also featured BARC janitor Andy Lawson and landscapers Paul Jackson and Terry Alcarese. Day-care worker Sandy Lay held 5-month-old Justin Rothmel, who beat the heat by sucking on a pacifier.

McCrary coaxed a kiss out of little Olivia -- "You've got a girlfriend!" shouted Anderson, the director. If only the rest of the scene went as smoothly. It took multiple takes for everyone to look at the camera and say "thank you" in unison.

"The one time we had it," McCrary grumbled, "a truck went roaring by."

McCrary arched his back and rotated his trunk after finally putting down Olivia, took a break to speak with reporters and a Special Olympics athlete, then moved inside to the day-care center.

It was there that he met Joey Crenshaw, the Lamborghini expert. Rachel Hilson, 3, joined the two of them, and McCrary told her to think of the camera as a friendly robot.

"Have you seen ET?" he asked. "He's a friendly ET."

That drew a smile out of Hilson, who began building a Lego airplane. Anderson, needing extra footage, asked Crenshaw and McCrary to engage in more conversation.

"Did you injure any quarterbacks last year?" Crenshaw asked.

"Hopefully I did," McCrary replied. "I'm sure a couple of them went home with sore bones."

From there, McCrary moved to another area of the play room littered with blocks, rejoining Olivia and other preschoolers.

"Tell Snoopy I said hello," he told one girl.

"I like Barbie," the girl replied.

"Tell Barbie I said hello," McCrary said.

As for Olivia, her desire to participate about matched Albert Belle's desire to run to first base, but who will know once the spots start airing?

"Here, you're getting results you can see," McCrary said to the camera.

McCrary's final mission at the center was to read a 60-second radio spot off a TelePrompTer. Anderson hoisted a curtain and pleaded for silence, but the children kept interrupting on the other side.

"That would have been me as a kid, making all the noise, not listening to anybody," McCrary said, smiling.

Just then, a young boy poked his head into the shoot.

"I have a boo-boo. I need a Band-Aid," he said.

McCrary read his spot. He ate his pizza. And then he and the crew headed to PSINet Stadium for one final take.

"Here in Baltimore, the United Way is working," McCrary said.


Four hours of work, 30 seconds that will touch your heart.

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