His parents, his girlfriend and his teammates all say the same thing about Domonique Foxworth. The Ravens cornerback might look like a 26-year-old, he might run like a 26-year-old, but he thinks and conducts his life like a 40-year-old - always has. n His parents considered him more responsible than his brother, who is two years older. His NFL mentor, Champ Bailey, considered him the levelheaded one in their relationship. Whether the subject is President Barack Obama, the role of a black athlete in modern society or the NFL players union's treatment of retired players, Foxworth can deliver a well-crafted opinion.
His ability to react, not with emotion but with a cool assessment of facts and priorities, has carried him through a complicated early career. On the verge of reporting to his first Ravens training camp next month, Foxworth already has endured the violent death of a beloved teammate, frustrating stints on the bench, an abrupt trade and free agency.
In the face of such obstacles, he helped establish a teen center in his murdered friend's name, became the youngest member of the NFL players union's executive committee and earned a $28 million deal with his hometown team.
It would be shortsighted to say he's worldly and thoughtful compared with other football players. Foxworth is worldly and thoughtful compared with most people.
"He's very methodical about everything he does," says Foxworth's father, Lorinzo. "When things come up, you're not going to get an off-the-wall reaction from him. There's going to be a thought-out process that goes into it."
Foxworth's mother, Karen, laughs at her husband's words. "That is directly descended from his father," she says. "They're both old men in young men's bodies."
Lorinzo Foxworth was in the midst of a 20-year Army career when Domonique was born in Oxford, England, in 1983. The family moved to the Baltimore area as he reached kindergarten age and settled in Randallstown. Domonique and his elder brother, Dion, built their existence around sports.
"It's all we did," Foxworth says. "If it was a rainy day, we'd play video games, but aside from that, it was the basketball hoop over by Deer Park Elementary School or we would just go up and play football in the field."
Though he was a scrawny kid, Foxworth settled quickly on the game that would become his vocation.
"I think football was a big deal to me because in my eyes, as a little kid, it was a manly, masculine game," he says.
Never one to think small, he told his father he would win the Heisman Trophy when he was 7 and crafted a cardboard version of the ring he planned to win in the 2006 Super Bowl. (He would, in fact, fall one game short of playing in that game as a Denver Bronco.)
"He never wanted to do anything else," Dion Foxworth says. Lorinzo had played in high school but hardly pushed his boys toward the sport. He and his wife attended every youth league game, but his sole stab at coaching Domonique ended quickly.
After one run, he told his son that he could have gained 5 more yards if he had juked and cut back to the middle.
"He looked at me with intensity and said, 'Daddy, you're not the one on the football field,' " Lorinzo recalls. "That kind of let me know that he was not just out there playing around. He was a student of the game."
Foxworth inherited the analytical bent from his father, who insisted that every experience, good or bad, be probed for explanations and lessons. It wasn't enough to be happy about a win or sad about a loss. The Foxworths talked about why games had unfolded the way they had.
The family ate dinner together every night, and the Foxworths encouraged their boys to express opinions (even dissenting ones) about the household and the issues of the day. They traveled frequently and watched CNN together. If Karen and Lorinzo hit the streets to help register voters or paint a rundown school, they took their sons along.
But in their quest to produce well-rounded people, the Foxworths never discouraged Domonique's football dreams. In fact, they bristled along with him when a high school teacher said he should take a Duke scholarship because he would never make the NFL and would at least get a good education that way.
"We've never had the 'no, that's not possible' mentality," Lorinzo says.
Western Tech had a new and undistinguished football program when Foxworth arrived. But his talents as a running back, defensive back and kick returner fueled a rapid turnaround from a 1-9 record his sophomore year to 8-2 his junior year. He quickly became one of the area's top recruits and a key early signing in Ralph Friedgen's quest to rebuild Maryland football in 2000.
Foxworth lived up to expectations on the field, making 40 starts for the Terps and earning All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors twice. But he might have wowed teammates more off the field, where he graduated in 3 1/2 years. Friedgen quipped that Foxworth could run for governor.