A Life In Full Focus

Foxworth Has His Head In The Game, Other Interests, Too

December 25, 2009|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

Domonique Foxworth knows what this story will lead to. He's prepared.

Every time someone tries to write about an aspect of his life outside football, there is someone who will read the story and find it infuriating. They'll cite it as an example that he doesn't care enough about his job, because if he did, he would never stop thinking about football. During Foxworth's senior year at Maryland, he got letters from fans suggesting he spend less time reading books and more time watching game film.

"You can't read and tackle, apparently," Foxworth said.

The idea that a football player can have intellectual interests that do not detract from his athletic pursuits still seems foreign to some. Couldn't he just play video games in his downtime instead?

He could. And, in fact, he does. He and Ravens safety Ed Reed love playing "FIFA Soccer 2010" on Foxworth's Xbox in his basement home theater. But there is something else Foxworth wants to show off in his basement.

There's a framed letter from civil rights leader Malcolm X, explaining to a critic why he will not be patient when demanding equal rights for blacks. There's a signed painting of the Little Rock Nine looking terrified but also courageous, marching forward one timid step at a time in 1957, about to change history. There are framed and signed photographs of Muhammad Ali, Thurgood Marshall, Marcus Garvey, Rosa Parks, Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

There's the original copy of Life magazine from the week after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It was handed to him by a stranger in Denver after Foxworth gave a speech in 2005 on King's birthday, outlining what people - not just black people, but all people - could do to honor King's legacy. It inspired him to start a collection of civil rights artifacts, which he now displays in the basement of his Pikesville home.

It has become something of an addiction. Foxworth still drives the same car he bought when he signed his rookie deal, but he has spent far more on items with mostly sentimental value. In his spare time, he scours the Internet for coveted civil rights memorabilia. It is a constant reminder that this country's history, good and bad, will always be the story of Foxworth's personal history.

"When I get the opportunity, I'm not going to shy away from sharing my opinion," Foxworth, 26, said. "I never have, no matter how unpopular, because there are people who need to be spoken for who can't speak. ... I know I kind of get put in a box as 'the smart athlete' everywhere I go, but I'm nowhere near the smartest or the most well-rounded guy on the team. I just speak out about this kind of stuff."

You might be asking why you should care about this. Maybe, as a few fans commenting on The Baltimore Sun's Ravens Insider blog have pointed out, you would like to have Foxworth as a neighbor more than as a starting cornerback on your favorite football team. But as the Ravens prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday - a game that has emerged as perhaps the most important of the season - Foxworth has become one of the most important players on the Ravens defense.

His two interceptions Sunday against the Chicago Bears earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, as well as a measure of redemption after withstanding some heavy criticism early in the season. With cornerback Lardarius Webb out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the Ravens need Foxworth to play some of the best football of his career, especially with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger coming off a game in which he passed for 503 yards.

And the reason Foxworth is capable of doing that - the reason he wasn't bothered by all the vitriol from fans who felt he wasn't living up to his four-year, $28 million contract - is that he is a man in full. Foxworth, who grew up in Randallstown and starred at the University of Maryland, is more important to the Ravens than his performance on the field. He is a steady presence and a calming influence in the locker room. There is a reason he was elected to be the youngest player ever to serve on the NFL Players Association executive committee.

Ask him whether he has learned anything about himself this season, and Foxworth smiles. "I thought I knew myself pretty well even before the season," he said.

"He's a very real, very genuine person," Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said. "And those are rare to find in any walk of life, but especially in the NFL. He's a guy who just has no agenda. It doesn't matter if you're the best player on the team, the worst player on the team, or a practice squad guy, he's going to treat you the same way. He's going to be the same way if we're winning every game or losing every game. He's very consistent that way, and that's a big sign of maturity. He cares about others, not just himself."

Foxworth will be the first to point out that he hasn't always played up to his own expectations this season, much less the expectations of Ravens fans.

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