Matt Stover will retire with Ravens

Kicker's retirement leaves Ray Lewis as the only original Raven

May 25, 2011|Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun

And then there was one.

Kicker Matt Stover's decision to retire from football leaves Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis as the only active NFL player to have suited up for the team in its first year in Baltimore (1996).

Stover, 43, who last kicked for the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, has opted to return to Baltimore, where he played for 13 years and helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl. He and the Ravens were to hold a news conference Thursday, announcing Stover's retirement.

The third-most accurate placekicker in NFL history, Stover scored 1,464 points for the franchise, one of five league records he holds. Stover also set marks for most consecutive games with a field goal (38), most game-winning field goals (14), most games with at least four field goals (26) and most consecutive extra points made (389).

His 2,004 career points ranks fourth, all time, in the NFL.

He was instrumental in the Ravens' 2000 championship run, scoring 49 straight points for the team during a five-game stretch in which the Ravens failed to score a single touchdown. Dubbed "Mr. October" (he was the only Raven to score during the entire month), Stover won two of those games himself, kicking four field goals in a 12-0 shutout at Cleveland and five in a 15-10 victory at Jacksonville (the Ravens lost the other three).

"He was clutch," said Harry Swayne, the Ravens' assistant director of player programs who played with Stover on Baltimore's title team. "When we needed Matt, he was right there. When we didn't score a touchdown for five weeks (in 2000), it didn't matter — we knew he would kick a lot of field goals. The pressure never got to him."

In the Super Bowl, he kicked field goals of 47 and 34 yards in a 34-7 victory over the New York Giants. Stover made first-team All Pro that year, nailing 35 field goals (a personal high) in 39 tries.

One of the Ravens' most popular players, Stover remains heavily involved in community outreach. Deeply religious he would point skyward after every good kick.

"If you play for something bigger than yourself, you will play at a level greater than you could ever have imagined," he told The Sun in 2010. "I don't play for Matt Stover. I play, first, for the Lord, and, second, for the team. Both are bigger than me. When I learned how to do that, it gave me a cause and purpose that allowed me to play at a level I could never have imagined."

After 2008, when Stover's numbers sagged, the Ravens cut him loose, though many fans criticized the move. Stover stayed stoic.

"I'd love to retire as a Raven," he told The Sun then, but added that the team "doesn't owe me anything."

Indianapolis scooped him up in mid-2009 to replace the injured Adam Vinatieri. Stover responded by hitting 9 of 11 field goals during the Colts' stretch run — including a 25-yarder to defeat the Ravens — and all 33 conversion attempts.

In the playoffs, he made six straight field goals before missing the last attempt of his career, a 51-yard effort that veered two feet wide in the Colts' 31-17 championship loss to New Orleans. Then 42, Stover became the oldest player ever to participate in a Super Bowl.

He retires with two Super Bowl rings, having earned the first as a rookie with the New York Giants in 1990. A 12th round draft pick from Louisiana Tech, he signed with Cleveland the following year and accompanied the Browns when they moved to Baltimore in 1996.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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