Matt Stover: a good player and a real role model

May 27, 2011

Matt Stover's decision to retire from professional football is not surprising. He is 43 years old in a field where the average age Is about 26. But in the years he played for the Ravens and during the one season when his family stayed in the Baltimore area and he commuted to Indianapolis to kick for the Colts, he was that rare commodity, a genuine role model.

He was very good at his profession. His 1,464 points with the Ravens make him the team's all-time leading scorer. His heroics, trotting onto to the field to send the football tumbling between the uprights for game-winning field goal, became a fixture of Baltimore's Sunday afternoons. He was the epitome of grace under pressure.

Equally impressive, but in a quieter way, has been the mark he has made on the community. He gave freely of his time to charitable events, showing up, for example, at a bike ride raising money for autism awareness, always dependable, never demanding star treatment.

In the five week period in 2009 when he was "unemployed" — let go by the Ravens and not yet signed by the Colts — he turned up on local gridirons, helping high school and college kids master the art of field goal kicking. One of those kids was Alex Lachman, the kicker on the Johns Hopkins football team. Mr. Stover and Jim Margraff, the Hopkins coach, were car pool dads, taking turns driving their daughters to McDonough School. Mr. Stover offered to help Mr. Margraff's kicker and critiqued the collegian's style during steamy sessions on the McDonough field. Months later, those sessions paid off as Mr. Lachman, with one second remaining in a Division III playoff game against Thomas More, kicked a 43 yard field goal to give Hopkins a storybook 31-29 win.

When told of his protégé's success, Mr. Stover said, "I knew he had it in him."

The Hopkins kid did have a good teacher, one of the best kickers and most generous spirits to play professional football.

Rob Kasper

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