NEW ORLEANS — — Success can change a person, but it probably won't change Joe Flacco.
Only a few hours after the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII and the quarterback was named the game's MVP, Flacco appeared at a news conference where he was presented the keys to a new 2014 Corvette Stingray.
Flacco seemed bashful when he posed for pictures, almost embarrassed.
"Hey, if you say there's going to be some kind of celebrity with it, I'm cool with that, but I don't know if I'll ever be comfortable with it," Flacco said. "I kind of like to go about my business. The people in Baltimore have always been great, so it'll be cool to go back there and just kind of see their reaction that our whole team gets when we get back there."
That's vintage Joe, and that's what is remarkable and charming about him.
Flacco won't care about the hype or the praise. He has never sweated the criticism. About an hour before the news conference, Flacco was seen in the parking lot with his child and wife pushing a stroller.
That's why he has persevered. Flash is not part of his game.
At some time during his five years in Baltimore, we've all criticized Flacco. "He didn't show enough emotion." "He didn't look at enough photos on the sidelines." "He doesn't have pocket awareness."
And we were all right.
But while the complaints kept coming, Flacco kept working and getting better. Once the Ravens replaced offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with Jim Caldwell, everything seemed to come together for him.
He was unflappable during the postseason, completing 73 of 126 passes for 1,140 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. The passing yards are third most by any quarterback in a postseason and the touchdown passes tied Joe Montana (1989) and Kurt Warner (2008) for the most by any player in a single postseason.
Super Bowl night ended in redemption for the much-maligned Flacco, who completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
Sunday night would have been the perfect time for Flacco to take a shot at Cameron. But nope. Not a word.
"I don't think we ever lost faith that this was where we were going to be," Flacco said. "This has been a long journey, and I don't think it would be quite as enjoyable as it would be if we hadn't gone through all this stuff that we've been through in the last couple years, this year. So, I think we kept the faith all along, and this is where we envisioned ourselves and I think that's why we're here."
The Ravens will soon enter negotiations with Flacco about a long-term contract, and that can be a scary prospect if you have a player with a poor attitude, work ethic issues or a criminal history.
Some players also get lazy once they sign the big contract, but that's not Flacco.
"I think the same Joe you have seen work hard during the previous offseasons will be the same Joe that shows up for offseason workouts and attends the first minicamp," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. "He'll be the same Joe with the same work ethic because success or failure doesn't change him one way or the other."
He is simply Joe, a well-grounded kid from Audubon, N.J., who married his high school sweetheart. Is he boring?
No. He's just Joe.
"That's what it's all about. I haven't seen my son in a couple days, so it was just cool to see him," Flacco said about meeting with his family Monday morning. "It's great to enjoy this with the family. Without those guys, this wouldn't mean near as much as it does."
That says a lot about his character, because what defines a man is what he does when no one is watching.
His teammates love him and the attention he is now getting.
"It's well-deserved," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "He has taken a lot of criticism over his career for whatever reason, but we've always believed in him. We've known the kind of player that he is. He showed up on the biggest stage and performed. It's unbelievable. He deserves everything."
"I think he has grown by leaps and bounds, week after week after week," said Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. "He's been winning a lot of games, obviously, throughout his five years. This is a great culmination and the start of a great career."
Then it was off to Disney World for Flacco, part of a hectic schedule that follows. But Flacco isn't a celebrity. He was starstruck after the game Sunday night.
"I think everybody was just having an awesome time," Flacco said. "I went and spent some time with the family and then we went to our post-game party. I got to meet Jay-Z, I got to meet Beyoncé, and that was pretty cool. I don't think that would happen if we would've lost the game."
Asked about his upcoming schedule, Flacco said "You guys know better than I do, probably. I've never been through this before. I anticipate not getting very much [sleep], but it's all for good reason. It was an unbelievable game [Sunday] night, and it was just awesome to be a part of it."
He'll never change. He'll be the same old Joe.
"The biggest thing is the influence at home," Flacco said when asked about being a role model. "Listen to your parents; they've been through a lot. They know what's best for you. Most parents have your best interest at heart and understand how to raise you the right way and bring you up in this world the right way. They want to protect you. I think that's the biggest thing. If you listen to them, you're going to grow up pretty well and have a pretty good life.
"Do that and chase your dreams. Be confident and believe in yourself. None of us get to this point without having confidence in ourselves, and I think that was one of the biggest things instilled in me as a young kid was just that belief in you. I think that goes a really, really long way."
It's typical Joe.
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