Alan Ricard: Old-School Fullback

WESTMINSTER -- Wearing a shirt and tie instead of a helmet and shoulder pads, Alan Ricard kept scanning the parking lot.<br><Br> Whenever a potential customer pulled up at this Texas car dealership, the Baltimore Ravens' rugged fullback would track them down as if they were a blitzing linebacker.

It was five years ago and Ricard was out of football after being discarded by the Dallas Cowboys.

Now, Ricard has established himself as a top-notch lead blocker who helped NFL Offensive Player of the Year Jamal Lewis gain 2,066 yards last season, the second-highest rushing total in league history. Ricard was named a Pro Bowl alternate.

"I didn't have my heart in selling cars, but it was something to keep me off the couch," said Ricard, who's entering his third season as a starter. "It made me so much hungrier. I told everyone, ‘I know what to do next time I get a shot.'

"In Dallas, I was doing stuff that was out of character for me. Now, I just work hard and get the job done."

A former standout at Northeast Louisiana, Ricard, 27, joined the Ravens' practice squad in 2000 when former director of pro personnel James Harris, now the Jacksonville Jaguars' vice president of player personnel, recommended him.

Since then, Ricard has blocked for Lewis' 1,327-yard total in 2002 and contributed heavily to the Ravens' top-ranked rushing attack last season.

"James Harris found Alan in that car lot, so to speak," running backs coach Matt Simon said. "I think he has Pro Bowl potential. The beautiful thing about Alan is he took it on his own and showed that we could have faith in him to get the job done."

When Ricard first joined the Ravens, he made his mark at an unenviable task: blocking All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis.

Although the one-time understudy to former Pro Bowl fullback Sam Gash doesn't have ideal size at 5-foot-11 and 237 pounds, he continually hurled his body at Lewis to keep him from sprinting unimpeded to the football.

"Ray is a really gifted linebacker, but he would be the first one to tell you that Alan as a young rookie was one of the few fullbacks that would come in and block him and stay on him," Simon said. "Not very many people can get on Ray's chest and stay there. Alan kind of earned his spurs that training camp."

Ricard's style, if you can characterize a fullback's bullish approach as stylistic, is brutally simplistic. He bursts out of his three-point stance, initiates contact with defenders and drives his legs to clear a path.

"He's a smart guy, but his aggressiveness is what really impresses me," special-teams ace Harold Morrow said. "He's an old-school fullback."

One theory for why Ricard has emerged as a late bloomer is his low-key personality and lack of imposing size and speed.

"Alan is a guy who's self-made," Simon said. "He doesn't run as fast as some of them, doesn't lift as much or jump as high, but he gets the job done."

The Ravens averaged 167.1 rushing yards per game last season for an average of 4.8 yards per carry and a total of 2,674 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

Of course, Ricard is overshadowed by Lewis and the other skill players who touch the football most often. But he's definitely appreciated in his locker room.

"He's as good as there is in the league," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Ricard.

The fullback's most notable highlight from last season, besides regularly bulldozing linebackers on Lewis' breakaway runs, came against the San Diego Chargers.

Ricard recovered a Lewis fumble on the hop and rumbled 50 yards for a touchdown.

Now, Ricard has set his sights on actually being selected to the Pro Bowl. Kansas City Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson was the AFC representative last season.

"I'm getting respect around the league that I am a good fullback," Ricard said. "It makes you work even harder to get that close and not make it."

In three seasons, Ricard has averaged 4.2 yards a carry and 6.4 yards a catch.

Simon said he wouldn't describe Ricard as possessing good hands, but can't recall him ever dropping a pass.

"I don't think pressure affects Alan," Simon said. "He's a guy who rises to the occasion and wants to prove he has something to give to the game."
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


 


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