Drafted in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens after graduating from Syracuse, Art is now a Super Bowl champion and a father. From his star-struck meeting with Ray Lewis his rookie year to training in full pads with his UFC champion brother Jon, Art gives us an inside look into the perspective of a committed athlete and a nurturing oldest brother.
LR: Do you guys still wrestle like you did as children?
ART: Yeah, yeah. We still wrestle, today. Any time we get off, when we all have some off time, we still go at it. Today, we’re grown men. It’s not as physical because I don’t want to hurt anyone. I was a really good wrestler growing up. Ask my brother, Jon. He invites me out to his training camps. That’s a skill I had. I was ranked in the country, when I came out of high school. I got burned out and went the football route, and it worked out for me.
What was your favorite team growing up?
I didn’t really have one. I was one of the band-wagoners and liked whoever was winning that year.
Did you follow any of your teammates from Syracuse?
Mike Williams plays for Tampa Bay. Curtis Brinkley is with the San Diego Chargers. There’s a few of us in the league, and we all stay in contact and try to get together in the off-season.
Do you follow Syracuse basketball?
Absolutely. I went to a basketball school. I love watching those guys. They always have so many guys in the NBA.
What’s your prediction this year?
I would say the final four of the big tournament but I don’t see them winning it.
They always started off really hot. I don’t know what it is, I think they choke in the end. We’ll see. Coach did a great job with most recruits in there.
Does it bother you that they’re leaving the Big East for the ACC?
No, I think it’s interesting. I think it’s going to help our recruiting even more. Those are the top teams. It’s going to be really exciting to see.
You got drafted in the fifth round by the Ravens. Your brother was drafted in the first round by the Patriots. Who had the harder road to be successful?
I think there was a little more pressure on him. Whenever you’re a top draft pick people have really high expectations for that player to play right away, with the media scrutiny and everything that comes along with it. It was hard for me as far as making the team, but I knew if I lived up to my abilities, and with a little less pressure, I would develop as a player right away.
What was it like to be in the locker room as a defensive rookie with stars like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs?
My eyes were as big as silver dollars. You grow up watching these guys on TV. Me and my brothers, playing with Ray Lewis is something we competed for, and now I am two lockers down from him. I remember the first time he told me, “Hey Jones, go grab me some shorts over there.” I was honored. I was sprinting, like, “Here you go, Mr. Ray Lewis, sir.” It was awesome. He’s just one of the guys now and I’m comfortable around him. I’m past being star struck. It’s just cool. It’s unbelievable to say you’ve played with one of the greats, with someone who will definitely go to the Hall of Fame.
Does he really bring the intensity he’s known for?
At six o’clock in the morning, he’s fired up. “Hey, Jones, ready to practice?” He’s a guy that you love having in the locker room. The passion for the sport is unbelievable.
Now your former teammate Jameel McClain is filling in for him while he’s injured. When you got to the Ravens, did he take you under his wing?
Jameel has been my best friend since he was a junior in college. I think I was a freshman. He took me under his wing when I was a young kid in college. He was my team captain, and he’s the guy who has always been there for me. When I got here it was kind of like having a cheat sheet. I knew what to do, what the coach was like. He would try to tell me just little things like, “Hey man, do something to show the coaches that you want it every day. Do something on film. Run hard with the ball. Do this and that.” He helped me—this playbook that we have is very difficult. We have one of the toughest playbooks in the NFL. It’s about that knowledge of different plays. Jameel really helped me break it down. “This play is similar to this play.” He’s really a mentor to me, so he helped me out a lot. I give him a lot of credit.
If you could play with any player, living or dead, who would you want to play with?
I’ve got the best, already, with Ray Lewis.
What advice did you give your brother Chandler?
sheet. I told him what the draft was going to be like. I helped him with getting ready for it, making the decision to come out early, deciding what he should be eating during the draft and with some of the interview questions he’d be asked about the draft. A lot of guys don’t get that. I told him what to expect his rookie year. I made his transition a lot easier.
You got to play against your brother for the first time earlier in the season. Did you do anything special to prepare for the game?
Talked a lot of junk. We play each other once a week through a video game online. I was the Ravens and he was New England and I blew him out. I posted the score and some pictures all over Twitter. It was pretty cool. I told him, “Get ready because this is what’s going to happen when we play you guys.”
In that game, you go up in the last two minutes of the game. Was it going through your mind that you had to stop Brady because your brother was across the field?
It was really hard for me to focus. I didn’t get into the game until maybe halftime. Me and him were giving each other the finger. We were just having fun out there. It’s really hard to focus. I’m looking at him making plays and I’m like, “Man, this kid’s going to be something great.” I had to lock in at halftime, I’ve got to admit. I needed to win this game and not worry about what he’s doing, And we got the job done.
Your brother already has success. We’re talking about defensive rookie of the year. You’ve got a lot of tackles but not sacks yet. Is he busting on you about that?
No, not all all. We try to push each other. I wasn’t disappointed when he got his first sack, and I hadn’t had one yet in my third year in the league. It’ll come. I came close this week. I just missed him.
How different is it than college?
It’s odd. The quarterbacks are really good in this league. It’s not like college. These guys have a clock in their head. Like Tom Brady, he has the ball and it’s gone in less than two seconds. It’s tough. It’s definitely tough in this league. It’s something I’m working to get better at.
How often do you talk to your brother Jon?
I try to talk to him oh the phone at least twice a week. He’ll call me or I’ll call him. Or communicate on Twitter or something like that. Our schedules are so different and so busy.
Does it make you nervous when he fights?
I get more nervous watching him fight than when I’m playing football. It’s just crazy. Even though I know he’s going to do well and he trains really hard for the sports, it’s like caged animals in there. There’s nothing you can do. It’s my little brother, and I can’t help him out. Thank God he hasn’t gotten seriously hurt yet.
Are a lot of guys on the [Raven’s] team fans?
Yeah, Ray Lewis is a big one.
Does he hit you up for tickets?
I hook him up all season. Last season was the first time they met, and Ray Lewis was a bigger fan of my brother than my brother was of him, so it was funny. They were both star struck. It was a unique situation.
When you and Chandler played earlier, what did your parents do?
My mom was rooting for me, of course, but she didn’t tell Chandler that. She was like, “He went in the first round so I’m going to root for you.” It was cool. They wore mutual colors for the game. It was definitely a celebration of our family.
How do they pick which game to go to?
Whoever is closest. They try to make it to most games when they’re out of church.
What did you learn from your brother Jon that’s helped you in football?
His mindset. That warrior spirit. I go train with him in the off-season. The way he trained and how he does both: studying and training. He’s my younger brother but he is wise. We both take bits and pieces, and we both encourage each other.
How is your training different when you’re training with him, compared to time spent with your trainers?
He’s got no helmet on and a small glove. Me, I’ve got everything on. I look like a peewee football player with all the pads, the elbow shin. I’ll spar with him a bit, but that’s not my profession.
Does he go easy on you?
No, he doesn’t. He kicked me one time in the gut and once to my ribs. All of a sudden, it’s a real fight.
If you weren’t a foot ball player, what would you be doing?
That’s a good question. Probably wrestling. Maybe [the Olympic] wrestling team.
Have you thought about your goals past the NFL?
That’s something I’ve been leaning towards a bit as far as UFC. We’ll see. Right now, I’m just focusing on football.
You’re awful big in that crowd.
I have to lose some weight. I think the heavyweight is 265. I’m about 310 now, so, I have a little weight to lose. I do really well with the heavyweights. I trained with a few of them and I hold my own.
What’s on your play list right now?
I have a little of everything, a little country, a little R&B, a little rap.
How old is your son now?
He just turned three last October.
Fast forward a few years. He’s got the good genes from the family and he says, “Dad, I want to play football.” What will you tell him?
What type of efforts are you involved in to give back to the community?
I have a toy drive for Christmas. I have a lot of things going on. I have a turkey drive coming up for Thanksgiving. In the summertime, I run the Summer Activities Program for underprivileged kids that can’t afford to do things. I take them horseback riding, golfing, camping. It’s a lot of fun. Every single day we do something different. Every day we’re working with the kids on their life skills, like how to change a tire, how to change [engine] oil. I love doing that. Something that I’m going to take over once my mom hands it down to me. My mom has diabetes and she can’t see, now. It’s starting to limit her.
What are you most grateful for in your life?
Family. My family is everything. My brothers Jon and Chandler—they’re both my best friends. I can talk to them whenever I to. Sometimes we talk about sports. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about sports. We’re just there for each other.