Size 17 boots and 700-pound squats: nothing’s too big for Ben Cleveland – Baltimore Ravens blog

If anyone doubts rookie Ben Cleveland can start immediately on the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line, he should walk into his family’s kitchen in Toccoa, Ga.

There are marks on the wall where Cleveland would stand and her mother would take a pencil and a ruler to line the top of her head. It reads: Ben 6 ‘2 “- he was 13 years old.

You quickly learn that nothing has ever been too big for Cleveland, the Paul Bunyan of the Deep South whose sprawling beard is as huge as his stories.

Growing up, it was easy to remember his shoe size, as it matched his age for much of his teenage years. Her cowboy boots today are size 17, extra large.

At the table, he’s already eaten half a dozen double cheeseburgers at one time. As a teenager, he was known to swallow two whole pizzas a few hours after soccer practice and before going to bed.

When he was fishing at age 11, Cleveland caught an 85-pound stingray in Myrtle Beach. He didn’t want anyone injured on the pier, so he cut the line and let it swim.

As a freshman in high school, Cleveland was sidelined by his coach, who told him Florida offered him a scholarship. Cleveland had never even watched a college football game because fall is hunting season.

Now, with Cleveland having completed their first NFL minicamp, the thought of being seen as the frontrunner to start left guard in front of Lamar Jackson could become overwhelming. But he adheres to a philosophy that is not surprising to someone dubbed Big Country.

“I’m a firm believer that if you sit here and try to control every little aspect of anything that could possibly happen, that’s how you create stress, and it all piles up on top of each other,” said Cleveland in its lagging South. “I’m just going to show up and do whatever I can to make sure everything is done the right way. It’s all I can control, so it’s really all I can handle. concentrate and worry. “

No one who’s never gone against Cleveland would describe him as laid back. While playing under-14 baseball, he knocked out the catcher in a home plate collision. Cleveland has been excluded from the tournament.

It was around this time that Cleveland thought he wasn’t going to go down the same path as his older brother, Ryan, who finished in the top 10 career homers at Georgia Southern.

“We really grew up as a baseball family,” said his dad, Derek. “Both boys played football at an early age, but it was more about keeping them in shape for the baseball season. It was our whole state of mind, then Ben just kept growing and getting a little stronger. It was just meant to be.

Cleveland grew up in a small town in northeast Georgia that’s known more for a waterfall – it’s 28 feet taller than Niagara Falls – than for producing professional athletes. The last City player before Cleveland to be selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft was five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Pat Swilling in 1986.

Cleveland’s dad is a production manager for a company that makes bathroom partitions. Her mother, Andrea, is a receptionist in a doctor’s office.

By the time Cleveland was 2, his father had taken him outside, learning to fish and hunt. His sons weren’t going to spend hours playing Madden.

“For me, just sitting around playing video games is a waste of time,” Derek said. “When they had free time, I wanted them to be outside and enjoy what God gave them rather than sitting in front of a television or whatever gadget they had in their hands.”

When it comes to bragging, Ben is the best at duck hunting. His father is the best at deer hunting. Fishing is considered a draw.

Last year, Ben slaughtered his biggest deer on a friend’s farm. He thinks it was a 10 point dollar and sent it to a taxidermist.

“I guess I’ll just throw him on the wall and find a nice photo to put next to him, I think,” Cleveland said.

The hunt has become more than a moment of bonding for the Cleveland family. With two growing boys, they had to buy five gallons of milk and three loaves of bread each week. There were times when the grocery bill totaled $ 400 or $ 500.

“It was crazy,” Derek said. “And that’s one of the reasons we hunted and fished the way we did. It was to keep the freezer full and try to supplement some of the costs elsewhere because it was getting expensive.”

Strength and agility

Cleveland knows how to make an immediate impact, becoming the first freshman in more than three decades to debut on the offensive line at Stephens County High School. He averaged six pancake blocks per game in his first season and increased that to double digits in his sophomore year.

But his favorite game came in defense. As a junior, he turned a strip bag into a 25 yard fumble return for a touchdown. Cleveland recovered the ball and crossed the quarter before reaching the end zone for the score late in the game.

“I went to bed on the sidelines,” Cleveland said. “I said to the coach, ‘I’m done.’ I just sat on the sidelines and watched the rest of the game from there.

At the University of Georgia, Cleveland not only fended off defensive ball linemen in the running game, but he was also an outstanding passing protector. He has allowed a total of four taps on 473 blocks over the past two seasons (22 games), the best success rate (99.2%) by an SEC right guard, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Few linemen were more disciplined than Cleveland, who did not commit a penalty in 520 snaps last season.

At 6 feet 6 inches and 357 pounds, Cleveland has the strength to match her height. In the weight room, he can squat 700 pounds and his personal best bench press is 545 pounds. The Georgia strength trainer posted a video on Twitter from Cleveland doing six reps of 160-pound barbell presses with one arm.

What really appealed to the Scouts was his speed. A shirtless Cleveland ran the 40-yard scoreboard in 4.97 seconds, which is the type of movement Baltimore needs when his guards shoot and execute zone pattern blocks.

“I think we have a pretty well defined and clear understanding of what we want to be in attack. It fits that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a big, strong, powerful guy who likes to manhandle people, and that’s how we want to play.

The wait is over

In this year’s NFL Draft, the Ravens had no second-round pick. Baltimore therefore had to wait 62 picks on Day 2 – lasting 4 hours and 11 minutes – before picking Cleveland.

The reality was that the Ravens had waited much longer than that to catch him.

“John has been talking about Cleveland for about two months, really,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said after using the No. 94 pick on Cleveland. “So it was a relief for me to see him available when we chose. It was John’s choice.”

Harbaugh intervened by saying, “I’m not on your back now.”

Harbaugh admitted that he wanted DeCosta to trade to make sure the team got Cleveland.

“Ben was a guy we really, really wanted to have,” Harbaugh said. “I know I was a little nervous Nellie for a while, [but] we held on and we had our guy.

The Cleveland fan club has grown. When the Ravens posted a video of Cleveland at the rookie minicamp, former WWE Champion Braun Strowman tweeted, “You fam?

Cleveland replied, “We split up somewhere around the birth, I’m pretty sure.”

Cleveland is now fighting Tire Phillips and Ben Powers for the Baltimore left goalie position. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman praised Cleveland’s physical presence on the inside and how he will help the Ravens play “big ball up front.”

“He was the best race blocker in the draft this year,” said Roman. “We were able to draft him out when we were, which is amazing. We’re really excited to make Ben an absolute offensive goalie for the road standings.

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