It wasn’t long ago when the highlight of DeAngelo Tyson’s week was strapping on his helmet and playing under the Friday night lights of Womack Field at Statesboro High.
Late Sunday night, Tyson was still dancing around a football field, albeit on a slightly bigger stage — Super Bowl XLVII at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Then a Georgia Bulldog, Tyson was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He made the Ravens’ roster and gained more playing time as the 2012-13 season progressed.
His rookie year came to a fairy-tale end Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII as he recorded a tackle and assisted on three more in the Ravens’ 34-31 world-championship-clinching victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
"Oh, man," Tyson said during a phone interview on Monday. "It was just such a crazy experience. It was so exciting, but it really hasn’t even hit me yet. It’s going to be great to just let it sink in."
Just about every aspect of Tyson’s life and football career makes for a pretty amazing story.
Tyson originally came to Statesboro as a ward of the state when he was 11 years old. Growing up at Joseph’s Home for Boys, he overcame some difficult moments early in life before excelling on the football field for the Blue Devils.
After four stellar seasons at Statesboro — including a 2005 GHSA Class AAAA state championship — Tyson headed up to Athens where he continued to be a defensive force for the Bulldogs.
Having conquered quite a few challenges — both in life and on the football field — Tyson scored one of his biggest victories to date.
Tyson had seen limited time in the Ravens’ run through the AFC playoffs, but saw an expanded role Sunday night. With the 49ers employing a fast-paced offense, the 6-foot-2, 310-pound defensive lineman was on the field in fourth quarter of one of the wildest Super Bowls in history.
Tyson wasn’t rattled, even in the third quarter when the 49ers scored 17-straight points in a four-minute span.
"I was too focused on the game plan to be too nervous," Tyson said. "We were just trying to find a way to win."
Hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in his first year was a great start for Tyson’s professional career. Another highlight has been sharing the field with some all-time greats who are winding down their careers.
Playing behind Tyson in the Ravens’ defense were linebacker Ray Lewis, who finished his career with Sunday’s win, and safety Ed Reed, a perennial All-Pro who is also contemplating retirement.
Both Lewis and Reed are likely shoe-ins for the Hall of Fame down the road. For now, they’ve been giving younger players a crash course in being a great defensive player in the NFL.
"Playing with guys like that is just awesome," Tyson said. "You get to see how they work and prepare for everything. I’ve learned a lot and I think that being around those guys has helped me to grow."
Tyson may still have plenty to learn as he returns for his second year in the pros, but there is no doubt that he is eager to throw himself into the hard work necessary to become a reliable defensive end in Baltimore.
In fact, it’s quite fitting that the Ravens were the team that welcomed Tyson into the NFL. From the vaunted Statesboro Blue Devil defenses of the mid 2000s, to the always-ferocious Bulldog squads at UGA, Tyson has served as a key component of teams that pride themselves on defense.
The Ravens are about as hard-hitting as it gets in the NFL, and Tyson is glad to be among their ranks.
"Defense is such an important part of the game," Tyson said. "It’s always been what I have loved to do. It’s pretty nice to have been a part of some really good teams and really good defenses. We take a lot of pride in what we do on the field."
Less than 24 hours removed from the Super Bowl win, Tyson said he was already looking forward to offseason workouts in hopes of playing an even bigger role for the Ravens next season.
Of course, he’s also looking forward to basking in the glow of being a Super Bowl champion. Hundreds of thousands will be on hand today at 11 a.m. as the Ravens parade through the streets of Baltimore in celebration of their world title.
"I can’t wait for it," Tyson said. "I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I’m sure it’s going to be a really special experience. I’ll enjoy it and then go back to work so that we can do it again."
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.