- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — He easily could have stayed home Monday, waiting for a phone call that never would come, watching ESPN to see if his name would pop up on the screen saying he was voted to his first Pro Bowl.

Instead, Bart Scott wanted to make a difference.

“I was down at Johns Hopkins visiting a kid in the hospital and that kind of puts things in perspective for you. There he is a quadriplegic and he picked me as his favorite player,” the Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker said. “I had an opportunity to go down there and hang out with him and try and brighten his day. That’s what football and that’s what status is all about, going back and giving back to somebody.”

Being rejected for the Pro Bowl is an all-too-familiar story for Scott. The Ravens signed Scott as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Division I-AA Southern Illinois in 2002, giving him a $500 signing bonus. The Ravens may have been the only team interested in Scott.

Fast forward four years and Scott has come into his own. He was the AFC’s defensive player of the month for September and is first on the team with 93 tackles He also has two interceptions and 9 sacks — more sacks than any of the AFC’s inside linebackers who were selected to the Pro Bowl.

“I went to [Scott] and I said, ‘Look, if [the Pro Bowl’s] on your mind, you can be hurt, because yeah, you probably got robbed, but if that’s on your mind, Miami [site of this year’s Super Bowl] can’t be on your mind,’” said seven-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who was also snubbed for this season’s Pro Bowl. “The bottom line is, we’re in that dance now. Whatever frustrations, if you are ticked off, let it come out on the field. I would tell him to take it as a positive all day.”

There are few words to describe Scott’s off-field humanitarian efforts.

He has helped build a house for Habitat for Humanity. He volunteers his time at various football camps free of charge. He goes to inner-city schools and talks to students about the importance of an education. He’s an active fund raiser to help underprivileged schools receive proper football equipment and he even provided uniforms, cleats and gloves to his old high school, Southeastern in Detroit.

“Bart is one of the best players and best persons on this team,” Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg said. “You can’t say enough good things about Bart. Especially where he came from. He was a free agent and he was still doing that [charity work] when he was a free agent, and now he’s a big star and he’s still doing it.”

Last year when Lewis was injured for the final 10 games with a hamstring injury, Scott became the man in the middle for the Ravens. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder shined with Lewis out and recorded a career-high 92 tackles. His previous high was 22 tackles in 2003.

Now, with Lewis healthy, this inside tandem is giving opponents fits. In Week 4 against the San Diego Chargers, the duo combined for 29 tackles (Lewis with 14 and Scott with a career-high 15). In that game, Scott intercepted Philip Rivers in the first quarter and returned it 24 yards to set up the Ravens’ first touchdown in their 16-13 win — one of two losses the Chargers have this season.

“Bart is one of those linebackers that plays with a chip on his shoulder [and] the chip just got even bigger,” said Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was named to his second Pro Bowl as a reserve. “Bart is going to use that. He’s going to do what he normally does the rest of this year, I think he’s going to do something next year that it’s going to be hard for people to ignore him. He’s really going to get somebody’s attention. I think he did that this year.”

With Suggs and outside linebacker Adalius Thomas both going to the Pro Bowl, the voters possibly didn’t want the Ravens’ stout linebacking corps monopolizing the AFC roster.

“I have a tough time imagining anybody being better than the guys we have,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said. “Our guys have a good grasp upon it, they know it’s because of the guys around them.”

Guys like Scott, Lewis and defensive tackle Trevor Pryce did the dirty work this season for little glory.

“The Pro Bowl and everything is a matter of opinion,” Scott said. “A lot of people said I should have made it, but then again, there’s a lot of other guys who should have been on the team. It’s not up to me to decide. I just play football and if it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. Those are the breaks. …

“I think that everybody that plays against me still respects me as a football player. You just keep trying. Ultimately, that’s what you play for, the respect of your peers.”

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