Catching up with ... Ravens fullback Sam Gash
Sam Gash came to town in 2000, with the shirt on his back and a hunger to hit. He left with a Super Bowl ring and the thanks of the fans.
Signed quickly as a free agent at the start of training camp, when Ravens’ fullback Chuck Evans got hurt, Gash arrived without a change of clothes. No matter. For three years, he wore purple and blocked with a vengence that turned opponents black and blue.
Time and again, he carved daylight for Jamal Lewis, the Ravens’ star runner. In Baltimore’s 34-7 victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, Gash threw blocks that sprang two Lewises (Jamal and Jermaine) for touchdowns.
“I’ve never seen a fullback . . . give up his body for his tailback like Sam,” Jamal Lewis said then.
“I didn’t care about carrying the ball,” the two-time Pro Bowler said. “God blessed me to hit people — and I was going to hit them harder than they could hit me. I told our tailbacks, ‘Trust me, stay with me and I’ll make a hole for you.’ “
Gash is now the Detroit Lions’ running backs coach, which may seem odd for a fullback who carried the ball four times, for one total yard, during his stay here.
“Runners are born to run. I just tweak the wheel,” he said. “Ball security and pass protection, that’s what I preach. I just point them and steer.”
In his 12-year career, Gash carried 121 times and never lost a fumble.
Nowadays, he’s married for the second time, the father of seven and still in good shape — more than 20 pounds lighter than his playing weight (240).
That championship season “seems like yesterday. It’s like a blink,” Gash said. “All the stars were aligned; everyone had a role. We played hard and we partied hard, and we had fun doing both.”
Each Thursday, he said, the Ravens’ running backs all gathered at Jamal Lewis’ house, minus the coaches, to eat soul food, study tapes of Sunday’s opponent and mull strategies.
“We’d go over what-if (scenarios),” Gash said. “It gave our tailbacks a ‘vision’ beforehand. We wanted the running game to be ours.”
It worked. The Ravens (16-4) won their last 11 games, including the playoffs.
“We held each other accountable for everything,” he said. “Anyone who messed up got yelled at, and had players looking at him on the sideline, like, ‘That’s not expected of you.’ We felt that nobody could hang with us, and if they did, we would break them in the end.”
His goal, said Gash, is to one day be a head coach.
“It could take two years, or 22,” the former Penn State star said. “I’ll work hard and stay on track. I’m not trying to win any political game.”
Gash is also determined to spend time with his kids, who range in age from 1 to 16.
“They laugh at me at breakfast for pouring hot water on my Fruity Pebbles,” he said. “But I’ve found that it brings out the flavor and softens up the cereal. I don’t want the ‘crunch’ to tear up the inside of my mouth.”
Mostly, Gash said, “I just want to wake up tomorrow. My dad died at 45, so I want to be able to open my eyes and say, ‘God has blessed me.’ ”