The last vision Baltimore football fans have of longtime Ravens kicker Matt Stover was of him playing in Super Bowl XLIV for the dreaded Indianapolis Colts at the end of the 2009 season.
At that point, Stover was not ready to quit playing football after the Ravens chose not to re-sign him following the 2008 season. Stover only joined the Colts midway through that season as a replacement for an injured Adam Vinatieri.
However, Stover’s home—and his heart—remained in Baltimore.
This remains true through Thursday—Stover officially put a cap on his 20-year career as he announced his retirement during a news conference held at Ravens headquarters in Owings Mills.
The Ravens would have liked to sign Stover to a ceremonial one-day contract to officially retire as a member of the team, but were prohibited due to the NFL lockout. However, Stover said he doesn't need a piece of paper to tell him he's a Raven for life.
"Playing for the Baltimore Ravens, I've always said, is a privilege," said Stover, who still lives in Timonium. "Being in the [NFL] has been a privilege, more than anything you can imagine."
Stover has left and indelible mark with in Ravens and Baltimore football history. The last player to leave the Ravens after the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996, Stover will retire with 2,004 career points and 471 field goals made, both of which ranks fourth in NFL history.
One of the most consistent kickers in NFL history, Stover converted 83.7 percent of his field goals—seventh best in NFL history—and missed just three extra points in his career.
“You knew pretty much when he got out there it was going to be over,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was in his first year at the helm in Stover’s last season in Baltimore. “And then being fortunate enough to have the chance to be with him for a year was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had as a coach.”
Baltimore fans will most remember Stover for his performance during the 2000 season, when he converted 35-of-39 field goal attempts and all 30 of his point after attempts en route to helping lead the franchise to a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.
During that Pro Bowl season, Stover also accounted for all of the Ravens' points during a five-game stretch where the team failed to produce a touchdown. Baltimore went 2-3 during that time and Stover was responsible for 49 straight points for the team during that stretch.
“We don’t win that Super Bowl that year without Matt,” said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who added that his wife has one team jersey, and it’s Stover’s.
Just as memorable for Stover was his final field goal as a Raven—a 43-yard field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter that helped lead Baltimore to a 13-10 win at the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 9, 2009 in the AFC Divisional Round.
Getting to end his Ravens career with a game-winning kick and his playing career by competing in the Super Bowl made it easy for Stover—who did not play in 2010—to officially call it a career.
Stover said he now plans on spending more time with his wife, Debbie, and their three children. He also plans to remain active with his charitable foundations along with several business endeavors such as one that helps professional athletes transition financially following their playing careers.
“Being that I played 20 years, it wasn’t really a difficult position that I was in …” Stover said. “Really, what it came down to is that I didn’t want to look back at my career and say, ‘Man, did I hang on? Did I do something …?’ I ended in the Super Bowl.
“That, to me, was more gratifying than you can imagine. The last time I ever ran out onto the field was running out of the tunnel and onto the Super Bowl [field]. And to end my career with the Ravens like I did with a game-winning field goal to help us get into the AFC Championship, that was more gratifying to me as well. It was no problem that it was time to move on.”
Bisciotti said the Ravens would recognize Stover on Nov. 20 when the team hosts the Cincinnati Bengals and they induct the kicker into the Ravens Ring of Honor.
“That to me is just an awesome, awesome privilege,” Stover said. “I cannot imagine a greater honor that an organization can give to a player, and I appreciate the Ravens for doing that.”
Despite all of Stover’s accolade and records, the chances of him one day being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is questionable as there is only one kicker—Jan Stenerud—enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
That didn’t stop Harbaugh and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome from making a case that Stover belongs in the Hall of Fame with football’s all-time greatest players.
“[Special teams] wins and loses football games for us,” Harbaugh said. “When Matt walks on the field, the game is on the line—you either win or you lose. That’s a huge part of the game, and I don’t know how that wouldn’t be honored and recognized in the Hall of Fame.”
For Stover, the Hall of Fame would be nice, but he wants his legacy to stem far beyond his accomplishments on the football field.
“I want more than anything in my career to be remembered by not only what I’ve done on the field, but what I’ve been able to do off the field,” Stover said. “To be a part of this community … Baltimore has been a phenomenal, phenomenal place for me and my family.”