The last time
A penchant for making big plays in the biggest of games at the University of
Now, just over a year since winning a national title with the Crimson Tide, Upshaw's second in four years in Tuscaloosa, the Ravens rookie linebacker has returned to New Orleans, the site of Sunday night's
"Roll Tide," he said, grinning, when asked last week about playing for another championship. "Nah, it's a great feeling, man, to have the opportunity — especially as a rookie — to be playing for the Super Bowl. I won those championships in college. Now I'm in the pros, and I'm looking forward to trying to win the Super Bowl."
Upshaw is no longer a starter for the Ravens, but he has played a meaningful role for a defense that has tightened up since allowing 30-plus points in consecutive weeks in early December. He tied for fifth on the Ravens with 60 tackles during the regular season, and his seven tackles for a loss led the team. He forced two fumbles and recovered two others. But he did not contribute much as a pass rusher, recording just 1.5 sacks.
With the emergence of
If that's the case, the 23-year-old doesn't sound like someone who will be overwhelmed by the moment.
"It's another championship, but this is the biggest stage," Upshaw said. "As a kid, we grew up dreaming and hoping that we'd be in the Super Bowl. Not too many people in this league get the chance to get to that first Super Bowl. So for me to be a rookie, it's just unbelievable. I have to execute on that opportunity."
That's what Upshaw did in Alabama's 21-0 win over LSU in the Superdome in January 2012, as he made six tackles and recorded a sack.
Playing in college football's biggest game gave Upshaw a sense of what to expect Sunday night.
"When I get in that locker room, just minutes before we kick it off, the nerves build up because you are so anxious to get it started," Upshaw said. "Once I get that first hit in on the kickoff team, then I'm ready and the game has started so it's time for me to do what I do."
Coming from one organization with a winning pedigree to another here in Baltimore, Upshaw expected to be in a Super Bowl eventually. But even though he made it there right away, he knows to not take it for granted.