Trent Steelman arrived by car at the Baltimore Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills, Md., at about 3:30 a.m. May 3 for rookie minicamp.
He was scheduled for a physical at 7 a.m., and then he hit the field, trying to take the first step in his professional football career.
It’s been that kind of fast-paced few weeks for Steelman, the former Army quarterback and Bowling Green High School graduate, as he’s forged through the complicated process of NFL free agency and his military obligations.
“I got my chance, and that’s all I really needed,” Steelman said. “Once I got back in my element, it was something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life. It was awesome to be able to put on that Ravens uniform and represent the best organization in the National Football League.”
Steelman made one thing clear – his first duty is to his country.
Barring some unexpected exception by the Army, he’ll have to serve two years of active duty before being able to petition for a release from his remaining three years to pursue a pro career under the Alternative Service Option.
But he impressed the Ravens enough during the minicamp, which concluded Sunday, that the organization called Tuesday and wants to sign him to a contract.
It was widely reported shortly after the NFL draft that Steelman had already agreed to a three-year contract, but that deal wasn’t executed after it looked for a short time like he wouldn’t be able to attend minicamp because of a paperwork issue.
As expected, there are plenty of hang-ups with the contract because of his military obligations, so it’s hard to say when it’ll be finalized, Steelman said.
“It could be a week, it could be a couple weeks, it could be longer,” he said.
But when the contract is completed, Steelman will be able to attend the Ravens’ organized team practice activity sessions – which start later this month – and the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.
That could all lead to participation in Baltimore’s preseason training camp in late July, with Army approval.
Steelman’s agent, Dave Lee, confirmed the status of his negotiations Thursday.
Steelman was preparing to board a flight to Baltimore for minicamp May 2 when he was called back to West Point because of a glitch with his paperwork.
The Ravens held a spot for him, so after finally getting approval at about 10 p.m. CDT, he drove through the night to make the first day of competition. Most of the other rookies participating arrived the day before.
“It was intense,” Steelman said. “It’s a whole different world than college football. Everybody’s so good and so fast. The leap from high school to college is big, but it’s probably times 10 when you make that leap to the NFL. But at the same time, I got up there and competed, and I felt really good about my performance.”
Each day of the three-day minicamp consisted of two practices and several meetings, Steelman said.
It included the Ravens’ draft picks, their free agent signees and unsigned tryout players, such as Steelman.
“The biggest thing is getting in the playbook and absorbing it all,” he said. “They just want to see who can catch on, and honestly, just go out there and play football.”
The Ravens used the quarterback convert all over the field, including out wide and in the slot as a receiver. He also played on the majority of the special teams and took some repetitions as a kick returner.
Steelman said one coach told him he was a natural route-runner, which is unusual for a converted quarterback.
“That was one of my main things heading there, and I think they were on the same page,” he said. “They were just going to bring me in and play me all over the field as a football player.”
Steelman has some military obligations over the summer, he said, but they largely won’t conflict with the Ravens’ scheduled workouts.
His next training assignment after that isn’t until the middle of October, he said, so he has plenty of time to play the game he loves – as long as the Army approves.
After that, he’s ready to serve and keep football in his life as much as he can.
“I assume I’ll have my commitment, and I’ve known that going in,” Steelman said. “I know my duty in the Army, and without the Army, there’s no way I would have been in this position. I’m looking forward to getting out there and doing good things in the Army, and at the same time, playing some football when I can.”