Ravens’ Judon huge hit with Nanticoke health fair/expo patrons

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon autographs the shirt of four-month-old Caliyah Ricks – one of if not the youngest Ravens’ fan at the celebrity signing event during Nanticoke’s community health fair and partner expo Saturday. Holding Caliyah is her mom, Shaquana Beulah. Looking on is Jayona Ricks. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

LAUREL – As a professional football player with the Baltimore Ravens, Matthew Judon’s mission is performance, success and winning.

Nanticoke Health Services’ committed mission to the community is good health and healthy lifestyle.

Together, they teamed up to bring upward of 800 to 1,000 people to Laurel Senior High School last Saturday for the seventh edition of Nanticoke’s Heart of Good Health Community Health Fair/Partner Expo.

More than 90 vendors — both for-profit and non-profit — lined lobby and hallway areas, offering health education, health professionals, free screenings, healthy living demonstrations, information on behavioral health, hospice, homecare, financial health along with activities for the entire family.

In one the school’s gymnasiums, Mr. Judon, a three-year member of the Ravens who appears destined for an even greater defensive role at outside linebacker entering his fourth campaign in 2019, signed autographs and struck up casual conversation with several hundred folks. He even danced with a few willing youngsters.

“I do more different things, not really like health related. But when I was told about this, I said, ‘Of course,’” Mr. Judon said. “It is definitely worth it. They (Nanticoke) are coming out here for the community to do screenings in their time when they could be doing something else.”

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon adds his signature to Dr. Anthony Policastro’s pumpkin that has the names of three previous Ravens: Justin Tucker, Paul Kruger and Bernard Pierce. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“I feel like a lot of people are scared to go to the doctor, or just don’t think they need it, “said Mr. Judon. “Today, they kind of had an incentive, which was to meet me. But the bigger goal was to care about them and get their health right.”

Nanticoke Health Services Marketing Director Sharon Harrington said the football celebrity segment typically brings in 300 to 400 people. Previous special guests were Washington Redskins Chris Thompson (2018), Jamison Crowder (2017), Pierre Garcon (2015), Kirk Cousins (2014) and Clinton Portis (2013) and Ravens placekicker Justin Tucker in 2016.

“Hopefully, the idea is that it draws more people in and takes them around, and they get a little more out of it than what they came for,” said Ms. Harrington.

Major sponsors of the community health fair/expo included the Nanticoke Medical Staff, the Kim and Evans Family Foundation, Delaware 2-1-1 and Maxima 95.3/La Raza of The Voice Radio Network that connects with Delmarva’s heavy Latino population.

“That is why we reached out to them. It is an audience that we want to be sure that they are getting screenings done, just like we try to get to all different groups in the community, and that they feel that they have an access point to care when they need it,” said Ms. Harrington.

Mr. Judon was the honey-in-the-hive draw that brought members of a Federalsburg, Maryland, family to Laurel. It marked the fair debut for Corey Finkbiner, Angie Finkbiner and Shaquana Beulah and children.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon was a conversational hit with fans during the autograph session at the Nanticoke Health Services’ Heart of Good Health Community Health Fair/Partner Expo Saturday. Two youngsters, Alex Birmingham, left, of Bridgeville and Jaylin Burton of Laurel, got to meet and chill with the Ravens’ star following the autograph session through Nanticoke’s Grant A Wish initiative. With the two lucky boys, in back, Penny Short, Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer at Nanticoke; Matt Judon and State Rep. Tim Dukes of Laurel. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“It is my first time,” said Mr. Finkbiner.

Besides autographs, they planned to check out the vendor areas. And they left with deep admiration for Mr. Judon, whose autographs include a shirt signing for Ms. Shaquana’s four-month-old daughter Caliyah Ricks.

“He looks so different in person,” said Ms. Shaquana. “And he’s so nice. He’s good with the kids, good with the baby. He really took his time with the kids.”

“I think I expected it to be like, ‘He’s got a lot of people; let’s make this short and sweet,’” said Ms. Finkbiner. “It wasn’t.”

Fans spanned the gamut, from little Caliyah to Dr. Anthony Policastro, former medical director at Nanticoke who now works part-time for Nemours while eying retirement.

He’s a season-ticket holder, has attended 165 out of 176 Ravens games and was on hand in Tampa, Florida, in 2001 to watch the Ravens manhandle the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV.

“Most of the games I missed were for family reasons, like Christmas Day games and that kind of thing. I basically have been going pretty much since they were in Memorial Stadium,” said Dr. Policastro. “What happened was I moved to Delaware when I retired from the Air Force in 1995. A few months after I moved here, they announced that the Ravens were coming to Baltimore. So, I said, ‘Well, NFL football, new team … I’m going.’

“Last year I went to Ohio to watch Ray Lewis get enshrined in the Hall of Fame,” said Dr. Policastro. “Last summer, I had the chance to go to Owings Mills at their training camp and meet Coach Harbaugh. That was a real thrill as well.”

Owings Mills is where Mr. Judon, a Louisiana native who starred on the gridiron for NCAA Division II power Grand Valley State University in Michigan, now resides.

The 146th overall pick in the fifth round by the Ravens in the 2016 NFL Draft, the 6-3, 260-pound Judon signed a four-year, $2.595 million contract.

In 2018, Judon played in 16 games with eight starts. He finished with 44 combined tackles, three passes defensed, a forced fumble and seven sacks, tying him with linebacker Terrell Suggs for second on the team behind outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith’s 8.5 sacks.

Change in the Raven nest

Since Baltimore’s 23-17 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Raven roster has changed dramatically.

Expendable backup quarterback Joe Flacco, the MVP in Baltimore’s 34-31 victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, is now a Denver Bronco.

Terrell Suggs went home to Arizona and signed with the Cardinals, ending his 16-year career in Baltimore, and Za’Darius Smith packed up and headed for the Green Bay Packers.

“So now Matt is now the senior person on the linebacking corps,” said Dr. Policastro.

“Yeah, we lost some good people on the defense and in our room. We’ve just got to step up,” said Mr. Judon. “I feel it’s kind of like a senior in college now. You come in and you have three years to prepare with the guys that you know are going to be gone. Unfortunately, we didn’t know how all this stuff would play out, and we’d lose everybody at the same time. But we did. And now we’ve got to play. We just can’t go out there and cry about it every week. It can’t be the same excuse, ‘but we lost players.’ Nobody cares about that.”

People person vs. role model

Matt Judon doesn’t think of himself as a role model.

“I consider myself a people person, more than a role model,” he said. “I feel like I can have a conversation with anybody, and even if our opinions don’t align, our backgrounds don’t align, I am very understanding in people. I understand that a lot of us didn’t grow up the same way. And even if we grew up in the same neighborhood the demographics of the family and households is very different. So, I do it in a more light-hearted way. But I feel like if we are having a serious conversation or if it is something that needs to be said, I can say it in a manner where somebody will not take offense to it.”

“I think that helps when I come out and do community events as well. But, as far as like people looking up to me, I make mistakes. I am definitely not perfect,” said Mr. Judon. “And I am still working on myself, self-improvement every day. So, when people see me make mistakes, but they look up to me, hopefully they understand that we are all human and their mistake or my mistake isn’t bigger than the next mistake. We have just got to learn from it.”

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