BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan is from Lake City, Florida. He originally planned to attend the University of Florida but ultimately ended up playing football for Florida State.
It was a defensive end from another Florida school that really caught Jernigan’s attention. Warren Sapp was a dominant defensive tackle at the University of Miami prior to embarking upon a Hall of Fame career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sapp also had a brief stint with the Oakland Raiders.
Jernigan wanted to wear No. 99 when he first got to the NFL, but that number was already taken by veteran Chris Canty.
“It’s definitely a number that I wanted coming out of college, but [former Raven] Chris [Canty] had it, so I had to respect the situation until I was able to get it.”
Jernigan said he has a great deal of respect for Canty. He said Canty was a mentor for him when he got to the NFL.
While wearing No. 97, Jernigan made a mark as one of the NFL’s up and coming young defensive players. The new jersey number is a switch that won’t change any time soon.
“That’s forever. That’s until I’m done here,” Jernigan said. “I always grew up watching Warren Sapp. I looked up to him. I definitely wanted to model my game after him, ” he said.
Jernigan has become a disruptive pass rusher and he plays with a high motor. Like Sapp, he is very light on his feet for a big man. Jernigan described what it was that made him want to pattern his game after Sapp.
“Just the way he played the game. Nasty, ferocious, he came every play,” Jernigan said. “You definitely knew he was there and when he made a play. Another thing, he played down in Florida too, so he was definitely one of the greats from our state.”
The Ravens have endured somewhat of a youth movement on the defensive side of the ball. Jernigan is one of the vocal leaders on the team and now considered a veteran. That has caused him to put pressure on himself to get better.
“I just have to become that force that I was drafted here to be. I feel like I had a good year, but to my standards I don’t think it was enough,” Jernigan said. “I’ve definitely been busting my butt every day – day-in and day-out. I’m doing whatever I can just to take it to the next level and get everybody around me to do the same thing.”
The coaching staff is leaning on Jernigan to become one of their leaders this season. He is entering his third year in the defense and is one of the core players in the Ravens front seven. Jernigan said the coaching staff is on him more and driving him to be the best player that he can be.
“[Defensive Line] Coach [Joe]Cullen has been challenging me every day. We’re starting drills [and he says], ‘Timmy get up first, Timmy get up first.’ If he sees me even think about slacking, ‘Timmy tighten it up.’ I can’t even look down in the meeting at my shoe, ‘Eyes up Timmy. He’s on me, so I definitely like that about him. He’s going to get the best out of me.”