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The Ravens will likely have a Delaware to Delaware connection one day.
Baltimore selected Blue Hen center/guard Gino Gradkowski with the 98th-overall pick in the fourth round on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
The Ravens re-signed center Matt Birk this offseason, but he’s in the final stages of his career. Gradkowski is slated to back him up while further learning the position from the former Pro Bowler.
For now, Gradkowski envisions himself entering the competition with Jah Reid and second-round pick Kelechi Osemele at left guard.
“Come in and maybe play guard my first year and eventually take over at center,” Gradkowski said. “That’s what I’m looking to do.
“Being behind a veteran like Matt Birk, I’m excited to meet him and pick his brain about football. It’s the perfect scenario and I couldn’t be happier.”
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Gradkowski is a two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association selection after transferring from West Virginia where he spent his first two years.
Gradkowski is known for his blocking technique, grittiness and leadership, a player that stresses the fundamentals of the game. He’s a blue-collar player.
“I’m elated right now because Baltimore plays football the way it’s supposed to be played,” Gradkowski said.
The Pittsburgh native prides himself on being athletic too. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.25 seconds at his campus pro day workout and put up 29 bench press reps.
Gradkowski is the younger brother of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, so he’s got football in his veins.
He often pulled in Delaware’s offense, getting to the outside and the second level to take on blockers. Gradkowski also played all three interior offensive line positions, adding to his versatility.
The Ravens are very familiar with Gradkowski. They sent a couple scouts to his games, Assistant Offensive Line Coach Todd Washington had dinner with him the night before Gradkowski’s pro day and Baltimore also flew him in for an official visit to the team facility.
“Throughout the whole process they’ve been pretty high on me, so I was hoping Baltimore would be one of the places I ended up,” Gradkowski said.
The Ravens have now drafted a Delaware player for the second time in five years. Gradkowski never met former Blue Hen quarterback Joe Flacco, as the quarterback left before Gradkowski transferred in due in part to a lack of playing time at West Virginia.
“From the things I’ve heard, we’re very similar personality-wise,” Gradkowski said. “So I’m excited to meet him. It definitely helps.”
Baltimore did not get a center in the third round, as Peter Konz went to the Atlanta Falcons five picks before the Ravens were on the clock. They made Gradkowski the second center off the board, one pick before the Houston Texans took Georgia center Ben Jones.