Terrell Suggs gets to come home for his birthday.
Suggs, the former Hamilton High School and Arizona State star, turns 21 Saturday, the day after his Baltimore Ravens arrive in the Valley.
The next day, Suggs returns to Sun Devil Stadium to play the Cardinals.
It could have been more than just a birthday present. It could have been a home game for the young defensive-end-turnedlinebacker, whom many expected to be drafted by the Cardinals — including Suggs.
"I strongly believe the Lord doesn’t give you what you want him to give you, he gives you what you need," Suggs said. "I went to high school in Arizona, I went to college in Arizona, and I think me coming out here (to Baltimore) was a growing-up thing for me."
Suggs has already grown on the Ravens. With four sacks in four games along with an interception, Suggs was named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the month, and he’s only playing on third downs in Baltimore’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
He is learning from arguably the NFL’s best defensive player, middle linebacker Ray Lewis. Suggs can pick the brain of fellow outside linebacker Peter Boulware who, like Suggs, made the transition in the NFL after being an undersized defensive end in college.
It is the perfect situation for Suggs.
Arizona might not have been.
The Ravens never expected Suggs to last until their pick at 10th overall. The Cardinals were choosing at No. 6; some thought the Vikings at No. 7 or the Cowboys at No. 5 would take him.
"I have specific memories of (general manager) Ozzie (Newsome) saying there are three people we’ll do our readings on but there is no way they will be there: (Terence) Newman the cornerback, Terrell and (Charles) Rogers the receiver," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We just felt there was no conceivable scenario that would put any of those three at even (pick) six or seven."
Suggs had the same feeling sitting in New York on draft day, especially when Detroit — who needed a receiver like the Cardinals needed a pass rusher — snared Michigan State’s Rogers as a local product at No. 2.
"They took him, so I kind of thought the Cardinals would get me," Suggs said. "But it just didn’t work out that way."
The Cardinals instead traded down and Suggs slipped to Baltimore.
"There was no dispute about his ability," Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves said. "It’s not surprising to us that he’s come in and made a bigger contribution more so than the others."
Suggs’ learning curve hasn’t just been on the field. The Cardinals weren’t the only ones eyeing Suggs’ maturation level, especially after Suggs’ involvement in an off-field fight before the draft.
The Ravens and director of player programs Ernest Byner have tried to help Suggs adjust to NFL life. They talked to him about housing, about dealing with pro coaches. They even had a session about nightlife, such as apologizing quickly if he bumped into someone accidently.
"Terrell came in and he’s 20 and he acts 20," Byner said. "We have some basic tenets or guidelines to try to structure stuff for him."
Suggs, who lives with three of his cousins, admitted he misses Arizona. But he is only getting five tickets for the game Sunday and his life now is in Baltimore. Soon, he will be become an everydown player, one the Ravens hope will turn into a defensive mainstay. The chapter of his life that was Arizona will be over. So too will be the talk of what might have been.
"I don’t really have any personal grudge against the Cardinals," Suggs said. "Every football player just wants to play well. That’s all I want to do Sunday. Play good, help my team win and enjoy my 21st birthday."