When Towson University student Matthew Jeffers wrote a letter to the Baltimore Ravens last month, he had little idea of the ripple effect it would have.
An acting major in his senior year, Jeffers’ aim was to simply provide some perspective to his beleaguered team, who was reeling from a three-game losing streak. What happened next surprised everyone—and attracted journalists at ESPN, who interviewed Jeffers last week and will feature his story on their Super Bowl pregame show.
How did this come to pass?
It all started with a moving letter to the team, in which Jeffers shared his own story of adversity—one that includes a rare form of dwarfism, a tracheotomy, many painful surgeries and his mother’s diagnosis of a stage four brain tumor.
“We live in a painful world, no doubt about it,” wrote Jeffers. “But let me tell you this: The ONLY disability in life is a bad attitude. … When you play on Sunday, let it not be to win a division or to silence the critics or prove somebody wrong or end a losing skid. Let it be a dedication to that simple yet powerful notion that life can be conquered with the right outlook.”
These powerful words made their way through the Ravens front office and to the desk of head coach John Harbaugh, who shared the letter with his team and responded to Jeffers personally. Then Kevin Byrne, senior vice president of public and community relations, invited Jeffers and his father to the Ravens complex to meet the team, where the entire roster waited in line to shake his hand.
“It just opened my eyes,” said safety Sean Considine to the Baltimore Jewish Times. “People are struggling through some serious things and still going about their lives and maintaining a positive attitude and getting better from it. I think it was a great message for us because we could do the same thing.”
“These guys are so famous … and to have little old me have an impact feels very weird,” Jeffers told the Baltimore Jewish Times.
But an impact he did have. In their first game after reading the letter, the team annihilated the New York Giants and achieved a playoff berth. Since then the Ravens have gone on a postseason tear and defeated every opponent, despite their underdog status. This Sunday, the team will play in its first Super Bowl in 12 years.
And when the Ravens take the field in New Orleans, Jeffers will be there—still humble and still rooting for his team to overcome its own adversity and bring home the Lombardi.