OWINGS MILLS — Keon Lattimore has been toiling away in the minor leagues of professional football, not giving up on his quest to forge a lasting niche in the NFL.
The former University of Maryland standout running back already took two shots at trying to make the Dallas Cowboys after going undrafted, also spending time on practice squads with the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers.
However, his last NFL tryout was two seasons ago with the Buffalo Bills.
Most recently, Lattimore has plied his trade for the Trenton Steel (N.J.) of the Southern Indoor Football League and the semipro Chambersburg Cardinals (Pa.).
“I tried the whole Arena thing, and it’s fun because it’s football,” Lattimore said Saturday during an NFL regional combine at the Baltimore Ravens’ training complex. “It’s nothing like outdoors. It’s nothing like the big leagues. I just want to keep playing, keep perfecting my craft.
"It’s a perfect opportunity. I don’t want to sit around waiting for when the opportunity finally comes. I want to get ready and keep grinding.”
As the younger brother of Ravens Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Lattimore has had an excellent example to learn from.
Lewis is a former Super Bowl champion, and a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He’s arguably the best middle linebacker in NFL history and is regarded as a lock to eventually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Besides being my brother, he’s my biggest fan,” Lattimore said. “He gives me all the tips, all the pointers. He just put me on a little diet to shred weight faster. The conversations are always intense. It’s always, ‘Lil bro, don’t let another man outwork you.’”
The spirit was definitely willing for Lattimore on Saturday as scouts from the Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers and the Washington Redskins took in the workout.
However, his body didn’t perform as intended.
Although Lattimore got off to a fast start in the 40-yard dash, his times were ultimately disappointing.
In his two time trials, he covered the distance in a pedestrian 4.79 and 4.80 seconds. At 218 pounds, Lattimore was hoping to run in the 4.4 to 4.5 range.
“As long as you know you put the work in and you prepared yourself, it’s just like taking a test,” Lattimore said prior to the workout. “You know how you’re going to do on that test. You take a pretest before the real test.
"I’ve been timing, a lot of my times have been pretty good times. I’m satisfied with my weight. I’ve been running 4.4 and low 4.5s. I’ve been satisified with them. Weight-wise, I’m where I want to be. I think it’ll be a good day."
A former Mount Saint Joseph High School star, Lattimore was an honorable-mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection who rushed for 1,744 career yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. He caught 46 passes for 307 yards.
As a senior, Lattimore gained a career-high 869 yards and scored 13 touchdowns after rushing for 784 yards as a junior.
Lattimore thought he would get drafted by the Cowboys, but that didn’t happen.
The Cowboys selected running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice in the first and fourth rounds, respectively.
Lattimore signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent and was released during the final major roster cutdown before the regular season.
“Not to get into the politics side, but it’s a business,” Lattimore said. “I can only do what I can control. With the Dallas situation, they took two other backs before me. Dallas called me in the fourth round and I thought they were going to take me.
“That was the first sign of the politics. It’s definitely been a challenge because it’s frustrating because you know this is what you do. This is in my heart. I’ve got a passion to play this game.”
Lattimore was one of the featured stories on the popular Hard Knocks program on HBO that chronicled the Cowboys’ training camp during his rookie year.
Accustomed to garnering attention as Lewis’ sibling, Lattimore didn’t necessarily enjoy the scrutiny.
“Yeah, I’m a low-key guy,” Lattimore said. “I’ve been in Ray’s shadow my whole life. I’m cool with the attention, but I would rather not have it.
“I just want to play ball, and I just want to do what I do. When you play for the Cowboys, that’s something that goes along with the whole thing. It was a good experience having HBO there.”
While training with his brother this offseason, Lattimore hasn’t noticed any difference in Lewis’ legendary workout regimen. At age 36, Lewis’ staying power is unique.
“He told me the other day after we worked out, ‘Lil bro, I feel like I could play another five years,” Lattimore said. “I said, ‘Looks like it.’ The rate he works out at is ridiculous. He gets better every year.”