FOXBOROUGH — Their paths crossed twice before, the first time in 2004 when Robbie Agnone was a freshman tight end out of Lewisberry, Pa., and Joe Flacco was a seldom-used backup quarterback to Tyler Palko at the University of Pittsburgh. After he finished the 2004 season with just one completion for 11 yards, Flacco transferred to Delaware, where he was forced to sit out the 2005 season.
Agnone transferred from Pitt to Delaware after the 2005 season and joined Flacco in Newark, Del., where the two crossed paths again in 2006, a season in which Agnone shared tight end duties with Ben Patrick and made 17 catches for 241 yards. The following season, Flacco’s senior year with the Blue Hens, Agnone made 38 catches for 484 yards to earn All-America honorable mention.
Now, it appears, their paths are set to cross again Sunday when Flacco leads the undefeated Baltimore Ravens (3-0) against the 2-1 Patriots, who signed Agnone to their practice squad Sept. 8 after he had been cut from the Redskins’ training camp roster.
“He thought he was going to be second team,” Agnone said of Flacco’s rookie campaign in 2008 when he made quite an impression throwing for 2,971 yards, 14 TDs and 12 INTs while starting all 16 regular-season games. Flacco became the first rookie QB in NFL history to not only start a playoff game but win two playoff road games in guiding the Ravens an 11-5 regular-season record and a berth in the AFC Championship Game.
“They had a bunch of injuries and he came in and I think it was like a week before the season started and he had taken like every snap,” Agnone said. “He told me and a bunch of good friends that he was ready to go and it was no different than playing at Delaware. He felt confident, but he’s always been a confident player.
“Everyone at Delaware loved it, because he put the whole state and the whole football program on the map.”
While legendary Delaware coach Tubby Raymond and former Delaware QB Rich Gannon might have also brought some attention to the program, Agnone is hoping to do his part with the Patriots.
“Robbie is a big, athletic guy who catches the ball great,” Flacco said. “He didn’t play tight end in high school, but in college he did a great job. He was a basketball player in high school, so obviously he is a really good athelte. I think the biggest thing about him is that the’s tried to improve his run blocking and make sure he can be a good blocker, not just a pass catcher . . . I think if he gets a shot, he’ll do a good job because there’s not going to be anyone on the team or elsewhere that works harder than he does. I think the coaches around there will see that.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said yesterday he was pleased with the development of his second-year kicker, Steve Hauschka, a 24-year-old native of Needham, Mass., who earned his bachleor’s degree in neuroscience from Middlebury College in Vermont before going on to graduate school at North Carolina State.
“He had a soccer background and has really taught himself how to kick,” Harbaugh said.
“He’s improved tremendously over the last year with Randy Brown, as one of our [special teams] coaches who helps him.”
So far this season, Hauschka has converted 4 of 5 field goals and on all 13 of his PATs. After converting a 44-yarder on his first attempt of the season, his lone miss came on his second attempt, a 41-yarder, in the season opener against Kansas City. Since then, he’s converted three in a row from 33, 36 and 33 yards out.
“He’s got a lot of talent. He’s a big, strong, tall guy and he’s very athletic,” Harbaugh said.
“He’s got to prove himself, but he has a chance to kick in this league for a long time.”