'He loves to prove people wrong': Ravens' Tyler Huntley thrives as the underdog

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered a knee injury on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens went from being a 4-point favorite over the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 2-point underdog.

It’s now up to Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to beat the odds.

“He loves to prove people wrong,” said Dameon Jones, Huntley’s coach at Hallandale High School in Hallandale Beach, Florida. “It gives him that extra itch.”

Huntley was the Gatorade High School Football Player of the Year in Florida, but he had to travel two time zones to play quarterback at the University of Utah.

“I know the University of Miami coaches who were there at the time, and we laugh about it,” Jones said. “I mess with them all the time and say, ‘Hey, the reason you got fired is because you didn’t take Tyler.’”

Huntley went out west where he was a three-year starter at Utah. The most accomplished quarterback there since Alex Smith, he led the Utes to an 11-3 record as a senior, passing for 3,092 yards and 19 touchdowns. He made first-team All-Pac-12 as a senior but didn’t receive an invitation to the NFL scouting combine.

The Ravens weren’t going to select a quarterback in the draft because they had Jackson, Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley, who was selected in the sixth round in 2019. Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban never got a chance to work out Huntley because of COVID-19 restrictions that year but he wanted Huntley if he went undrafted.

"I had a very high opinion of him,” Urban said. "I was holding my breath literally from the second day on.”

Huntley was not among the 13 quarterbacks taken in the 2020 draft (from Joe Burrow to Nate Stanley) and spent his rookie season on Baltimore’s practice squad. The following season, he beat out McSorley to become the primary backup quarterback.

Now, two years after going undrafted, Huntley has the full confidence of the Ravens as he makes his first start of the season Sunday in Pittsburgh (1 p.m. ET, CBS). His teammates weren’t surprised when Huntley led a 91-yard winning drive in a 10-9 victory over the Broncos after Jackson’s injury.

"Even going back to last year, time and time again, when Tyler is in the game, good things happen,” Ravens guard Kevin Zeitler said. "We’re lucky on this team to have him. He can be a starting quarterback on almost any other team in the league.”

Huntley’s 1-3 record as a starter is deceiving. Last season, he outplayed NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in a 31-30 loss to the Green Bay Packers and nearly led a banged-up Ravens team to an upset win over the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams (a 20-19 loss).

Huntley doesn’t feel like he has to convince anyone that he can be a starting quarterback at this level.

"I think it’s proven a little because I’m still around,” Huntley said. "I don’t got to prove to nobody else, because the Ravens feel confident in me stepping in. So, that’s the job right now."