NEW ORLEANS - The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a big Twins fan and an even bigger Joe Mauer fan.
"Born and raised in St. Paul," Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I was a St. Paul Johnson Governor for the first quarter of my freshman year. Then I moved to Phoenix."
Suggs, whose Ravens play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, still calls Mauer a close friend. They spent some time together as recently as last fall at the Ravens practice facility.
"Joe was a year younger than me, but he played up a year in sports when we were kids," Suggs said. "Joe was the quarterback and I was his center in Pee Wees and Midgets. I played linebacker, too, but for some reason I also played center. Ask Joe how good I was. I could really block, man."
So how was Joe as a QB? As good as everyone in the Upper Midwest says he was?
"Joe was phenomenal," Suggs said. "For that kid to be as good as he was, and be a year younger than the rest of us? Man, we thought he was cheating. We thought he had to be a year older."
Suggs and Mauer, the 2009 American League MVP, played together for three years.
"The Jimmy Lee Rec Center, right off I-35 there in St. Paul," Suggs said. "We lost one game in three years. We lost the championship game the first year and never lost again. Went up to Midgets and were the Road Runners. We were something."
Suggs never played with or against Mauer in baseball. But he did play against him in youth basketball.
"Man, Joe was something in basketball, too," Suggs said. "He averaged like 30-some points. And this was as a 10 or 12-year-old. And playing against inner-city kids. Inner-city kids have a lot of talent, and he was torching them. He torched our guards. I was a big man, and he torched me, too."
Suggs said he watches the Twins on TV "all the time."
"It's fascinating to see both of us and where we are today and where we were," Suggs said. "Just two kids growing up playing together in St. Paul. Pretty amazing."