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Former Ravens DT Haloti Ngata: Climbing Kilimanjaro 'Hardest Thing That I've Ever Done'

May 23, 2019
On March 18, former Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata announced his retirement from the NFL at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. A photo he posted to his Instagram account showed Ngata "retiring from the NFL on top."

The retirement announcement was the product of a meeting of the minds between Ngata and fellow longtime defensive lineman Chris Long. Ngata and Long were teammates with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018.

The mission of Waterboys, a Chris Long Foundation-led project, is for NFL players and fans to team up to help provide clean, accessible drinking water to communities that need it. "Conquering Kili," one of the programs Waterboys offers, calls on NFL players, military veterans and clean-water advocates to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and raise money for the cause while training.

Ngata noticed the work of the foundation and told Long last season he'd like to get involved with the next Kilimanjaro climb and fold in a retirement announcement. Long brought him aboard, and Ngata began training for the climb shortly after the Eagles' season ended.

"It was cool for Chris to let me do that," Ngata said on Glenn Clark Radio May 23, "and at the same time it was amazing to be in Africa and see what they kind of go through there with their water situation. It was just a blessing, both being a part of Chris' foundation and being able to announce my retirement on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro."

It took Ngata five days to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro, a period of time the former defensive tackle said felt like "Groundhog Day where you're doing the same thing every day for multiple days." He said the toughest part of the getting to the top was the final leg of the hike, which began at midnight and continued for nine consecutive hours until he reached the top.

"Mentally I was drained, physically was getting drained," Ngata said. "Started to get a little altitude sickness and getting dizzy, and so you're just like, 'Oh my gosh.' Now you're thinking about, 'Am I going to even make it? Am I going to die? Am I going to see my family again?' It's crazy because you start thinking about everything, and things go across your head. 

"I've never been through anything that's tested me mentally, physically, spiritually -- and all at once -- so that's why I say it's the hardest thing that I've ever done. There's nothing that's tested me in all those different levels all at once."

Ngata's most difficult task came after a highly decorated NFL career. Drafted in the first round out of Oregon in 2006, Ngata played 13 years in the league, including nine for the Ravens. He was named to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 2009-2013 and earned All-Pro honors in 2010 and 2011. He was a part of the Ravens' Super Bowl championship team in 2012.

The Ravens were top 10 in total defense every season from 2006-2011, and the nimble, 6-foot-4, 340-pound man in the middle was a big part of that. Ngata occupied the attention of offensive linemen, giving Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis room to roam and edge defenders one-on-one matchups on the outside. He has a Hall of Fame case, but it appears a long wait is in store for Ngata at the very least.

For Ngata, the memories that stand out from his career are his highlight-reel plays against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The one that sticks out to Ngata is his hit and fumble recovery against running back Rashard Mendenhall.

"For a D-lineman to do that, to be able to get a tackle for a loss, a fumble, a fumble recovery, turnover, it's kind of like a unicorn, right? You don't really get those chances to make those types of stats," Ngata said. "So it's pretty cool to be able to do something like that, and it was against the Steelers. That's one of my favorite memories. Breaking Ben Roethlisberger's nose is definitely a great memory."

After his time with the Ravens, Ngata spent three years with the Detroit Lions and his final season with the Eagles. He finished his career with 519 tackles, 63 tackles for loss and 32.5 sacks. Now retired, a healthy Ngata will now turn his attention to the Haloti Ngata Foundation.

"It's just amazing that I'm able to do that, to kind of go off on my own terms and just appreciate everyone that's been a part of the journey and the families and organizations that brought me into their families and their teams," Ngata said. "It's just an amazing, amazing feat. I'm just so happy that I'm at the point I am now."

The legacy Ngata leaves in Baltimore, however, is hardly only football and charitable work. He was a regular on Royal Farms' local television commercials, and Ngata showed off a little bit of his personality in each. There's no shortage of options to choose from, but the "Risky Business" spoof may be the most well known.

For his part, Ngata said the commercials he liked best were the ones that involved his family.

"When I first started doing it, people were like, 'That's Royal Farms! That's Chicken Man!' Stuff like that," Ngata said. "You're like, 'That's cool,' and then you do it more years and more years and then everyone's like, 'Royal Farms! Chicken Man! Haloti Ngata!' I'm like, 'Man, it sounds like I definitely got into the whole community of Baltimore and their love of football.' 

"But at the same time, I'm representing a store they love, especially the chicken. The chicken's amazing, by the way."

To hear more from Ngata, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox