The last time Los Angeles Rams running back Jake Funk played at M&T Bank Stadium, he torched Dundalk for 270 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns — part of his Maryland single-season state record 57 — in guiding Damascus to the 2015 Class 3A state title.
As depleted as it is, the Ravens’ defense likely won’t allow a repeat of that performance Sunday, but that won’t prevent Funk from savoring a return to his home state.
“It’s just gonna be special,” the former Maryland running back said in a recent phone interview with The Baltimore Sun. “Just to be in a place where you dreamed about being there on Sundays as a high school kid and just being able to come back home, hopefully put on a good performance in front of a lot of people who supported me throughout my high school and college career.”
After his standout high school career in Montgomery County, Funk, 23, stayed in state to be part of the Terps’ backfield. He played sparingly his first two seasons in College Park before tears in his left ACL derailed his next two campaigns. Even as the coronavirus pandemic cut into his fifth college season, Funk made the most of his stint as Maryland’s lead back in 2020, leading the Big Ten in yards per carry at 8.6 and ranking second with 129 yards per game.
He made enough of a scattered impression for the Rams to use the first of their three seventh-round picks on him in the 2021 draft. He served as a kick returner and depth running back for Los Angeles before suffering what was originally believed to be a season-ending hamstring injury in Week 6. Instead, what was initially thought to be a tear was instead effectively a strain, allowing Funk to rehab the injury and return last week in time for this trip to Baltimore.
The experience of losing consecutive seasons to ACL tears made managing the hamstring injury simple, Funk said.
“It made this thing look like a piece of cake, honestly,” Funk said. “I mean, it wasn’t bad. It was kind of a secret, I guess you could say, that I was going to be coming back. A lot of people knew around the building, but we didn’t really publicize it. I didn’t feel the need to publicize it. But all the ACLs and injuries I’ve been through, man, I understand what it’s like dealing with injuries from the mental and physical side. So it was just easy. It was a piece of cake to me, honestly, compared to the ACLs and having a season-ending injury.”
Funk’s first game back, a 30-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, clinched a playoff berth for the Rams, with the NFC West title still up for grabs as they head the Baltimore. The Ravens are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt, needing to win Sunday to realistically have a shot at the postseason.
“He’s made a good recovery, done a great job with [vice president of sports medicine and performance] Reggie [Scott] and his group attacking it,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Funk, who he called “a mature rookie” in the preseason.
The importance of the game to both teams only adds to Funk’s thrill about his homecoming. He’ll have basically his whole family in attendance, as well as several friends, many of whom will get their first chance to see him play in the NFL.
“Every game in this league is special, man, no matter what,” Funk said. “Just being in this league is special within itself. Being able to understand the stakes of the game, understand that I’m playing against my hometown team, really, it’s just going out there and enjoying it. It’s going to be special for everybody involved. Just going out there and playing the best ball we can as a team and hopefully come away with the win.”
Source: Berkshire mont