It doesn't get more country than "Big Country" Ben Cleveland.
The Ravens' rookie guard grew up in the small town of Toccoa in northern Georgia, which has a population of about 8,000. Well, he didn't really grow up in a town - more like the backwoods.
When he wasn't playing football or baseball (which he was also very good at), Cleveland could often be found hunting for dinner.
"That's what we did growing up. That was our thing," Cleveland said. "My dad, he took me in the woods before I could walk. Literally, he carried me up a deer stand. That was kind of bred into us."
Cleveland would mostly hunt deer, and he also shot turkey and duck. But one of his more interesting childhood targets was squirrel.
Yes, this man eats squirrel. So, how's it taste?
"It tastes like squirrel. I don't know how else to explain it to you," he said on "The Lounge" podcast. "Some squirrels in south Georgia, they'll taste a little bit more nutty. Up here, our acorns and stuff aren't really as strong as the ones down south. Most of them up here, it just tastes like squirrel. If you put enough seasoning on it, you can make it taste like anything you want it to taste like."
Cleveland has a squirrel story that he's been telling for years.
One day, he played hooky from school. He was bored, and kind of hungry, but didn't find any food in the house. So he looked in the backyard and saw two squirrels in a pine tree.
It was 8 in the morning and he didn't want to wake his grandparents up with a gun blast, so he opened the window, laid down with his .22 and shot through the window in the living room.
"I went out there and got the squirrels," Cleveland said. "Threw 'em in some hot grease, made me some frozen biscuits, and let 'em ride."
In case you're thinking about trying squirrel for yourself, Cleveland did think Old Bay seemed like a reasonable seasoning. He did have a word of caution though.
"Very tricky animals to cook," he said. "They've got really fine hairs on them, so it's really hard to get all the hairs off them when you skin them. It's very tricky to get that one figured out."
The 6-foot-6, 357-pound blocker has a chance to earn a starting job on the Ravens' offensive line at left guard, which would move Bradley Bozeman to center. Cleveland will make his first impression this weekend at rookie minicamp, where instead of squirrels, he'll be tangling with 300-pound defensive linemen.
Ben Cleveland Joins The Lounge
The Ravens' third-round guard from Georgia talks about his physicality, what he envisions for his rookie season and his country roots.
Listen On Apple Podcasts