With an NFL lockout threatening and his contract with the Ravens expired, Baltimore safety Tommy Zbikowski has a fallback plan. Says the 25-year-old former third-round draft pick out of Notre Dame, "I was a professional boxer before I was a professional football player." On June 10, 2006, less than two months after finishing spring football in South Bend, the 5'11", 214-pound Zbikowski—who was 68--13 as an amateur—made his pro debut on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto--Paulie Malignaggi bout at Madison Square Garden, TKO'ing one Robert Bell in 49 seconds. "Hundreds of rounds of sparring went into that," Zbikowski recalls, clearly still disappointed.
Now he has another chance to showcase his fistic talents. Dropping to cruiserweight, Zbikowski will fight on the Cotto--Ricardo Mayorga card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday. He has received his restricted free-agent tender from the Ravens but hasn't signed it, meaning he's not bound by contractual language that prohibits NFL players from entering the ring. Zbikowski, who has always incorporated boxing in his training, says he may fight again over the summer. For now, though, he's focused on Saturday night: "Not many people get to say that their first fight was at Madison Square Garden, and their second was at the MGM Grand." Among NFL players, actually, there is but one.