NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Vonta Leach's job is to get involved in a collision so Ray Rice won't.
The Baltimore Ravens are in the Super Bowl in part because of Leach's ability to pave a path for Rice to follow. If that involves sticking his helmet into the chest of a 300-pound defensive lineman, then so be it.
"It's just my job," said Leach, a three-time Pro Bowl fullback. "Everybody's got to do their part for us to be successful, and that's my role."
Leach serves as an escort for Rice and backup running back Bernard Pierce. In 2010, he opened up holes for Arian Foster in Houston. Not coincidentally, Rice and Foster both earned invitations to the Pro Bowl by following Leach's lead.
"Vonta is a fullback, the most under-recognized position in the game because of all the physical abuse he does to his body to see another man shine," said Rice, who ran for 1,143 yards during the regular season. "The fullback position is not a pretty job. One thing about it is, Vonta wants that responsibility, to go out there and just knock people out for me and Bernard to be successful. He's done it for many backs over the years. Look at what he's done for Arian Foster. They all can vouch for him. Linebackers around the league know he's coming for you."
Leach broke into the NFL in 2004 with Green Bay, but he didn't really make a name for himself until he played for Houston. In 2008 he cleared room for Steve Sloan, and two years later he helped make Foster the NFL's leading rusher.
His work often goes unnoticed, but is not unappreciated. Leach was an All-Pro in 2010 and 2011, and he's made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons.
Leach didn't play in the NFL's all-star game this season because he was preparing for something more important: a Super Bowl matchup Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
"Vonta Leach is a good fullback. He is an All-Pro fullback, a Pro Bowl fullback, and really I almost feel like he is the last of the dying breed of what you can call a real fullback," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. "He is a tough guy and a guy that every play you have to come with it."