In Audubon, Flacco is one of their own. The 28-year-old grew up in the South Jersey town of nearly 9,000 residents. He ascended through the school system and graduated from Audubon High School in 2003. He married his high school sweetheart, and he eats breakfast at Legacy Diner when he's back in town.
"He doesn't forget he's from Audubon," Hare said. "When people get big, they sometimes forget. He's still a down-to-earth person, and you can tell by the way he plays football."
Hare's sentiment is shared by merchants and residents throughout Audubon, even from those who have never met Flacco. They know his family. They know his teachers. They hear stories about him at the deli counter and on the salon chair.
They identify with him because he will represent to the more than 100 million people expected to watch the Super Bowl the ethos that Audubon residents share on Merchant Street and Haviland Avenue and the White Horse Pike.
"I think a lot of people's personality is shaped from where they are from and what kind of environment they grew up in," Flacco said last week. "It is a very small town, very tight-knit group. I think it just makes you proud, and I hope we can go out there and represent them well."
Ralph Schiavo first met Flacco when Flacco was a tall, gawky seventh-grader. Schiavo, the Haddon Heights High football coach and formerly an Audubon High head coach and assistant coach, watched Flacco in gym class and noticed his athleticism and big feet.
"You hoped that when he matured and grew into his feet that he was going to be something special," Schiavo said. "In seventh grade, you watched him throw the football, and he could throw it back then."
By the end of Flacco's sophomore year, Schiavo was convinced that Flacco would be a standout high school player. By Flacco's senior year, Schiavo believed that Flacco would make it to the NFL.
That year, Flacco set a South Jersey single-game record with 471 passing yards against West Deptford, a perennial South Jersey power. Unflappable under pressure even back then, Flacco maintained that same disposition last week during the frenzied buildup to Sunday's big game. It even earned him a reputation for being dull when bombast dominated much of the news.
"His demeanor is the same today as it was 12 years ago," Schiavo said. "He's almost like a flatliner. Sometimes you need to shake him to make sure he's with us."
That personality kept Flacco out of trouble off the field during his high school years, when Flacco was known to spend much time with his five siblings. He was also an honors student who entered his senior year with a 3.99 grade-point average and a class rank of 24 out of 158.
Flacco went on to star at the University of Delaware after transferring from the University of Pittsburgh, and he became a first-round draft choice by the Ravens in 2008. His rookie contract paid him $11.9 million over five years, and his next contract is expected to come this summer.
This season isn't Flacco's first taste of success. The Ravens have made the postseason in each of his five seasons, he's played in three AFC championship games, and he has more road playoff wins than any quarterback in NFL history. But his run in this season's playoffs could make him one of the NFL's highest-paid players with an expected salary range around $16 million to $20 million per season.
Those contracts are reserved for the NFL's elite quarterbacks, a designation that stirs debate when Flacco is mentioned. But if he's hoisting the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night, the debate might be over.
"I'm just going to let my play speak for itself," Flacco said in New Orleans. "If we come out here and play the game the way we should and the way we can, then I don't care, and I don't think anyone else is going to care. We're going to be feeling pretty good about ourselves and what we accomplished."
'Flacco is elite'
Drive into Audubon along Nicholson Road, and you'll be welcomed with a sign that reads "Good Luck Joe. Proud home of Joe Flacco."
Go to the Legacy Diner, and you'll see Flacco decorations at the entrance and people inside wearing Ravens purple.
At Universal Electronics Supply Co., where the owners also own PoliticalDummies.com, there's a yellow Volkswagen with dummies of American presidents wearing Flacco jerseys and a sign that reads, "We all agree Flacco is elite."
Homes throughout Audubon have Ravens flags hanging above the doors and purple ribbons on the mailboxes. The schools have hung Flacco signs outside. The borough office has a Flacco jersey hanging inside.
Splitting Hairs, a hair studio on Merchant Street, was decorated in Ravens colors, and Merchant's Deli, across the street, hung newspaper clippings and Flacco gear in its front window.
"I've never seen anything like it, and I've lived here for 46 years," said Jodie Clarke, who owns Splitting Hairs. "There's tons of pride here."
Customers flooded Willie the Woodsman & Wife Gift Shop over the last two weeks to the point that the store ran out of Ravens flags, bracelets, wall hangings, carpets, and other accessories. The owners said they have about 50 new followers on Facebook, and people they have never seen before have come into the store.
At Merchant's Deli, there has been at least a 50 percent uptick in hoagie tray orders and Super Bowl specials compared with past years. About 300 fans are expected to watch the game at The Kove, a restaurant that is hosting a Super Bowl viewing party to benefit Audubon's Celebration Committee and Fathers Association.
"Can you imagine what happens when we win?" Hare's mother, Marian, asked.
It's notable that she said "we." This is a town full of Eagles fans. But the excitement for Flacco is on a different level, and some locals speculated that a Flacco victory would trump even a Lombardi Trophy for the Eagles.
If the Ravens win, the Celebration Committee wants to organize a parade for Flacco down Pine Street and into the high school's football stadium so people from other towns can visit and honor the Audubon native who doesn't forget where he's from.
"This whole area should be celebrating, not just our town," Clarke said.
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.