The crowd started gathering long before the guest of honor was due to arrive. They wore No. 82 jerseys, Super Bowl XLVII championship T-shirts and any other purple article of clothing they could find, turning Jimmy's Famous Seafood into a Ravens pep rally.

Torrey Smith didn't expect a turnout like this. In fact, he wondered on his way to the Holabird Avenue restaurant whether anybody would show up. The Ravens had lost to the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers a day earlier, leaving them with a losing record this late in the season for the first time since 2007.

But as the wide receiver walked through the doorway for his Monday-night radio show just after 6 p.m., he was greeted by loud applause and a packed house. Teammate Ray Rice and Orioles center fielder Adam Jones joined Smith about an hour later, to nice ovations. But it was Smith who spent the better part of two hours going table to table talking to fans, posing for pictures and accepting everything from well wishes to baby gifts.

"People are big names for different reasons," said Smith's wife, Chanel, as she surveyed the crowd Monday. "His is a lot for off-the-field [stuff], I feel like. A lot of his [popularity] comes from him being so in tune with his fans. I think that makes all the difference."

Torrey Smith's transformation from a talented but raw deep threat into the NFL's leading receiver through seven weeks has been well documented. His ascent in popularity and marketability has been every bit as rapid. Communicating through social media or his frequent community appearances, Smith, 24, has formed a connection with Ravens fans, becoming one of the faces of the organization in the post-Ray Lewis and Ed Reed era.

He doesn't have the showmanship of Lewis or the mercurial persona of Reed. He won't blurt out whatever is on his mind like rush linebacker Terrell Suggs or give off the aw-shucks vibe of quarterback Joe Flacco. Smith's appeal lies largely in his willingness to put himself out there and embrace the best, and worst, of being a public figure.