On the eve of his induction into the Ravens' Ring of Honor during halftime of the teams' Thursday Night Football game against Cleveland, former running back Jamal Lewis was in Timonium on Wednesday night, honored by the team at a reception hosted at Smyth Jewelers.
"It feels great to be with other guys like Ernest Byner, Art Modell, Peter Boulware," Lewis said during the event. "To go up and have my name in the stadium with these guys, and its there all the time, it's a great, great honor."
The event, which was attended by Ravens' former fullback Alan Ricard and current Ring of Honor members Lenny Moore and Matt Stover, was closed to the public — save for 10 lucky winners who were selected through an online contest that sought the best stories of how the Ravens have affected peoples' relationships.
During a private meet-and-greet with Lewis, the winners were each given prize packs including tickets to Thursday's game, passes for the Smyth pregame hospitality tent, and commemorative coin.
One lucky couple — Ron Diggs of Laurel and Melissa Grant of Silver Spring — also won passes to be on the field during the induction ceremony.
For many of those in attendance, the opportunity to both meet Lewis and attend tomorrow's game was almost as memorable as the romance that gained them access. Though some significant others couldn't attend Wednesday's ceremony, the winners chose to bring other Ravens fans in their lives instead.
Instead of his better half, Chris Frazier of Fort Meade brought his father-in-law, Mark Losiewski of Catonsville — though all three will be at the game Thursday.
Kim Holsapple of Joppatowne was able to bring her daughter, April, thanks to the essay she wrote about the Ravens' role in her family's development. Holsapple said she was pregnant with April when the team announced it was moving to Baltimore, and was expecting her second child when they won the Super Bowl.
She said the Ravens have become a family tradition.
"I thought it would be special for (April) to come," she said.
Parkville residents Joe and Kathy Lange will celebrate their 26th anniversary at the game, while Bonnie Smith, a Ravens fan from York, Pa., will celebrate her first live Ravens game.
"I ride by it, but I've never actually been in it," she said of M&T Bank stadium. "I always hear about the greatness that comes from going to a game. I guess I'll find out tomorrow."
Lewis, the Ravens' all-time leader with 7,801 rushing yards, 1,822 rushes, and 45 touchdowns while wearing the purple and black, shared some of his highest and lowest moments in Baltimore with the contest winners.
He said boarding the bus for Super Bowl XXXV was his favorite moment as a Raven, and that he misses the camaraderie inside the locker room ... much more than the practices.
After the private session with fans, Lewis was given a painting and was praised in a speech by Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
Newsome recalled seeing Lewis and his University of Tennessee squad play Newsome's alma mater, the University of Alabama. Alabama featured future Pro Bowl running back Shawn Alexander, but it was Lewis who stuck out to his future GM.
"When the game was on the line and my Crimson Tide needed to make a stop, Jamal went for 60 yards and it decided the game," Newsome said.
"There are still some people in the state of Alabama who have not forgiven me for taking a guy from Tennessee over a guy from Alabama," he said, "but I was very proud to have drafted Jamal here to Baltimore."