With tears rolling down his cheek, Ray Lewis said he hopes his street will symbolize a "way" of life.
The Ravens' Pro Bowl middle linebacker then walked outside in the rain Tuesday and unveiled a red sign at the corner of North Avenue and Broadway in Baltimore that reads, "Ray Lewis Way #52.""If Ray Lewis Way does nothing else, just look up instead of looking down," Lewis said. "If the street does nothing else but make you look up in life and say he did it differently, let that be the goal."
Lewis ended his impassioned speech by saying, "Baltimore, I can say many things but I love you with every inch of my soul."
The hourlong ceremony culminated with Lewis unveiling the sign (which has a red background and white lettering) that is just a short pass from the Diakon Center, where Lewis and his charitable foundation host an annual Thanksgiving distribution for nearly 1,000 Baltimore families in need. The Ray Lewis Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation whose mission is to provide personal and economic assistance to disadvantaged youth.
About 100 people attended the event and about 40 children from nearby Harford Heights Elementary School huddled around the podium. The Gospel Ravens performed, and Lewis sang along with them at times.
Others in attendance included Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young and Councilman Carl Stokes.
"This is a tremendous day for Baltimore," Rawlings-Blake said. "In the future, this street will be known as a place where we celebrated someone who made a big difference in the lives of people in Baltimore."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh talked about how Lewis makes such an impact in the lives of players around the NFL, saying he has more phone numbers and texts than anyone else in the league.
Harbaugh also led the children in a "Ravens" cheer.
"In the 1996, the Ravens and Ray Lewis first came to town," Harbaugh told the children. "Think that's why they became the Ray-vens."
Lewis, who turns 35 on Saturday, also had his mother, Sunseria Smith, and teenage son, Ray Lewis III, beside him.
"This is a very humbling moment for my father," Lewis III said. "Even though people think he's a monster on the football field, he actually wants to help people. This [street] will be here forever. Now, people can come back and see Ray Lewis actually made a difference in people's lives outside the football field."
He added: "I would like to follow in his footsteps. One day I do have a dream of going in the NFL, but I also have a dream of making a difference in people's lives outside the football field."