Ray Lewis III, the son of Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis II, took some time between the Super Bowl frenzy to sit down with Orlando Sentinel reporter Chris Hays on Wednesday in Orlando to talk about his dad’s fame and how he handles being the son on an NFL icon. He also talks about his own career, which turns toward college now. He will sign, like his father did, with the University of Miami on Wednesday during National Signing Day.
Lewis III had a stellar career at Lake Mary Prep, which is in Lake Mary, a city of about 14,000 people 20 miles northeast of Orlando. He he rolled up more than 10,000 all-purpose yards at LMP. He also set a Seminole County career record for touchdowns, scoring 90 TDs running, passing, receiving and on returns. This past season, as a senior, he helped lead the Griffins to an 11-0 record before running into South Daytona Warner Christian in the second round of the Florida Class 2A state playoffs. He was invited to play in the U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis All-American Game in December. He also earned Class 2A All-State honors and made the Sentinel's All-Central Florida second team.
The 17-year-old Lewis III is at his second Super Bowl today. His first one was in 2000 when he was 5 years old. The Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 and dad was named the MVP.
Ray Lewis III of Lake Mary Prep will sign with the University of Miami on Wednesday, National Signing Day. (STEPHEN M. DOWELL/ORLANDO SENTINEL)
Orlando Sentinel: So how do you deal with all of the expectations that go along with being the son of an NFL icon?
Ray Lewis III: “It can be difficult, if you let it. I’m a really strong-minded. The expectations, all of that stuff … I don’t let any of that get to me. When I’m in the game I really just focus on doing me …
“My dad really just always preached to me to just ignore all of that. I can’t be worried about trying to be better than my dad or trying to be what other people’s expectations are of me. I don’t have to please anybody else. At the end of the day, doing all I can is the only thing I have and regardless of if that’s better than him or not, I gave it all I had.”
Sentinel: How does it affect you when you hear all of the talk about how your dad is this or that from media people who don’t even know him?
Lewis: “They are going to have to do their job somehow. If they didn’t do it, then they wouldn’t be getting paid and they’d be trying to find a new job. So, I get it. It’s not like I’m going to get upset or take it the wrong way. I understand that it’s life.
“Some people are going to love him, some people aren’t going to like him. That’s the way it is. It happens to other players. It’s not like he’s treated unfairly. My dad handles every situation very well. My family handles it very well and we just go on about our business the same way we have for the last 17 years.”
Sentinel: Your dad is always in the media about everything he does. Do you get questioned about the same things, as well.? Does is get annoying?
Lewis: “I’m used to my dad being in the spotlight. I’m used to people asking questions about him. I’m used to handling the situation. It’s not that I would necessarily say it gets annoying, because I understand that people are curious. If my icon from some other sport or something … if I knew his son, I’d be curious about his life and maybe asking him questions, too. I understand where people are coming from.”
Sentinel: Do you have an NFL hero other than your father?
Lewis: “I’ve always loved Devin Hester since he was in college at Miami returning kicks and punts. At Miami he was ridiculous, returning punts left and right … even in the NFL. They won’t even kick him the ball anymore. He’s broken all the records.”
Sentinel: Fans and teammates alike talk about how they get goose bumps as they watch your father do his dance when he comes on the field every Sunday. Do you feel that sort of emotion?
Lewis: “I feel the intensity that he’s bringing. I come from him. I am the exact same way on the field. I know exactly what he’s feeling and what he’s trying to get them to feel. I know exactly what is going on in his head while he’s doing that … I definitely feel that intensity, like I want to go play a football game right then at that moment.”
Sentinel: You are obviously not quite as big as your dad (5-foot-9, 190 pounds), but you seem to be such a student of the game, like your dad. How do you bring that to the field?
Lewis: “I’ve heard that I’m slow. I’ve heard that I’m small. I’ve heard many different things, but when you don’t let anybody outwork you , when you study the game, when you make it a thinking man’s game, you’ll be amazed at how far you can go, at what you can do. . . . If I know what you are going to do before you do it, it doesn’t matter how small I am if I get there first.
“It’s not all about running that 4.2 [seconds in the 40-yard dash]. It’s not always about getting that 45-inch vertical. It’s not always about benching that 225 [pounds] 45 times. It’s not about that at all. It’s about the effort and the heart and the passion and what you are willing to put into it. The right preparation prevents poor performance.”
Sentinel: What is your earliest memory when you figured out that, “OK, what my dad does is a big deal.”
Lewis: “I guess I’d have to say at the Super Bowl in Tampa. I don’t have a real good memory of it, but I remember thinking at the time, like when we were walking out on the field and everybody was all around, that this is pretty big.
“I had some guy ask me to sign something for like $300 or something . . . [laughing] . . . I was like 5 years old, but I could comprehend what a big deal it was.”
Sentinel: Do you sometimes wish you had gone to a Class 8A school, a bigger school than Lake Mary Prep (2A)?
Lewis: “No I really don’t wish I was at an 8A school. I’m glad I’ve stayed at Lake Mary Prep. I picked Lake Mary Prep for multiple reasons. I feel like if I went to an 8A school, it would have been more about winning games rather than bettering myself as a football player and as an individual.
“At an 8A school, you’ve got 60-some players on the team and coaches don’t even know first and last names of all of them sometimes. They just call them by jersey numbers. … At Lake Mary Prep, we had 17 players suited up by our last game of the season. We were 11-0, but coaches actually bettered me as a player with individual work and bettered me as a person for life after football, life after high school. I’m only going to be able to play football for so long. … A lot of NFL players, after they’re done with football, they don’t know what to do.”
Sentinel: And from all of that, it had to help make you a better leader?
Lewis: “Oh yeah, most definitely. I feel like I was at an advantage to stay at Lake Mary Prep. It made me a better leader. … I just feel like it was a great environment that we had all the way around.
“You can say it’s the players, but it’s really not, because the coaches … what they did with that entire program … five years ago, if you said Lake Mary Prep, people would be like, ‘What’s that?’ … Now, you look at Lake Mary Prep, and you’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s where Coach Buck Gurley coaches, right?” … and that’s because of where they have taken it. They didn’t do anything with the players, they just put the correct attitude in the players.”
Sentinel: You’ve played numerous different positions in high school. What are they looking for you to play at Miami?
Lewis: “We’re still talking about it. I’m be recruited as an athlete right now. We really don’t even know. I’ve talked to the running backs coach [Terry Richardson] and he’d love to have me at running back. I’ve talked to the receivers coach [Brennan Carroll] and he’d love to have me at some slot. ... [head] Coach [Al] Golden would love to have me at some DB, so I’m gonna go down there and play it out and see where I go. I know I’m definitely going to be on special teams. We definitely had that conversation.”
Sentinel: And so, obviously, it makes for a good situation for you to have such versatility.
Lewis: “Definitely, it makes you a better football player all-around. It helps you know what that person is thinking when they are at that position on the other side. For example, I can play linebacker, but I also play receiver, so I know when I’m at receiver if somebody is cheating out, or what kind of angle I might want to take to the seam, or something like that. If I’m at linebacker, I can beat him to that position and jam him off his route because I know what he’s thinking. Different things like that helps you really become a more versatile player of the game to know more positions.”
Sentinel: In your heart, do you have a favorite position?
Lewis: “Not really. In my heart I’m a football player. You put me at defensive end, I’m not going to let anybody get outside of me. You put me at linebacker, I’m gonna shed off the blocker and go make the tackle. You put me at safety, I’m going to go intercept the ball. … In my heart, I don’t really feel like there is a set position. You might be able to put me in a set position by how I play, but in my heart if you put me on the field and I don’t know it, I’m gonna learn it, but most likely, I’ve already learned it.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.