Less than three weeks from his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ravens great Ray Lewis shrugged off the notion that he might be anxious about his induction speech almost as nonchalantly as he did opposing blockers in his prime.
“Nervousness? No,” the 13-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year said during a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “I would only be nervous if it was something I had to talk about that I didn’t know. I think this moment, for me, is one of those moments. It’s a moment that you dream for your entire life.”
Lewis was in attendance in Canton, Ohio, five years ago for the induction of Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter. From those speeches, he said he learned: “All you have to do is come deliver something that I think a lot of people want to hear. So whether it becomes my greatest moment or not, I tell you this: It will have people and myself on a roller coaster that we will never forget.”
Lewis, 43, is part of an eight-man class that will raise membership in the Hall of Fame to 318. He will be joined by wide receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, linebackers Robert Brazile and Brian Urlacher, general manager Bobby Beathard, safety Brian Dawkins and guard Jerry Kramer.
Lewis credited former Ravens teammates Bennie Thompson and Eric Turner for mentoring him and showing how to be a professional. Lewis said Thompson urged the then-rookie to join him for workouts between morning and afternoon practices at training camp and cited Turner for fortifying his confidence.
Lewis also said he enjoyed matching wits against quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning the most. “Every time each one of us walked off the field from each other, we always gave each other mad respect because we knew what it was going to come down to,” he said.
Despite a 17-year career that included two Super Bowl titles and seven first-team All-Pro selections, Lewis acknowledged that being admitted to the Hall of Fame is somewhat bewildering.
“From a child to a grown man and finishing out whatever I did in my career, the butterflies in your stomach never leave,” he said. “That knock on the door for me [before finding out] was like the first time ever getting my first jersey, like when you ran home and wanted to put on your pads. You weren’t playing a game; you just wanted to put on your pads because you were part of an elite team. You made it. So it’s almost like the same feeling. … I think it never gets old. So that feeling, it definitely remains in my stomach.”