From favorite hits, favorite games and inspiring performances, here’s what former teammates, team officials and fans remember about watching Ray Lewis play for the Ravens:
‘Greatest individual performance’
For Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, one game sticks out: Super Bowl XXXV. The Ravens, and Lewis, dominated the New York Giants, drubbing them, 34-7. Lewis was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“Man, he must have deflected five or six passes, and then there was the tackle he made on Tiki Barber where he broke free and was running down the sideline,” Newsome said. “I mean, that performance was the greatest individual performance I have ever seen from any player on a high school, college or pro level.”
‘Do something bigger’
Running back Jamal Lewis played with the linebacker from 2000 to 2006 and was instrumental as a rookie in helping the Ravens win their first Super Bowl. He rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Giants. He was just the second rookie to top 100 yards in a Super Bowl. His favorite moments were when “we were getting ready to play and Ray running out of the tunnel.”
“To watch him transform into a machine was an intimidating factor and left an imposing impression on the other team. They were more excited to watch him come out of the tunnel than we were. It all started one day when Ray and I, and there was one other player, we were just sitting around at his house. At that time, Ray was just coming out like everyone else. We started talking and we agreed that Ray should do something bigger and add some music to it. That’s when the song — “Hot in Herre” — was out, so we choreographed it. I didn’t think Ray would do it. I thought [coach Brian] Billick would shut it down.
“That Saturday night before he came out with it, he came up to me and said, ‘I got it, man, I got it down with the music and everything.’ He came out with it that Sunday, and the place goes crazy. I knew it was big, but I didn’t know how big until I went to Cleveland. Their players would tell the rookies, ‘Wait until you see Ray Lewis come out of the tunnel.’ I told them they should be concentrating on winning.
“He should do it at the Hall of Fame. I hope he is in shape,” Jamal Lewis said, laughing.
‘It took the wind out of him’
Tony Siragusa, the mammoth defensive tackle who helped keep offensive linemen from blocking Lewis from 1997 to 2001, remembered a particular hit by Lewis. But he didn’t see the hit that shook the state of Tennessee; he heard it.
“We were playing Tennessee one year in Tennessee, and I’m going down the line occupying two guys. I take them both down and force [Titans running back] Eddie George into the B-gap where Ray was going to be. I didn’t see him tackle Eddie George; I heard it. Ray hit him so hard, it took the wind out of him. I didn’t mind taking on two guys as long as Ray kept knocking the wind out of people. By the second half, people had to decide if they were still going to double me or double Ray, and that’s when I would get my tackles. I’m not sure Eddie George ever finished a game against us because of Ray.
“Ray’s first year there, he didn’t make the Pro Bowl, and the second year, they brought me in. I was in the hall and heard him telling guys in the locker room that he was going to the Pro Bowl because they just signed Siragusa and he was grinning from ear to ear. I was glad he had that type of confidence in me.”
‘God, I need a sign’
Few players or teammates chided Ray Lewis more than Bart Scott, who remembered one of Lewis’ famed speeches before the Ravens played the Miami Dolphins in a wild-card playoff game in January 2009.
“I was the jokester, the ass in the room, the guy who would call Ray out at times,” Scott said. “It was the night before we played Miami, and the coach asked if anyone had anything to say. I knew Ray was going to get up. He was from Miami and had been to his home. He was not going to let this moment pass, and sure enough, he gets up and starts talking. ‘Guys, I was home, lying in my pool and I said, “God, I need a sign. I need something from you to tell me about tomorrow’s game.” And guess what, the heavens opened up and a sea gull landed in my pool. Well, that’s the sign I was waiting for. That means we’re going to win tomorrow.’
“So everyone is waiting for me to say something because they know I am the knucklehead. So I turn to Ray and say, ‘Maybe the sea gull landed in the water close to you because you live near the beach. But if a sea gull landed next to you while you were floating on an inner tube in your pool and you caught that damn sea gull, then you are indeed a gladiator, the greatest player that ever lived.’
“Ray just kind of looked at me, and we started laughing. We still talk about that speech all the time. With Ray, I was kind of the knucklehead little brother. But it was great playing next to Ray because of his work ethic and him being a student of the game. He was always in great shape, and I have tremendous respect for him.”
‘Match me, we’ll win’
For kicker Matt Stover, when the Ravens were “the youngest team ever assembled in the NFL” in 2003 ,Lewis put the team on his back.
“Ray Lewis stood up before the team and said, ‘Match me, we’ll win.’ I’ll never forget that talk. I see it because it still sends chills up and down my spine. We went to the playoffs that year, and that tells you how talented and gifted he was as a speaker, because we had no business being in the playoffs.
“Both [Brian] Billick and [John] Harbaugh were blessed to have Ray Lewis in their locker room. No player on the team was going to let that guy down. His style and, at times, his mannerisms were different than the way I would have done it, but he never demeaned any of his teammates regardless of their position. He had a way of empowering everyone, and that made everybody better.
“I have never met a guy who played with him who didn’t respect him. I’ve watched him when he was a young player, and even guys like Rod Woodson, who was already a Hall of Fame player before he came here, gravitated to a young Ray Lewis. That’s another sign of a gifted player.”
Offensive lineman Wally Williams remembers Lewis’ “studious approach” to the game. As a center, Williams had to set the blocking schemes and protections. A middle linebacker does the same thing with schemes on the defensive side of the ball, and nobody was more prepared than Lewis, Williams said.
“We centers and linebackers are catalysts of both our elements. I was in my fourth year when Ray arrived and had played with linebackers like Pepper Johnson and Carl Banks in Cleveland. Even in his first year, you could tell Ray had the same detailed operation. He would come to me and ask about the things I was doing to confuse him.
“He was a very studious player, and that’s often a dynamic element of his game which is overlooked. Sure, you wanted to spring him and allow him to roam, run and make tackles, but most people don’t know that he was an extremely intelligent player whose IQ was as great as his instincts.”
‘Leadership role was very important to Ray’
Jonathan Ogden, who was drafted fourth overall in the same first round as Lewis, and who entered the Hall of Fame in 2013, the same year Lewis retired, had long talks with Lewis because they roomed together on road trips.
"I have some of the same memories as the others, all the great plays and the passion,” Ogden said. “But I have a special memory because Ray Lewis and I were roommates on the road and during training camp as rookies. We often talked about what we wanted and needed to do because we were struggling. Ray always talked about how he wanted to become a good leader. I didn't anticipate that he would become as great as he became, but the way he talked about leadership wasn't something you saw in everyday conversation with others. Even back [then], that leadership role was very important to Ray."
‘Even when they say he was losing a step, he was still mentoring the young guys ’
Ray Rice joined the Ravens in 2008, when Lewis was already a veteran.
“It was one thing to watch him on TV, when you had your childhood dreams and your dream of making it to the NFL. Obviously, you watched Ray Lewis over the course of his career,” he recalled. “So when I first got to the Ravens, it was, like, surreal, because every kid, everyone, knew who Ray Lewis was. It was very special when he actually took a liking to me and liked my approach to the game. He kind of showed me things on how to take care of my body, how to be a professional, and it was just humbling for a guy like that to step out of his shell and see a young guy come in and take you under his wing, put his arm around you and help you out along your career.”
Lewis extended his impact with such counsel.
“When you think about Hall of Fame, they acknowledge a lot of things on and off the field, but I think one of his greatest achievements is the amount of young guys he mentored along the way,” Rice said. “Even when they say he was losing a step, he was still mentoring the young guys. And honestly, winning the Super Bowl with him is one of the moments I’ll never forget.”
‘He wanted to be that guy’
Current Raven Brandon Williams remembers when Lewis took over a room.
“First time meeting him him, it was just one of those things. He walked in, and it’s just like it just stopped. That’s Ray Lewis,” Williams said. “He commands respect when he walks into a room; he has an aura around him. Soon as he walks in, no matter what he says, he could say, ‘The sky is purple,’ and you’re like, ‘Yes, it is. Oh, yes.’
“But you know people in the community and the locker room respected him that much. I’d always hear stories about … how he studies his playbook, how being a pro every day all throughout his career of, what, 16, 17 years, he was just always striving for perfection, always trying to get better for not only just himself, but for everyone else around him. I guess that’s why people gravitated to him so much, because he kind of demanded that respect. He wanted to be that guy.
“If something went wrong in the game, ‘I put it on my shoulders. Because I’m the linebacker, I’m the one who’s supposed to be pretty much the captain of the defense.’ And he took that to heart.
“Since I was a kid, watching him on TV, I knew he was going to the Hall of Fame. There’s never one play; there’s a bunch of plays. I mean, to be where he is, it’s not just being good now and again, it’s being consistently great day in and day out. That’s why he’s a Hall of Famer because he did the basic things extraordinarily. He always went back to his fundamentals, which to become a master of your craft is just the little things that you have to make perfect. Coaches loved him; everybody loved him.”
‘He truly is a complete man’
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was fascinated by Lewis as a player and as a leader, but he feels Lewis as a family man is overlooked.
“Really, more than anything, the thing he probably gets very little credit for is the father he is,” Bisciotti said. “It’s not easy having a split family, but as I got to know him or when I saw him at his house when he would have his Ray’s Summer Days, his kids were always there. Every single time I talked to him, every day off he ever had, he was flying to Orlando. If we had a bye week and he had five days off, he was in Orlando with his children or they were up with him. And they’ve all gone on to college. He’s as close to the first as he is to the last.”
Lewis’ oldest daughter, Diaymon, will introduce him at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
“I know as we get older, you look back and there’s certain things you want on your gravestone and certain things you maybe focused your life on that don’t matter that much,” Bisciotti said. “His Super Bowls and his Defensive Player of the Years, it all doesn’t amount to much, and I know Ray would say that, that raising his children is his greatest accomplishment. A lot of men can’t say that. A lot of men don’t take the time to put that at the forefront.
“But very quietly, through Ray’s entire life, he was putting his family above football, even if it’s not quantifiable by the amount of hours. That’s not always fair to somebody who has a job to do, but the quality of time and the desire to be a great father was in him from the beginning. And now they’re all accomplished, successful people. ... If he didn’t have that, I don’t know that I could admire him in a vacuum for what he did on the football field. He truly is a complete man, and I’m proud to be a friend.”