When Art [Berg] told his story to the Ravens, I thought the room was going to explode. You could see the passion in the players' eyes as they leaped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. On that morning, Art taught us all about our destiny. He taught us all that controlling our destiny doesn't mean controlling the events that happen in our lives. It means choosing how we respond to those events. Controlling one's destiny doesn't mean focusing on what you don't have. It means focusing on what to do with what you do have.
~ Art Berg, author of "The Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer" ~
Ray Anthony Lewis (born May 15, 1975) is an American football linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL). He is widely considered to be one of the best linebackers of all time.
Lewis played college football for the University of Miami. Drafted by the Ravens in 1996, he has played his entire career for the team, and is the last player remaining from the Ravens’ inaugural season. He has been selected to 13 Pro Bowls and been named an Associated Press All-Pro 10 times. He won the NFL Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003; he was the sixth player to win the award multiple times. He was also the second linebacker to win the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award and the first linebacker to win the award on the winning Super Bowl team. After a triceps tear that sidelined him for most of the season, Lewis announced that he will retire at the end of the 2012-13 NFL playoffs.
Ray Lewis’s moves drew praise from a professional dancer. “The slide is smooth and the chest pop at the end is sharp,” she said. “His body is a well-trained instrument.”
By SCOTT CACCIOLA Published: January 9, 2013
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the fog machine on full blast before Sunday’s A.F.C. wild-card game at M&T Bank Stadium, Ray Lewis made his way onto the field to the symphonic renderings of the hip-hop artist Nelly. He reached down to grab a thick slab of sod and smashed it into his face.
“He bathed in it,” his teammate Albert McClellan said Tuesday at the Baltimore Ravens’ training facility. “He really bathed in it.
Only then did Lewis begin his signature dance. He slid to the right, slid to the left, popped his chest twice and screamed. To paraphrase Nelly, it was, indeed, hot in there. It was also pure performance art, a scene familiar to anyone who had followed Lewis for the past 17 seasons.
After the Ravens defeated the Indianapolis Colts to secure a trip to Denver, for a divisional playoff game Saturday against the Broncos, Lewis reprised his dance, known as the Squirrel, one last time for the crowd. Lewis, a linebacker planning to retire at season’s end, made his final home game count, his place within the dancing, prancing pantheon of N.F.L. players already assured.
Lest we forget, Lewis is part of a rich tradition in the N.F.L., a league that prides itself on fancy footwork. Players dance to motivate themselves before games. They dance to celebrate important victories. They dance after touchdowns, after interceptions and even after first downs."
There was Ickey Woods, the former Cincinnati Bengals running back whose end-zone Ickey Shuffle became a national sensation. Jamal Anderson had the Dirty Bird when he was with the Atlanta Falcons. Deion Sanders capped nearly every big play he made by being, well, Deion. These days, Giants receiver Victor Cruz displays no small amount of technical prowess when he salsa dances after touchdowns.
One of the progenitors of the practice was Billy Johnson, a longtime receiver who went by the nickname White Shoes. Johnson, who played for 14 seasons before retiring in 1988, was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a member of the N.F.L.’s 75th anniversary all-time team — yet many fans still remember him best for the Funky Chicken, a touchdown dance in which he held the ball above his head while he wobbled his knees back and forth. At the time, his smooth moves were considered cutting edge. “Glad just to be remembered,” he said in a telephone interview.
Johnson said the dance began as a dare among teammates at Widener College, now Widener University, in Pennsylvania. As a rookie with the Houston Oilers in 1974, he wondered whether he would be permitted to keep doing it. He did not dare ask the coach, Sid Gillman. So Johnson went to an assistant, who gave him the green light. The message: do anything you want if it helps you score. For Johnson, the Funky Chicken was football ambrosia.
It got to the point where we’d be on the road, and people would call my hotel room and say, ‘We want to see you dance,’” said Johnson, a showman who often capped his routine with a half split. “You’ve got to keep the crowds wanting to come back for more.
While the league, with varying degrees of success, has attempted to curb such antics in recent years, the practice has continued, even thrived.
Much of the credit goes to Lewis, a 13-time Pro Bowler whose dance is a pop culture phenomenon, especially in Baltimore, where newlyweds have been spotted paying homage to him at their receptions. The dance comes fraught with risks, however. Some advice? Stretch beforehand. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith recalled seeing an online video clip of a young man who tore up his knee trying — and failing — to imitate Lewis’s routine.
Just some random dude,” Smith said glumly, adding that only Lewis can truly execute his trademark moves — those elongated slides, those dramatic chest pops. “I’ve never seen any dances like that. You ever seen any dances like that? Nobody dances like that.
Lewis, however, said he drew inspiration from a man in Miami named Kirby Lee, who developed the set of dance steps that became the Squirrel. Early in his career, Lewis told Lee that he would do the dance if he ever had the opportunity. It came soon enough.
One day, they introduced the defense, and I came out and just did it,” Lewis said. “And when I did it, of course the crowd went crazy.
After that, fans wanted to keep seeing the dance. “Then I started adding music clips to it,” Lewis said."
Looking back at Ray Lewis' journey we find that it hasn't been unblemished or without struggle.
Ray Lewis Trial: 2000
Defendant: Ray Lewis
Crimes Charged: Murder, assault with a deadly weapon
Defense Lawyers: Ed Garland, Jana Harris, Max Richardson
Prosecutor: Paul Howard
Judge: Alice D. Bonner
Place: Atlanta, Georgia
Dates of Trial: May-June 2000
Verdict: Guilty of obstruction of justice; other charges dropped
SIGNIFICANCE: The arrest of Ray Lewis, a National Football League (NFL) linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, on murder charges, coming just weeks after the indictment of another professional football player, Rae Carruth of the Carolina Panthers, on first-degree murder charges, focused national attention on the issue of violence by professional athletes.
Ray Lewis grew up in Lakeland, Florida, and played football for the University of Miami. He left after his junior year and was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft. He led the Ravens in tackles each of his four seasons, and led the league in tackles in 1997 and 1999. In 1998 he signed a four year contract extension with the Ravens for $26 million, making him the highest paid middle linebacker in the National Football League.
Victims Stabbed during Brawl
At the end of January 2000, Lewis traveled from Baltimore to Atlanta, Georgia, in a Lincoln Navigator stretch limousine to participate in various activities associated with Super Bowl 2000, in which the St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans. On the evening of January 30, Lewis and a number of friends engaged in post-game celebrations, which took them in the early hours of the next morning to a nightclub called the Cobalt Lounge in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. There were arguments inside the club between members of Lewis’s party and other patrons, and these continued in the parking lot as they were leaving. A brawl began when Reginald Oakley, an old friend of Ray Lewis, was hit on the head with a champagne bottle by Jacinth Baker, a 21-year-old man from Decatur, Georgia. In the fight Baker and Richard Lollar, aged 24, also from Decatur, were stabbed to death. The Fulton County medical examiner was later to give the opinion that they must have been stabbed by someone with a knowledge of anatomy, because the wounds were directly to vital organs, causing them to bleed to death very quickly.
Lewis fled from the scene in his limousine, along with some 11 others, including Reginald Oakley and another old friend, Joseph Sweeting, both of Miami. Witnesses reported that some five shots were fired as the limousine left, but it was unclear whether they were fired from the vehicle, or at it. Police found the limousine a few hours later, parked behind the hotel in which Lewis was staying. He was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and held without bail. Sweeting and Oakley had disappeared. Within hours Max Richardson, an attorney representing Lewis, issued a statement denying any direct involvement in the deaths and claiming that it was just a case of a well-known public figure being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Case Against Ray Lewis
On February 2 the lead role in Lewis’s defense was taken over by Ed Garland of Atlanta, described in the press as “a noted criminal lawyer who is known in the region for a certain flamboyance while representing the rich and famous.” On February 7 Atlanta police searched Lewis’s Baltimore home, and on February 10 there was a news conference given by Atlanta deputy police chief Carter Jackson and Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard, at which they gave the details of the case as they saw it. Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were also principal suspects in the murder. Both had extensive criminal records, were still fugitives, and were considered armed and dangerous. The authorities said Lewis and two acquaintances had purchased knives at an Atlanta sporting goods store on January 29. Howard stated that witnesses would testify that Lewis had been active in the brawl. The chief prosecution witness would be the driver of the limousine, Duane Fassett. Two days later Lewis was indicted by a grand jury and charged with two counts of malicious murder, two counts of felonious murder, and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
The next day Ed Garland gave the defense’s version of the incident, claiming that Lewis had attempted to be a peacemaker in the brawl and to break up the fight, trying to pull his acquaintances away. The shots that were fired were aimed at the limousine as it left.
On February 14 Joseph Sweeting turned himself into police, and Reginald Oakley did so the following day. That same day Lewis was released on $1 million bail, ordered to stay in his Maryland home, and to use no alcohol or drugs.
The case was assigned to Fulton County Superior Court judge Alice D. Bonner, and Lewis formally entered a not guilty plea. In pretrial motions Judge Bonner ruled that the results of the search of Lewis’s home could be used in the trial, but that previous allegations of assault could not. Twice during Ray Lewis’s college days Coral Gables police had investigated Lewis following allegations of battery made by different girlfriends, but no charges were brought. In November 1999 a woman had brought second-degree assault charges against Lewis, alleging that he had punched her in the face during an incident at a Baltimore area nightclub. These charges were dropped in late March 2000 because of conflicting testimony from witnesses.
Prosecution’s Murder Case Collapses
Jury selection for the trial began on May 15. Before opening statements were made Judge Bonner ruled that a statement given to police by Ray Lewis after the incident, and now acknowledged to be false, could be introduced in evidence against him. The prosecution, led by Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard, began the presentation of its case on May 27. Howard acknowledged that no witness would testify to having seen Ray Lewis with a knife, but that the testimony would show involvement in the fighting that resulted in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. The defense emphasized that no witnesses saw any of the three defendants with a knife, that two men known to have fled in the limousine had never been traced, and that defense witnesses would contradict the testimony of Duane Fassett, the limousine driver and chief prosecution witness. Lewis, the defense would argue, was only trying to stop the fight.
In the second week of the trial the prosecution case was weakened when four of its witnesses failed to identify Lewis as an aggressor in the fight, and it disintegrated when Duane Fassett took the stand. In a statement to police Fassett had said that he saw Lewis punch one of the victims, and that in the limousine as it left he had heard Oakley say, “I stabbed mine” and heard Sweeting reply, “I stabbed mine too.” But on the witness stand Fassett said that he had never seen Lewis throw a punch, and that he appeared to be trying to break up the fight. To the surprise of legal observers, District Attorney Howard didn’t even attempt to impeach the witness by confronting him with his earlier statement.
Murder and Assault Charges Dropped
On Monday, June 5 the prosecution dropped the murder and assault charges against Lewis, in return for his agreeing to plead guilty to a misdemeanor (obstruction of justice) for making false, incomplete, and misleading statements to police after his arrest, and to testify against his codefendants. Lewis was given one year’s probation, during which he was to continue to be employed; ordered to pay one-third of the court costs; and forbidden to use drugs or alcohol during the period of his probation.
In testimony the following day, Lewis told the court that Sweeting had shown him afterwards how he had concealed the knife in his fist and jabbed with it, but that he could not tell whether either Sweeting or Oakley had stabbed anyone. Oakley, he said, had been the aggressor in the fight. He had seen no blood on Sweeting’s knife or clothing. The jury acquitted both men on June 12.
District Attorney Howard expressed his disappointment that the evidence given in court by several prosecution witnesses differed from their statements to police. But legal observers noted that Howard may have made strategic errors: by pursuing a quick indictment he had circumvented a preliminary hearing, which might have revealed the prosecution’s strategy, but this had enabled the defense to demand a speedy trial, which the prosecution seemed unprepared for. Moreover, Paul Howard had not tried a case in four years and was in the middle of a reelection campaign. The anticipated media attention the trial would receive was seen by many as a factor in Howard’s decision to personally lead the prosecution team.
Ray Lewis was fined $250,000 by the National Football League for lying to the police, but resumed his successful career as a football player, helped lead the Ravens to victory in the 2001 Super Bowl, and won the game’s Most Valuable Player Award.
— David I. Petts
Suggestions for Further Reading
New York Times, Atlanta Constitution (February-June, 2000).
Lewis has been heavily involved in charitable activities throughout his professional career. He started the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation which is a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to provide personal and economic assistance to disadvantaged youth. The foundation has funded such events as adopting 10 families in the Baltimore City community for the holidays, an annual celebrity auction and bowling tournament, the Great Maryland Duck Derby, Thanksgiving food drives on North Avenue in Baltimore, and Ray’s Summer Days. All proceeds have helped fund the Ray Lewis Foundation.
Lewis has since been involved in pressing political, business, and philanthropic leaders for a stronger commitment to disability sports both here and in the developing world. Lewis was also honored with a JB award (named in honor of CBS broadcaster James Brown) during the 2006 off-season and received the “Act of Kindness” Award for his work in the community.
He opened the Ray Lewis Full Moon Bar-B-Que, which operated in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood from February 2005 until 2008. He has also gained several national corporate endorsements, some of which draw upon his tough image. In 2004, Lewis was placed on the cover of the highly popular Madden NFL 2005 video game distributed by EA Sports, and is also a very avid player of the football video-game series. In 2006, it was announced that Lewis, Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, and entrepreneur Mark Bloomquist would form S&L Racing, intending to race both cars and trucks from a North Carolina headquarters. The attempt to join NASCAR racing failed.
Lewis is a Christian, and his commitment to his faith was featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story in 2006. He has six children by four women. His son, Ray Lewis III, has committed to the University of Miami for the 2013 season.
Ray Lewis speaks about his faith and love for God
April 1, 2010/By: Daniel Gibbons
Ray Lewis, the future hall of fame Middle Linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, has earned a lot of respect around our wonderful city. When fans see the number 52 anywhere, whether it be on a license plate or on a lottery ticket, they immediately link it to the number that Ray wears when he is smashing Halfbacks into the turf. (Speaking of which, enjoy this video where Ray makes one of the best plays in Ravens history.)
Not just in Baltimore, but across the US, Ray is synonymous with terms like “champion”, or “play maker”. However, did you know that you can also think of the term “Christian” when you think of Ray?
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes radio show, Sharing the Victory, had a chance to sit down with Ray Lewis and talk to him about his Christian faith. Look for Episode 2: Season 2, which also includes Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. “To get to God, you gotta go through things. Don’t look at my yesterday, look at my tomorrow,” explained Ray during the interview. “I’ve said it before, God never changes. The relationship was there all along.
By Chris Korman, The Baltimore Sun
9:25 p.m. EST, January 6, 2013
Quann D. Massey heard his phone ringing at 2 o’clock Sunday morning. The screen showed an unfamiliar number.Many in Baltimore are convinced that the Lewis who emerged after his arrest — and endured snubs from advertisers wary of his image, even after leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl win in 2001 — is authentic.
The voice on the other line — Massey wouldn’t say who it was, other than a representative from the Ravens — told him to get to M&T Bank Stadium a few hours later. Tickets would be waiting, courtesy of Ray Lewis.
Massey runs an AIDS-prevention program that is one of the causes to which Lewis has lent his support during his 17 years in Baltimore. If people elsewhere sometimes focus on Lewis’ connection to a fatal double stabbing a decade ago, fans in the city where he came to define a franchise are more likely to speak of redemption.
“What he’s done since, that’s his record,” Massey said.
As Lewis, who announced last week that he plans to retire after the season, ducked into the waiting huddle of teammates prior to Sunday’s victory over the Indianapolis Colts, fans simultaneously roared and reached to wipe tears from their reddened cheeks.
He has been called the greatest inside linebacker ever to play the game. But local community leaders also cite Lewis’ charitable efforts off the field, which he often has carried out quietly. And some say his relentlessly positive message and apparent spiritual growth over the years has given hope to many.
“Ray Lewis had a run in with police, did time in jail?” said the Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, an activist who has worked in Baltimore’s most blighted neighborhoods, before watching the game at home Sunday. “That makes him the average African-American man here. It’s what he did after. That resonates.”
"Anything he’s been able to do for the city, he’s done,” said Jim Mullen, a 34-year old from Middle River who’s had season tickets since the team arrived. “He cares. You can’t dispute that.”
Through his Ray Lewis Family Foundation, Lewis has provided school supplies to thousands of city students as well as holiday meals and winter clothing to hundreds more families. He has worked to promote youth football, assisting with camps run by Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith. Lewis once drove through a snowstorm to watch a Poets playoff game in Frederick. He has shown up at practice and been unable to resist the urge to coach.
“He just steps on the field and he can’t help it,” Smith said. “Our kids saw that. But they just know. They know what Ray Lewis stands for. He tells them very bluntly to do the right thing. They hear that.”
Massey doesn’t actually know Lewis well but happened to meet his mother at a ceremony in the city a few years ago. Sunseria Smith convinced her son to assist Massey’s efforts to spread information on prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Lewis designed a special patch for what Massey calls “Safer Sex Boxers,” which feature a special condom pocket. With Lewis’ name attached to the program, Walgreens agreed to sell the product. Proceeds benefit Massey’s efforts to distribute materials and develop programs in city schools.
Massey, an East Baltimore native and Gilman graduate, had never been to a Ravens game. At 11 a.m., he and his sister emerged from the concourse at M&T Bank Stadium, nearly stumbling when they saw how close their seats were to the home bench.
Many of those most directly affected by Lewis’ influence weren’t at the stadium Sunday.
Edmondson football coach Dante Jones was at home, watching on television. The kids he coaches now don’t know a time before Ray Lewis. To them, Baltimore football has always been showy and loud, driven by passion.
“That’s the only thing they think of when they think of what it means to play football,” he said. “And because of that respect, they’re more likely to listen to his words.”
For Baltimore sports fans, Ray Lewis has been a constant in the same way the Orioles’ Cal Ripken Jr. was. Internet message board posters spent much of the week debating whether the emotion around his final game at home would match or exceed Ripken’s streak-breaking 2,131st game.
Like Ripken did, Lewis took a lap around the stadium Sunday. He did so after conducting several interviews, and surrounded by a flock of photographers who tried to keep up. This was not an orchestrated moment, though. Only a few thousand fans remained.
Even in Baltimore, Lewis’ legacy will be messier than Ripken’s. He’s cultivated diametric personas. On the field or in front of a crowd, he is unbridled emotion, most of it raw and tinged with righteous anger. But in commercials for Old Spice and EA Sports he’s able to poke fun at himself. Those who’ve seen him work with children speak of him kneeling down and speaking softly to each one.
His struggles make him a symbol many in the city can understand, Councilman Brandon Scott said.
“For plenty of people in the city, he just has meaning because he’s been here and he’s been through things,” said Scott, who represents Northeast Baltimore. “When he came, the city had 300 murders a year. That’s changed. He’s changed. We all grew together. We all have a way to go.”
Scott, who grew up in Park Heights, said he has spoken with dozens of young men who used Lewis as a role model.
“They like him not because he’s hit the highest of highs but because he knows the lowest of lows,” he said. “Every time he’s on the field, giving his all, that’s a bit of a light, a bit of hope, for the darkest places in Baltimore and the people who’ve struggled the most.”
If Ripken represented Baltimore’s hard-working side, Lewis embodies the feeling of forever being slighted.
Some observers find his speeches about redemption cloying and his over-heated rhetoric about leadership silly. Ravens fans eagerly awaited his dance before each home game; others mocked it.
Joe Polek understands how others see Lewis. The Bel Air native has lived in New England and South Carolina for most of Lewis’ 17-year career. He occasionally blogs about the Ravens in addition to working in radio.
“I get it,” he said. “There are a lot of doubts about what happened in Atlanta,” where Lewis was charged with murder in the fatal stabbing of two men after the 2000 Super Bowl. He eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and agreed to testify against two companions.
Like others, though, Polek was won over by Lewis’ transformation. He taught his young daughters the Ray Lewis dance, and bought them jerseys. He happened to get tickets to Sunday’s game and — as was the case at Ripken’s record-breaking game — could not hold back tears at various points.
As Lewis left the field for the last time, he wore a shirt that read simply “Psalms 91.” Like other Bible passages Lewis has referenced, it is a vivid telling of triumph through difficult times. “You will trample the great lion and the serpent,” it reads.
“Ray’s story is ancient, and it is beautiful,” Witherspoon said. “It speaks to Baltimore.”
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Ray Lewis refused to allow himself to be defined by others. He clearly cares about and has concern for others, he honors the unique individuality of others, and he has been able to transcend concern for himself through the act of loving others. “Where this active concern is lacking, there is no love (Fromm, 2006).”
On and off the gridiron Ray Lewis’ life experience speaks to us; and it says, ‘this is how you do it’.