As Ray Lewis prepares to take his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, teammates, coaches, opponents, family and members of the media reflect on the legacy of the legendary Ravens linebacker with their favorite memories and never-before-heard stories.
As told to Glenn Clark
Eddie George was a running back who spent most of his career with the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens’ rival in the AFC Central.
We had so many different battles. Playing Ray required a different mindset, especially in 2000, 2001. At that time, he was coming off the murder trial in Atlanta and people didn’t know what to make of his career at that point. And for him to just march right through that — and I don’t want to bring up the particular incident — but for him to put together an MVP-type season and win a Super Bowl, that just shows you his mental toughness was remarkable.
I think the epitome of it was when they came and played us in the Divisional Round during the end of the 2000 season. It was an absolute war. It was a fistfight from beginning until the end. It was a game where if your career ended that day, then so be it. There was no brotherly love at all between both teams, certainly not between Ray and me.
I remember at the end of the game, Ray took an interception 50 yards to the house, which solidified the deal. When he got his hands on the football, it wasn’t enough for him to just get the interception and kneel down — he had to put the nail in the coffin. When you have a chance to put your opponent out, take him out, that’s what he was about. He was about taking someone’s will and taking over. It wasn’t just about the win; it was about making a statement. It was a game within the game that most people don’t really understand.
He was definitely one of the smartest players I had to ever go up against. He was definitely physically imposing because he worked on his craft so hard: his body, his mind, his spirit. When he hit you, it meant something different. He was trying to take you out, not just trying to make a tackle.
But we were friendly off the field, no question. We had some good times together. Pro Bowls in Hawaii — sipping Mai Tais at the pool. We were young back then, just talked about life, talked about kids, really never talked about football a whole lot, but just talked about goals and dreams. He was that type of guy where you could have a conversation about anything and everything.
I never really looked at him as a larger-than-life figure. To me, he’s Ray-Ray, you know, 52. I guess having seen his career from the beginning and watching him grow through the years, he really never became a larger-than-life figure. He doesn’t hold himself that way. He’s very down to earth and approachable. He will talk to anybody, treat them with respect. It was a great friendship that we had when we were around each other.
It’s always been a genuine rivalry between Ray and me, and I have to say, man, when I played against him, you had to bring you’re A-game, period. Anything less will not do. Just to have a chance you have to bring your A-game, and then you have to be mentally, spiritually and physically prepared to go up against that and get a victory. It’s going to take everything out of you, in all three phrases; very few men have done it.
To read all 52 memories of No. 52, visit PressBoxOnline.com/Ray.