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.

Ernest Joe
As told to Glenn Clark

Ernest Joe was Ray Lewis’ high school football coach at Kathleen High School in Lakeland, Fla.

As a coach, you build a relationship with the kids who come out and sweat blood and tears for you. You try to show them the right way in life, and you try to be a role model for them. As Ray got older, he would text me back and say, “Pops” this and “Pops” that. I knew he looked up to me, but I didn’t really realize that until he left for college, and he would refer to me as “Poppa.” So that just made me feel that if I called, he would listen. It makes you feel good when the young folks look up to you like that. That means that you did have an impact on their lives. 

… I remember it was 11 o’clock at night when I got the call that Ray had been arrested, and it was the next day when he called and reached out to me. I told him before we talked, I said, “Let’s pray.” Before we even have a first conversation, let’s just pray. We prayed and I said, “Now, you need to tell me what happened.”

And he — he didn’t go into much detail — but he said, “Coach, I’m telling you, I didn’t do it.” And I just told him to hang in there, and I told him I was on my way. I wanted to see him, and I wanted to look into his eyes. That was tough for me to see him behind bars. I was talking to him, and I looked right at him and he said, “I didn’t do it.” It was like seeing your child locked up. It was tough. It was like losing your child — seeing him behind bars and thinking he was gone forever.

He did change his life after that. I think he had too many hangers-on and he was blessed to come out.

To read all 52 memories of No. 52, visit


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