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
Haloti Ngata played defensive tackle for the Ravens from 2006-2014.
I was obviously star-struck when I met Ray. You’ve watched Ray Lewis. You think of linebackers, you think of Ray Lewis. I didn’t know what to say, what to expect. And he comes up to me and I said, “Mr. Lewis, how are you doing?” And he was like, “First of all, please don’t call me Mr. Lewis. I’m Ray.” And then he gave me some pointers on how to get quicker feet and jump roping and stuff. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.” It kind of broke the ice and then it kind of calmed me down a little bit — because I saw him as this awesome, amazing athlete and linebacker. For him to give me pointers, I was like, “Oh, we’re teammates.” He’s not a regular guy, but he’s there to help you out and help you be better. So I was like, “Oh, this is cool.” So I relaxed, and I could just be me around him.
I remember my first training camp. I messed up on a play and I was like, “Dang,” so I stopped. I didn’t pursue to the ball or anything, and Ray was like, “No matter what, if you mess up, just run to the ball. The more people we get there, the better.” So I was like, “Oh, OK.” So it’s like, no matter what … I could just work with Ray, lean on Ray to kind of show me the way.
There are times in games where it didn’t matter what the defensive play call was. And this happened earlier in my career. It’s just, if Ray had a feeling or an instinct of like, “OK, I’m going to hit this,” he would say a word to me like, “Stay front side,” or, “Stay back side.” That’s when I knew. I was kind of like, “OK, Ray has seen something, so I’m going to abort whatever I’m supposed to do defensively and let Ray do it.” That’s how it worked. And then we kind of just figured it out where we didn’t need to say as many words or he’d just give me a tap or I just knew already. So we just created that relationship.
To read all 52 memories of No. 52, visit PressBoxOnline.com/Ray.