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
Former linebacker Jamie Sharper played alongside Lewis from 1997-2001 and was a part of the Ravens’ historic defense in 2000.
When I got drafted with Peter Boulware and Tyrus McCloud and Cornell Brown, it was pretty much like a rookie class coming in there at linebacker, coming in there as a freshman class in college. And then he was the elder statesman who was in his second year in the league, but yet he was younger than all of us. So that was a strange dynamic coming in.
He took us all under his wing, and he was definitely a great leader, of course, but he knew how to work. Going in there and learning from Ray that year, he pretty much led the team. He had people come over to his house, and we visited each other and what have you. It didn’t feel like a professional job; it felt like we were in college again, and we were all together and getting things done.
He told me about how he was at the University of Miami, and they always had so much talent down there that people were always fighting for jobs — that that’s why he worked so hard at practice. He was talking about how he came in there as a middle linebacker and he was trying to call the huddle, and Warren Sapp told him he needed to speak louder and lead the huddle and told him what it takes to be a leader even though he was a young guy.
That’s the biggest thing. You might think he’s just born how he is, but somebody had to tell him how to be a leader, and I think that came from college and high school coaches. But he kept that every year; he never lost that. Sometimes you can be a professional and be playing for awhile and you lose that edge. He never lost that edge.
Every year, he was leading the league in tackles. We were losing so much those first couple years — that was ’97, ’98 — but then we started to get a little better, and you started to hear the Jacksonville Jaguars — their linemen like Leon Searcy and their offensive players — talking about our defense and Ray. That’s when you started realizing how good he was. The team that went to the AFC Championship, the Jaguars, were talking about him and talking about us.
I think the biggest part was when we had different confrontations with the best running backs in the league — where Ray was going against Eddie George or Ray was going against Fred Taylor. He not only held his own, but he almost made those guys scared and cowardly. They almost don’t want to go and run in his hole. That’s when you realize how great he was. Jerome Bettis is a great running back, but Ray just owned him. Eddie George was good, and Ray pretty much [owned] him. I’ll let you hear a story about Corey Dillon, he just made him stop running the ball. You realize when you see other great players give him that respect and they may not want to go up and face him.
To read all 52 memories of No. 52, visit PressBoxOnline.com/Ray.