Ray Lewis was one of the greatest inside linebackers in the history of the NFL, and certainly the greatest of his era when he played. That said, I don’t consider the former Baltimore Ravens star one of the great orators of his generation, even if he does, so I probably won’t be tuning into his Hall of Fame speech.
For those who might choose to do so, however, he promises to “deliver something that I think a lot of people want to hear. So whether it becomes my greatest moment or not, I tell you this: it will have people and myself on a roller coaster that we will never forget”.
Lewis was known for his play on the field, of course, but he also came to be known for his leadership abilities for the Ravens, routinely the focal point of pre-game rituals, including a series of dance maneuvers that is virtually (perhaps even literally) a trademark at this point).
The second-ever draft pick of the Ravens as a franchise helped lead the organization to two Super Bowl victories, one toward the beginning, and then at the end, of his long professional career. Baltimore utilized a suffocating defense to claim the 2000 Super Bowl championship, and then the offense went on an improbable postseason run in 2012.
Lewis, now 43, played his enter 17-year career with the Ravens, amassing 13 Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pro nods (with seven being on the first team), two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, and a very rare Super Bowl MVP for a defensive player, in addition to the two championship rings.
Football is the passion of his life, as it sharing that with others, which is why he says that he is not nervous about his speech. “I would only be nervous if it was something I had to talk about that I didn’t know”, he said. “I think this moment, for me, is on of those ‘moments’. It’s a moment that you dream for your entire life”.
While he expressed a lack of nervousness about giving his Hall of Fame speech, the wait to learn whether or not he would actually be voted into the Hall for this class—his first year of eligibility—was another matter.
“That knock on the door for me was like the first time ever getting my first jersey, like when you ran home and wanted to put on your pads”, he said of the wait in Canton after the voting took place. “You weren’t playing a game; you just wanted to put on your pads because you were part of an elite team. You made it. So it’s almost like the same feeling. … I think it never gets old. So that feeling, it definitely remains in my stomach”.
Among the other headliners in the 2018 Hall of Fame class are Brian Urlacher, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and Brian Dawkins. Owens, of course, will not be in attendance.