The U, Baltimore, Canton.

Many of you know that I was once a player and when I began, like most kids, I wanted to be a quarterback. I had a problem holding onto the football for too long and coach moved me to the offensive line. I was always told how quick I was and then, I was switched over to the defensive side of the football and that’s why I have developed such a strong passion for defenses. When I was growing up, there were many great defensive players in the NFL such as Warren Sapp, Michael Strahan, Brian Urlacher, a young man by the name of Troy Polamalu, the late great Junior Seau, Charles Woodson and then, there was a guy by the name of Ray Lewis who was also in the mix with all those other players that I mentioned. The more I watched him, I knew for a fact he’d be donning a yellow jacket in Canton, Ohio one of these days and we will get to see that happen this year in August.

What else is there to say about this guy? Other than the fact that next to Junior Seau, he’s the most motivational football player that I’ve ever seen. I often remember the visions of the Baltimore Ravens all huddled up before their games and number 52 would be in the middle of the group getting his guys pumped up. He simply bought the best out of everyone that played with him. When I think of guys who led vocally and by example, that was Ray. He led and the men behind him followed. The same energy he had before the game would definitely transfer over to the field at game-time. He was always the driving force behind some Ravens defenses that were amongst the best in the league. Anytime you saw the Ravens defense on the field, number 52 was always in the middle acting as that “quarterback of the defense”. Wherever the football was, he was there. He was a true ballhawk and always made a tackle. He could also drop back into coverage and defend and come away with an interception and don’t think that was all he could do. If you came over the middle, he’d lay you out. Ask Dustin Keller about that. One play that I remember took place in 2010. The Ravens were playing the Chargers and the game came down to a fourth and short yardage situation. Phillip Rivers handed it off to Darren Sproles and Ray burst through the hole and made the stop to end the game. That was a veteran play when the game was on the line.

Ray Lewis is the best middle linebacker ever. When you needed a guy to make that tackle, get an interception and make the guys around you better, that was 52. He was undersized to play the position, but that didn’t mean a single thing. He showed that it wasn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. He was also the main inspiration as to why I wanted to start playing football. He may never see this, but he inspired a kid from Harlem, New York to play and try to motivate his teammates. Thank you for that and this honor is well deserved.