Ray Lewis Enshrinement speech
Baltimore! Baltimore! We're in the building, baby!
(Cheers and applause.)
Oh, listen to me carefully. When God tells you something, believe Him. Listen to me. No matter the journey, oh, there's too many ups and downs, but, boy, when you believe Him.
5/15/75. Remember 5 and remember 7 because they're going to have a recurring attitude in my message. 5/15/75 my mother had me, ironically, when she was 15 years old. We had no other route out. I'm gonna say it first now so I get it out the way father, even though you're not here, I love you anyway.
I love you anyway, Daddy, wherever you're at. Because that woman right there, 5/15/75, you hear me? Yeah. Remember what they told you when I was little? We ain't gonna make it. Ain't no way we gonna make it. Well, guess what, Mama? We made it.
Crazy, right? Tell you about numbers. 5/15/75, right, I played 17 years. I go to the University of Miami, right, and I get signed to one of the last scholarships ever given. Right? I didn't even have a scholarship. I wasn't even in the media guide.
And the coach asked me, Randy Shannon asked me, "What was the number you wanted?" He said, "The last numbers we got is these numbers." And I looked, and those numbers was 5 and 2. And I said, "Give me that 52." He said, "Why you like 52?" I said, "Because that's God's number. That's completion."
I played 17 years. I lead 17 years. I go play in Super Bowl 47. I get inducted to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Super Bowl 52. Man, God's something else. Man, God's something else. Man, God's something else.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. You can play with numbers, but some numbers you can never change.
We were playing Dallas, I'll never forget it, the last 17 years. I talked to my daughter privately, and I told her like, "Baby, this is it for me. Daddy gonna let it go after this. I can't miss no more games. I can't miss my kids no more."
I'm in the game playing Dallas, I got my whole stadium, the whole box, everybody in the stadium, and I drop back and Romo drops back, and I'm like, “pick your hands up. Just knock the ball. You done read this play. Intercept it. Just grab it."
I hesitate, put my hand up. When my hand come down, pow. I hear a pop. And my tricep popped from the bone, and I said: No way. Something's wrong. Because we know when something's wrong.
I played about six, seven more downs, and I got to the sideline, and Dr. Curl, who's sitting in this audience right now, she touched my arm, and she said, "Ray, I'm sorry to tell you this, but you got a torn tricep, and nobody's never came back from an injury like this."
Now, you know, if anybody know me, it can't be done, that's like pouring a gallon of lighter fluid on an open flame. Ozzie? New? Where you at, New? I called you the next day. I called you the next day I popped my tricep. This is how crazy I am. This is how much I believe in God.
I called Ozzie the next, I said, "New, call Steve." Ravens owner. What'd I tell you? I said, "Don't put me on IR." Coach Harbs, what'd I tell you? "Don't put me on IR."
Ravens 2012, what I told ya: I will be back. Take care of what you gotta take care of, but I will be back.
Man, I came back, and, boy, did I come back. Man, boy, did I come back. J.B. know what I'm talking about. Boy, when you walk off your last time and you leave with that thing, when you hoist that Lombardi for your last time ever strapping up your cleats, it's a confirmation that I am living proof of the impossible. Living proof.
Mama, you know what? I wasn't going to go here, but I got to, because you're something else. Man, listen to me. I worked through pain like I had never known and came back. And all them boys sitting there, Flacco and Tucker and all them boys and all of Baltimore
Oh, oh, did we hoist, did we hoist that Lombardi. And they tried to turn the lights out on us.
Now, let's just be honest. Let's be honest. If you grew up with me and my mama grew up in the projects, your light might get turned off every Friday. But Beyoncé had just performed. So, something had to happen. They didn't just go out. I promise you them lights just didn't go out.
But that's the way you end the career. Right? You take that challenge. When you answer the call and you see the other side of pain, it's called glory. This is called glory. There is somebody sitting home right now, there's a young, ten-year-old kid sitting home that don't have a father and he's ready to join a gang, he's ready to give up. I'm telling you: Don't give in, and don't ever give up. That ain't what we do.
That ain't what we do. There are so many people, there are so many people that I want to thank here today. Listen, so many. But above all, I am so grateful for my God who gave me my strength in my darkest moments and humbled me in my moments of glory.
There was, you know, people, people always talked about my dancing, right, and they always liked to see Suga hit that thing, and now, you know…
You know, yeah, you know. Shay be calling out, "Suga Ray," and Suga start shaking on him, you know?
But, you know, when I found out, seriously, though, like as I started going, and, Harbs, you remember this, the conversation we had, right, because I didn't want the light to necessarily be on me because it wasn't really about me. So, Dawk, I was like figuring out the same power you talking about.
So, when I started coming out of the tunnel, I wanted to really start to honor God. So, it was funny because when I went to the right, right, it was for the Father. When I came to the left, it was for the Son. When I came back for the middle, it was for the Holy Father, Son, all in one.
Mama taught me God. Mama taught me God. Mama, you gave me every opportunity. No matter how hard it was, I watched you. I watched you. And at ten years old, I made a vow: A man would never put his hands on you again. I make promise to that. I always got your back.
Yeah. You sacrificed for me. That's true love, Ma. That's true love. That's a God be love. As Martin Luther King said, "Love is the most durable power in the world." And my life has been a testament to his words that all I learn is from your example, Mama.
They ask me all the time, "Who was your hero growing up? Who was your sports hero growing up?" My mama. My mama. My mama couldn't make it to my football games. My mama made it to one football game I've ever played in. One. 1985. Ten years old. First time. I ran the kickoff back, a fake reverse, 75 yards.
Yeah, Bus, I ran the ball, too. Don't hate. Yeah. Suga was rough. Suga was rough, now. Yeah, Marcus Allen. I was Marcus back then. You know? I'm just saying. I'm just saying. Stay with me for a minute, you know? But it was something else, man, to see like what started to happen.
And then every day, I'm telling you something, my kids, my kids, there is nothing in life, there is nothing in life that I will not sacrifice for my babies. My first son, Ray III, Rayshad, Diaymon, Rashaan, Ralin, Raven, KK, baby, it ain't just me. It ain't just me up here. Daddy told you, "If you start something, finish it. Finish it."
And I want to thank you guys. Desiree, a father's first true unconditional love is when he sees he has a baby girl. And what I love the most is our relationship.
Because I told you the greatest thing I can give you as a father is the truth. That's all Daddy can give you.
I can buy you many things, but the reason I'm with you right now and every one of my kids is because of the truth, that what I didn't have, the touches and the hugs and the kisses that I give you I never had that. I never had a father physically touch me and tell me he loved me.
That's why I hug you guys so much. That's why I'm still kissing you in the mouth. Yeah, I kiss all my kids in the mouth. Don't hate. Don't hate. Stay with me, now. Don't hate, now. Stay with me.
I know, I know, I know. I know, I know, I know. You know, my sons tried to get physical and stuff, you know. They think they're working on the stuff.
But all those things I missed, seriously, is the reason why I did what I did. It taught me the importance, truly, of just being wherever you're at there. If I tried to sit up here, really, and thank my family that's sitting in this audience individually, somebody is going to get mad at me. I can't, it's impossible for me to thank every person in my family that helped me in my family.
Man, I have one of the strongest families, prayer warriors that I've ever listen, it is amazing the way my family fights together and lives together and figure things out together. And sometimes you got to trade kids because somebody going through a hard time. And my family, my aunts, my uncles, my grandmother, my great grandmother man, you guys gave me all the love I needed when I knew I was in trouble.
I was in trouble, man. If you was raised in my hometown and you ain't have a father, man, that's a bad formula. But I made it. They lifted me up when I could've fallen so, so low.
And to my brothers and sisters: Wow. To my brothers and sisters: Huh? My twin sisters, Laquesha and Lakeisha. Kadaja. My other brother Keon. My mama said, my mama taught us a long time ago, she said, "A family prays together, stays together." Mama tattooed that in our hearts.
I remember when things got hard for us in Florida. My mama went broke again. We had to make a move my 11th grade year. My mama piled me up in a van. She said, "Let's go. We're going to Tennessee." I said, "Ma, you taught me God, and my vision ain't in Tennessee. My vision in Florida."
Got to Tennessee. And my mom was committed to making me move there, and I fell on my knees one day and I had given up because I knew my vision wasn't in Tennessee. My mama walked up beside me and slid on the right side, on the left side of my shoulder, she slid me a $39 Greyhound bus ticket back to Florida. And she put $20 worth of food stamps in my hand, and she said, "This is all I can do for you." And I said, "I'll make it."
But when I was leaving, when I was leaving, my little brother, my little brother grabbed me. And I'm going to tell it, because I'm supposed to tell it. He was so fat, and his cheeks were so chubby, we called him "Muffin Man." You know? I mean, I got to tell people the truth, you know? You know, you got to tell the truth.
And he was so fat, right, and I used to squeeze his stomach. Remember the commercial used to say "Sega, Sega." So, I used to squeeze his fat stomach to make his stomach say "Sega." So, I used to make us behind and pick up. But he grabbed me. He grabbed me when I had to leave, get ready to leave. And you said to me, he said, "Don't do it, Ray." You said to me, "You can't leave me. I won't live without you."
But what you didn't know is that I would die to make my family successful. And now look. I told you we was going to make it. It's not just me up here. It's all of us up here.
I am blessed. I am truly blessed to have met so many men of faith, from my childhood pastors, Pastor Brown and Pastor Sims, my relationships with pastors is so vibrant it's amazing. And they have guided me throughout my life and continue to guide me to this day. I have to thank every pastor that's been in my life and has prayed for my life and is still in my life.
Listen here, Lakeland, Florida: Wow. Polk County! Polk County is in the building! Lakeland turned me into a man. Lakeland turned me into a warrior. Lakeland turned me into an inspirer, a conqueror.
Man, there was nothing I couldn't do. And Kathleen High School, Ernest Joe, Ernest Joe, man, stand up. That's my high school coach. Coach Gary Lineberger, stand up. That's my first linebacker coach. Coach Poole, stand up. Stand up, Stephen Poole. That's my wrestling coach.
Those men, those men, those men, all the coaches that had me after them, those three men are the way I am who I am today. Those three men molded me, players that pushed me and laid the foundation of who I would become both as a player and as a man.
I met my best friend, Kwame. Boy, we stayed three doors down from each other. I lost a lot of races to him. Man, I lost a lot of races. I was never fast. I was quick enough to get there, but I just couldn't maintain the speed at the end. So, he would always beat me in all of these races.
But then we, me and him, we was broke together. So there nobody, a lot of people don't know this, right? So, we started this dance group called the Hardy Boys. Yeah, I know, I gave away a deep secret. But just know this: You will never see the film ever. Never.
And it was so funny because we did everything to make money because we was broke. After 14 years, we talked about it, where we were going. I'll never forget. I was 14 years old. We were sitting up under the oak tree. Kwame, we're sitting up under the oak tree. We were both starving. No money. And I looked at him, and I said, "We're going to recite our Father's Prayer until we get a breakthrough." That was at 14. I'm 43, and I'm still reciting our Father's Prayer. I appreciate you, boy, for life.
Warren Sapp. Where are the Hurricanes in the building? Where are the Hurricanes in the building? Miami in the building. Let me tell you something. Let me tell you something. The University of Miami blessed me. The University of Miami gave me an opportunity when no other school would give me an opportunity.
They gave me the last scholarship. Dennis Erickson, I always tell my kids, "You're always being watched, you're always being watched, you're always being watched." They saw me play my last game, Brazile. They gave me the last scholarship they had with four days to go to sign.
But when I got there, Warren Sapp, Pat Riley, Rohan Marley, C.J. Richardson, Chad Wilson, Malcolm, man, they changed my mentality. I was surrounded around so much greatness. Thank you to the University of Miami. Thank you for the scholarship. Thank you for the opportunity. My goodness.
Playmaker, playmaker. My first game, started at Colorado. I had crazy numbers coming from that game. I told Sapp he couldn't beat me to the football. But that's another conversation.
We go in this game in Colorado, and I had this crazy game. I come out of there, and Keith Jackson says, "Remember the name Ray Lewis. That's the next superstar." Keith Jackson. First time. Rest in peace.
And I came right out after that, and I said, I made a statement, and I said honestly, Steve, I said, "I might be the greatest player to ever walk up out of here. Who knows?" And everybody went crazy. Oh, my gosh, he says he's going to be the best. But Michael Irvin called me on the phone, and he said, "That's a Hurricane right there." And I knew. I knew I had arrived. I knew I was home.
There's a lot of Hurricanes here tonight. There are a lot of Hurricanes here tonight. But there is one that I'm missing, that I'm missing dearly. Miss Charlie Mae, where are you in the audience? Please, would you please stand up?
Miss Charlie Mae is the mother of my roommate who tragically was killed in college, and we have stayed with each other since Marlin is gone. Mama McNair.
Mama McNair, Mama McNair, since you lost Steve, I know you lost a son, Mama, but you gained a son. Me and Mama McNair talk every Sunday, because I don't have just one mother, I got many mothers that's lost sons. And, Mama, I thank you. I thank you.
Oh, my goodness. J.O. J.O. Where J.O.? Come here, J.O. Baltimore! Baltimore!
Baltimore! Baltimore! Baltimore! Baltimore! Baltimore! Baltimore! Baltimore! Ready? Go.
Oh. Oh. Hey, buddy, listen, you got to do it. You got to do it. Ravens fans, Urlacher, I heard you earlier. Boy, I know Chicago has got some good fans. But, boy, them Ravens fans, I'm telling you something about them Ravens fans, they're crazy with it! They're crazy with it!
Everybody, everybody, everybody that's sitting in this audience that's Baltimore, played in 2001, the first Super Bowl, played in 2012, coach or owner, please stand up. Please stand up.
The greatest visionary ever. Thank you, guys. Thank you. The greatest visionary ever to me was Art Modell.
A vision. Without Art's vision, I'm not standing here. Without Art's vision, Steve, we don't become the friends that we are. Without Art's vision, every man that's sitting in this room, we don't take a city and bless a city the way that we bless Baltimore.
Art Modell, Dick Cass, Kevin Byrne, man, priceless. First class organization. Bill T., Mark, oh, my gosh, every trainer, everybody that's helped me, J.O., Chad Steele, Rod Woodson, Shannon, Goose, Rob, man, all the people, it's impossible to thank all my coaches.
Because you taught me how to be a better player, but more than that, you taught me how to be a better man, Rex Ryan, Mike Singletary, Jack Del Rio, oh man, Mike Smith, Mike Nolan. I could go down the line to the men that changed my life.
This team. This team taught me grown man football. That's what 2000 taught me. Man, when you had to see Eddie George twice, Fred Taylor twice, Corey Dillon twice, and Jerome Bettis, that's rough sledding. That's rough sledding.
But I'll tell you, there was a moment in my life, and I want to kind of get to this moment, there's a moment, my guy Rex.
1999 to 2001 may have been some of the darkest moments of my life. But I'll tell you something. When God says, "Can you hear Me now?" He sends you a family to make sure you're okay while you're going through what you're going through.
What you did for me, what my Atlanta family did for me, Mona Lisa, what y'all did for me, Steve Bisciotti, what you believed in me, Michael Phelps, Michael Phelps.
What? What? How many times did me and you sit in the same house looking at each other? What we said: Baltimore is our city. We'll do anything for Baltimore! Anything!
That's the way you end it. Yeah. A lot of people call you the greatest Olympian ever. I call you one of my greatest friends, brother. I appreciate you, man.
Man, I'm coming to an end because I want to bless you guys with something. Me and Ed Reed, Monte, my goodness, Rohan Marley, I want to just thank you guys for that trip.
My guy, you may be up here next year. Back to back again.
I want to thank, I want to thank I just need to I want to thank all of Monte, you're the best trainer in the freakin' world, boy. You hear me? Yeah.
In that left corner, I want you to look over there in that left corner, because I would never leave Baltimore. But in that left corner is all of my graduates from my solar company that we work in Baltimore about creating jobs and providing opportunities to give people a better chance.
That's what we're doing. We took a bus up here to bless our city. That's our corner.
To the Hall of Fame, I was introduced to something yesterday that forever changed my life. I saw egos set aside. I saw men talk as men. I saw men close a door from all aspects of life, from all races of life, and we came to a solution.
And it wasn't no judgmental. It was just conversation. That's what makes this family so great. That's why I'm so happy to be a part of this family. Papa Brown, Jim Brown, I sat below your legs, and you looked down at me, and you said, "I'm passing the torch to you, not because of fear, but because of respect. Because people will listen to you," you said. I thank you.
Mama, look how far we came. Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. To the man that gave me that name, to the man that gave me that name, sitting in the incubator without a name, and a friend of my mom's, done us a favor. He loaned me the name Ray Lewis. And I promised, and I told him, "I will make your name great someday."
The Hall of Fame Class 2018, too many great names, man, Dawkins, Moss, Kramer, Brazile, Urlacher, Owens, Beathard. I'm just honored to be up here. But there is something I have to ask. I always got to leave with an ask. And let's get out of here after this ask, man, but for all of us up here, it's how we reacted to these challenges in our lives that determine our greatness.
Now, how do we react in this moment? How do we turn our legend into legacy? I've been thinking a lot, right, about Dr. Martin Luther King and his challenge for us. His destiny was not to see his dream through but to spark the mind that will ask: How do we execute that dream? Who will answer that knock on the door in the middle of the night?
And I see that it's got to be us, and it's got to start right now. Our country needs real leaders. Real leaders.
We need people. We need people who are willing to step up and take action. We need people willing to fight for what is good and what is right. How do we react to challenges in our country right now?
Think about this. Take us from being, we could go from being legends into building a legacy bigger than football, bigger than sports. I want us to work together to really take on these challenges, to look at our goals and what unites us. Surely, there is something.
How about stopping our kids from dying in schools? Can we please put prayer back in schools? Please!
How about protecting our children from a terrifying life of being sex trafficked? I'd lose my mind if my daughter got to. How about helping our neighbors that can't afford their medicine?
How can we do this? How can we come together? The answer is simple. The answer is love! Hope, faith, and love, and the greatest is love.
I'm talking about a selfless love, a true love from my mother and my God. The love described by Dr. Martin Luther King. The love that sacrifices and is defined by action, action taken for others, the actions of stepping up and being a leader.
It's no different than what we all do, did to get here. We rose to the challenge, week after week, for the love of the game, for the love of our team. That love just doesn't go away when we retire. It's still in us, burning to be used.
And I'm talking to you at home, too. Martin said everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And in the next 30 days, I want you to think about why you get up in the morning. What is most important to you in this life? Are you living every day to make this world better?
We must come together as brothers and sisters. If I keep my hands separated, anybody can come and bend my fingers. But, power, I promise you, if I put my fists together, there is nothing we can't do.
Think what we can do if we work together as a country. For me, my guiding purpose is to carry our God's destiny for my life. How do I do that? By not just loving my neighbors as I love myself but by challenging people to walk with me in teaching our nation how to love each other again.
And what do I do? What wouldn't I do to make this happen? That's the reason why I'm here to call this crew to action, to inspire, to come together and raise up our country.
Everybody can serve. Anyone can be a leader. When you take action to lift up your community, to inspire others to dream and to do more, you're a leader.
Listen, our gravestone has a date, a date when you were born and a date when you die, and it got a dash in between. And that dash defines what your legacy is.
It's time. Leave you with this last thought. Dr. Myles Munroe compares leaders to the King of the Jungle, he says. He says the lion is not the tallest animal in the jungle. The lion is not the largest animal in the jungle. The lion is not the smartest nor the most intelligent animal in the jungle, and yet, when the lion shows up, he is king. He is king.
You don't need to be intelligent. You don't need to be smart. You don't need to have a certain height. You don't need to have a certain weight. You don't need to have any kind of advantage, and yet you can be a leader.
I was not the biggest, the strongest or fastest, but my goals were clear, my actions were and still on service of those goals. I was a leader on the field then; I'm a leader in my community now. Now I've joined a new team, and my goal is clear with this team, to lift up my brothers and sisters, to inspire the leaders and this next generation to fight for love, not money, not fame, not success, not how many followers I got, but to fight for love.
My mother once told me, she said, "Win the race." She said, "Run your race, Ray." She said, "Don't give up. Do not sit down. Do not lie down, but stand up, go forward, and I will go with you."
One of the greatest gifts my mama ever gave me was the Bible. Now, the Bible made me who I am today. Ephesians 3:20 says: "Now unto him who is able to do, exceedingly, abundantly, above, far beyond all you can ever ask, think, or imagine according to the power that's working within you."
Walk with me out of here today with the mission in your mind, in your heart. Vow to be a leader in your community. Vow to be a ray of light in the world around you. Together, there is nothing we can't do. Hall of Fame 2018.