they gave them a series of tests,” Savage recalled. “They would do the bench, pull-ups, dips – stuff like that. Lional Vital, who’s now a scout with New England, was our scouting guy down there in the room watching it all unfold. When Ray stepped in for every exercise, the first question he asked every time was, ‘What’s the record?’ That’s when you know you have someone special. He had the mentality that you wanted in a pro. He wanted to be the best at everything right away.” He impressed the Ravens coaching staff so much that weekend that when veteran middle linebacker Pepper Johnson showed up for mini-camp weighing nearly 280 pounds, they cut the guy with two Super Bowl rings and a big cap number for an undersized rookie with a passion for the game.
Yet despite all of these football credentials – and they were all earned through long days of sweat, long before he hoisted the Lombardi Trophy or the Super Bowl MVP trophy that night in Tampa – Ray Lewis will almost certainly be forever defined by the masses for an event that had nothing to do with tackling, blocking, passion or winning football games. It had to do with celebrity and murder. The story is now beyond famous. It is infamous. A limo speeding away from Buckhead, a trendy bar area in suburban Atlanta six hours after the Super Bowl ended. Two dead bodies in the street, lying in a pool of blood. Bullets fired into the air. And one Pro Bowl linebacker charged with murder on the eve of the Pro Bowl.
Being on the radio – locally and nationally – I think I’ve heard just about every argument for and against Ray Lewis in this case. I’ve certainly taken my fair share of heat for going to the mat to support him. People have accused me of supporting him