Ray Lewis past, present and future: Celebrating the Ray of today

October 28, 2010 | Nestor Aparicio

Pitchman Ray – The worst Cohen, Snyder, Katzenberg and Eisenberg (“my lawyers”) pitch was tacky. But this was the era of Jon Ogden’s Gebco dance as well as Flacco’s awful commercials for pizza, banks, cars and Mother’s. But the mere notion that he got that Old Spice commercial – no matter how surreal or bizarre they seem to be – is a testament to his perseverance.

Ray The Franchise – The Orioles went on without Brooks and Cal, Cakes and Boog and Frank. The Colts went on without Unitas, Berry, Moore, Donovan, etc. but only for a little while. But look at what Ripken’s shining star hid from the public for at least a few years of the Angelos administration. With No. 8 gone, the Orioles might never be the same. I don’t foresee that Ray Lewis leaving the Ravens would have the same impact that, say, Ozzie Newsome leaving would have at this point. But when he’s gone something very special will leave the Ravens. Keep in mind, the Ravens all but welcomed Ray Lewis to leave 18 months ago and neither side foolishly blinked and closed the door for writing the end of this fabulous and still evolving script together. Who knows? Maybe one day Ray Lewis will be a part-owner of the Ravens?

It is great drama, isn’t it, watching a guy like Ray Lewis go from a kid to being a man.

There’s a Baltimore street named after him — Ray Lewis Way — already…and he’s still playing!

He has been surrounded and supported by greatness during every step of his NFL career. From friendships with teammates like Shannon Sharpe, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson among others, Ray Lewis has been briefed by the biggest stars of this generation on how to leverage his star, celebrity and fame.

He’s birthed many NFL head coaches including Mike Singletary, who is one of the ghosts he chases every Sunday in the pantheon of NFL greats as he “moves up the ladder” in his mind.

There’s a real chance he’ll go down as the greatest player in the history of football especially if there are a few more parades here in Baltimore while he’s still on the field.

Certainly every time Lawrence Taylor subsequently gets arrested again there must be some little switch that goes off in Ray Lewis’ head to not ever become THAT guy again. Ditto the downfall of everyone from Pacman Jones to Brett Favre, from Ben Rothlisberger to Plaxico Burress. And the murder of Steve McNair must weight pretty heavy on his mind.

Ray Lewis’ life “off the field” has been choppy at best – in business and with the fallout from a night in Buckhead that will always be on his resume. He’s had failures in the business sector – certainly no crime given the state of the American economy over the last three years — but he’s never failed on the field.

But the field is shortening — at least the one he plays on every Sunday in the fall. No matter what, that’s a limited time offer and he knows that window is closing.

And despite working for 10 years to sanitize his reputation after Atlanta I still heard a Patriots fan in the parking lot last week in Foxborough talk about the time “Ray Lewis got a gun and shot those two kids.”

I know, I know – dumb, dumb, dumb – but my point is that it’s still out there, this negative vibe about Ray Lewis and it probably always will be in some segments of the world.

The question then becomes: “Where does Ray Lewis go from here?”

Tomorrow we’ll examine some potential paths that Ray Lewis could go in the future as he continues to write this magnificently complex story of his life.