I’ll always remember where I was the day Ray Lewis told Baltimore he had decided to retire.
I was eight feet to his left, in the practice facility at Owings Mills.
And I knew something was up almost right away.
I first noticed Ma’ake Kemoeatu hovering around in the back of the crowded press corps that was on hand to discuss the upcoming Ravens/Colts playoff game with coach John Harbaugh and his players.
Seconds later, Torrey Smith stood next to Kemo. Less than a minute later, Terrell Suggs joined them.
I’ve seen lots and lots of Ray Lewis press conferences and never before had players gathered to listen in.
“Ray’s retiring”, I said to myself. “There’s no other reason why those players would be back there taking this all in.”
My suspicions were right, of course.
SOMETHING ABOUT RAY YOU DON’T KNOW – UNTIL NOW
I’ve been with WNST Radio for eleven football seasons, going all the way back to the 2002 campaign.
In that time, I’ve seen – literally – hundreds of players (maybe 300?) go through that locker room, both in the old facility in Owings Mills and “The Castle” on 1 Winning Drive.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen Ray Lewis sitting at his locker, but I’d say it’s easily in the hundreds as well.
I’ve only seen him with two books in his hands, ever.
And a Ravens playbook.
I’ve never, not once, seen Ray with a video game. I’ve never seen him reading a magazine or a newspaper. There’s no TV set or DVD player in his locker, like a half-dozen or more of the “stars” have in theirs.
Anytime I saw Ray Lewis at the practice facility, he was surrounded by his faith and by football.
Never once did Ray disrupt the media with loud, profane music coming from his locker while his teammates were being interviewed or the media were gathered for a sound bite.
I never saw him accidentally drop his towel and bare his naked body in close proximity to the media who might have been stationed at Ed Dickson’s locker some ten feet away…and then laugh out-loud in a manner more befitting of a fraternity house prank.
The next time I hear Ray Lewis use or shout the “N word” in the locker room will be the first time.
Cornhole? Not Ray Lewis. That fifteen minutes could be better spent studying film or the next opponent.
A lot of his teammates were guilty of that behavior I referenced above — and I’ve seen or heard all of that in a decade-plus of covering the team. But I never heard or saw any of it from No. 52.
When Ray Lewis was on the premises, he was all business.
No shenanigans. No tom foolerly. No cutting up.
There are a lot of things about Ray Lewis that I will eternally respect, and his actions in the locker room are among the most memorable for me.
He was the epitome of the word “professional” when he was at work.
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