My favorite Ray Lewis story, and I am not certain it’s true, is that he had a bad relationship with his father, who held several high school records. The story goes that Lewis goal in high school was to erase his father from the record books of his high school, and he did. I love this story because it comports with my theory that greatness is achieved not by physical talent or divine intervention alone, but in the mind, and frequently a mind unbalanced by a fundamental insecurity or a mind seeking refuge from some external turmoil.
This mind invests itself in a purpose such as football, absorbing the nuances and devouring it’s ethos to the point of becoming the living, breathing embodiment of that purpose. The hours of training, study and absorption make the accomplishment of the purpose look simple. I remember Ray Lewis as a freshman linebacker at the U. He was a shadow of the broad-shouldered, puffed-chest iconic image of a middle linebacker we are now familiar with. He looked more like a defensive back, but he found the football, got to the man holding it and put that man on the ground.
He should have played for Jimmie Johnson’s Miami teams, and if the NFL trusted watching football as much as it trusts measurements, weights and speed, he would have been drafted higher than 25th. Maybe the losing in college and the slight of the draft gave that beautiful mind just another nudge toward greatness. In the next couple weeks, it will be over, at least the playing part, and he is the best middle linebacker to play this game.
In the current times of concussions and silent suffering punctuated by violent homicide and suicide, from which it must be said after a particularly memorable night in Atlanta, Ray Lewis is no stranger, I am concerned how he will handle life beyond the locker room and the game he has mastered. I have listened to enough youtube clips to envision a career in coaching or motovational speaking, but this of course is his to make. If this should be the last of him we see in a public life, I thank you Ray Lewis for reaching greatness as a football player and allowing me to vicariously enjoy your journey.