The NFL lost one innovator and visionary just a few weeks ago when Art Modell passed away. This week, we lost yet another integral figure, NFL films co-founder Steve Sabol, without whom football would not be what it is today.
Sabol’s passing came mere days before his company would showcase the man who made “mic’ing” players up worthwhile.
Ray Lewis’ A Football Life was heartwarming.
I’m told on a daily basis that I’m the luckiest Ravens fan people have ever met. Even though I try to stay as humble as humanly possible, I realize that I am. Being blessed with the opportunity to cover my favorite team, I’m afforded the behind the scenes access that comes along with being a member of the media.
Watching practice, attending press conferences, and conducting player interviews in the locker room are all moments that I’ll never forget.
Professionalism is key around a first-class organization like the Ravens and I abide by every rule. The single hardest thing to do is keep my composure when I see Ray Lewis walk by because I’ve idolized this man since I was a young boy. When he speaks to you, eye contact can’t be broken.
He’s every bit as intense, emotional, and charismatic as a leader as you’ve seen on television every Sunday since 1996, and as was expertly portrayed on A Football Life.
Trust me – none of it is an “act” on his part.
When you are a man most idolize, where do you turn for inspiration? For Lewis, he turns to those who overcame odds to just introduce themselves. Last night, we were introduced to two Ravens fans – Sgt. 1st Class Alan Weisman, and Bill Warble from Dundalk.
Weisman wore Lewis’ jersey as inspiration in battle and was shot the one day he didn’t wear it. He was awarded a Purple Heart and presented it to Lewis; the medal now sits on Lewis’s nightstand.
Warble’s bond with Lewis came after he was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. Lewis learned much about himself and the value of life through Warble, who said he wouldn’t die until the Ravens won the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Warble never got to see Lewis hoist another Lombardi trophy, as he passed away earlier this year.
The stories of Weisman and Warble are just two of many countless similar instances in Lewis’s life.
For me, one in particular stands out.
During training camp, Lewis walked over a child in a wheelchair named Sherman (pictured above). Before even saying hello, Lewis dropped to one knee, placed his hands around Sherman’s head, kissed him on his forehead and then began to pray.
Sherman’s reaction was priceless as he let out the loudest scream I’ve ever heard in excitement.
It’s moments like this that give me goose bumps just while writing this story.
During his interaction with Sherman, Lewis made sure to grab Ray Rice, the next superstar in Baltimore and someone he’s been mentoring for years. The bond between these two players is something that many fans don’t get a chance to witness. Their lockers are placed next to each other and there isn’t a day Lewis doesn’t walk out to the field without Rice by his side.
“Raymond,” as Lewis calls Rice, is set to take over the community spotlight when Lewis’s career culminates. Rice has made strong efforts in his relatively short career to make sure his path doesn’t include any blemishes like the one Lewis went through as a young man.
Rice’s interaction in the community is Lewis-esque and his interaction with children is second to none.
Cal Ripken Jr. may be the first son of Baltimore, but Lewis has been adopted. For as big of a fingerprint Lewis will leave on this city when it’s all said and done, it’s fair to say that Lewis has adopted the city that has adopted him.
His on field production doesn’t dictate it but Lewis’ career will end sooner rather than later. Baltimore – the city and the Ravens – will have to prepare to move on.
Until then, cherish every moment you can with #52 while he’s here – you’ll never see anyone like him ever again.