If you are a real football fan, you appreciate greatness. Greatness doesn’t just come around all the time. Sometimes, we forsake greatness until it has gotten old and slow, and then we realize how great a player was.
In my generation, greatness has been amongst us in several instances. I was able to watch the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game as Jerry Rice rewrote the record books. I was also able to catch the end of the career of Walter Earl Payton as he excelled into the realm of one of the great backs ever in the league. I witnessed the decade of Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders that will not be duplicated by any two backs of different styles for that period of time. I even witnessed the greatness that is Lawrence Taylor who, in my estimation, is the greatest outside linebacker to ever play the game.
Sometimes, as fans, we take greatness for granted. Enter Ray Lewis. Following the career of Ray Lewis has been remarkable for me. When he was at the University of Miami, #theU, he was a wrecking machine. However, no one knew he would be that great on the next level. When he was drafted by the Ravens, I happened to be in Baltimore doing an internship, and when I saw him on the practice field, I was like “He is going to get killed, at that size, on this level.”
That statement couldn’t have been more wrong. The Ravens started a small scrimmage in that practice, and I couldn’t believe the speed that he was demonstrating. He was shooting gaps and getting into the backfield making plays. In that one practice, he made the play for negative yards seven out of nine plays that they ran the ball. He was a little undisciplined, but his speed was covering up a lot of his mistakes. He had obviously been taught how to read the guards at Miami, and it showed as he never hesitated when making plays.
Ray’s career got a little sidetracked for a while, as he was involved in some off-the-field incidents that drew a lot of attention. Honestly, I think this may have been good for him as he has never been the same since those incidents. I have played a lot of football in my days (more than 15 years, to be exact), and I have coached for another ten years on the collegiate level, and I can honestly say that there has never been a player that gets me fired up about football like Ray Lewis.
He doesn’t play like it is a job. He plays like it is a game. He is passionate about the game and you can see it in his eyes. He has lost a step, but he has gained at least two more now with experience. You would think that he would be dropping off in production when, in fact, he is as good, stat-wise, as he has ever been.
The man is like a quarterback on defense. He gets the defense in position to make plays. Unfortunately, his defenses aren’t as talented as they used to be, but he makes up for a lot of their flaws. If you watch him in an interview, you want to suit up and go play beside him, because you know you are going to war with a warrior.
It’s funny how people are perceived in the league, but there is no doubt in my mind that if you asked anyone who they would want on their side of the ball on defense, his name would be one of the first out of most people’s mouths.
If you haven’t seen him play, it’s too bad, because you have missed a treat. Hopefully, he can give us a few more years of inspiring play.
Stay Breezy ~ I’m Out!