Eight months after a stirring pregame locker room speech from Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis helped propel the Stanford basketball team to the NIT championship, the Cardinal collectively decided to try to return the favor.
They sent Lewis a motivational video a few weeks ago encouraging the 37-year-old future NFL Hall of Famer to keep his spirits up as he fights to come back from the season-ending torn right triceps he suffered Oct. 14 against Dallas.
Forward Andy Brown, who has returned from three ACL tears in the same knee to crack Stanford's rotation, tells Lewis he's confident the linebacker can come back stronger than ever from his injury. Guard Gabe Harris, who missed the final three months of last season with a right knee injury, delivered the same message. And guard Aaron Bright and forward Josh Huestis referenced Lewis' famous "pissed off for greatness" phrase in urging him to get well soon.
Said Bright, "We know that you're going to bounce back. We're pissed off for greatness, so we know you're pissed off to get back out on the field."
Said Huestis, "We're supporting you. Thanks for everything. We know you'll bounce back from this. Pissed off for rehab. Get after it, Ray."
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It was important to Stanford players and coaches to express support for Lewis because they're grateful he took the time to speak to them before their NIT semifinal against UMass at Madison Square Garden last March. The speech from Lewis subsequently went viral on YouTube and social media and had Stanford players transfixed in a way that would be difficult for Johnny Dawkins or anyone on his staff to duplicate.
"Wins and losses come a dime a dozen," Lewis said that day. "But effort? Nobody can judge effort. Because effort is between you and you.
"I'm pissed off for greatness. Because if you ain't pissed off for greatness, that means you're OK with being mediocre."
Stanford took Lewis' message to heart, beating UMass 74-64 with Lewis watching from behind the bench and upsetting Minnesota in the title game two nights later to win the NIT for the first time since 1991.
The NIT championship was a nice stepping stone for a young Stanford nucleus hoping to accomplish bigger things this season. The speech from Lewis, however, is a memory that will last a lifetime.
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