Ray Lewis eschews podium for impassioned, rambling Hall of Fame speech

Yahoo Sports

Part Sunday sermon, part Ted Talk, Ray Lewis’ Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech was all Ray Lewis.

Outfitted with a wireless mic and armed with a black handkerchief to mop his brow, Lewis shunned the traditional podium to give an impassioned, rambling 33-minute speech that started with thanking his mom and ended with his gold Hall of Fame Jacket soaked in sweat.

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‘Ray Lewis: We made it!’

“When God tells you something, believe it,” Lewis said after a video introduction from his daughter Diaymon Lewis. “Guess what, Mama? We made it!”

Lewis went on thank many people who saw him along his football journey, including his high school coaches, pastors, University of Miami teammates and Ravens fans, executives and teammates.

But he focused on his God, family and referenced his mother’s support throughout the speech.

Lights out at Super Bowl

“Boy did we hoist that Lombardi,” Lewis said about the 2012 Ravens championship team that played in a Super Bowl that saw the lights go out during gameplay in the Superdome. “And they tried to turned the lights out on us. If you grew up where me and my mama grew up in the projects, your lights may get turned out every Friday.”

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis gave an impassioned, rambling Hall of Fame speech on Saturday that left his jacket soaked in sweat when it was over. (AP)
Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis gave an impassioned, rambling Hall of Fame speech on Saturday that left his jacket soaked in sweat when it was over. (AP)

Lewis embarrasses kids

Lewis acknowledged his children who sat in the crowd.

“There is nothing in life I will not sacrifice for my babies,” Lewis said. “It ain’t just me up here. Daddy told you. If you start something, finish it.”

“Desiree,” he said, using the middle name of his eldest daughter Diaymon. “A father’s first true unconditional love is when he sees he has a baby girl. And what I love the most is our relationship.”

He also embarrassed his kids crowd by talking about kissing them on the mouth.

Michael Irvin welcomed Lewis to Miami

He went on to tell the story of his welcome-to-Miami moment when he joined the Hurricanes.

“We go in this game in Colorado,” Lewis said. “I have this crazy game. I come out of there and (broadcaster) Keith Jackson says, ‘remember the name Ray Lewis. That’s the next superstar.’

“I came out after that, I made a statement. Honestly, I might be the greatest player to walk up out of here, who knows? And everybody went crazy. Oh my god, he says he’s gonna be the best. But Michael Irvin called me on the phone and said, ‘that’s a Hurricane right there.’ And I knew I had arrived.”

Lewis dances with Jonathan Ogden

Before the speech was over, Lewis did his trademark dance with fellow Ravens Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.

And gave a shout-out to another great Baltimore athlete, 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who sat with the Ravens contingent.

Lewis uses Hall of Fame as a call to action

Toward the end of his speech, Lewis invoked Martin Luther King Jr. in calling for his fellow Hall of Famers to use their prominence to take leadership roles.

“We can go from being legends into building a legacy bigger than football, bigger than sports,” Lewis said. “I want us to work together to take on these challenges, to look at our goals and what unites us.

“How about stopping our kids from dying in schools? Can we please put prayer back in schools? Please? How about protecting our children from a terrifying life of being sex trafficked? How about helping our neighbors that can’t afford their medicine?”

‘You don’t need to be smart’ to be a leader

Sweating through his jacket at this point, Lewis closed with a message using his self as an example of how others can serve with or without certain advantages.

“You don’t need to be intelligent,” Lewis said. “You don’t need to be smart. You don’t need to have a certain height. You don’t need to be a certain weight. You don’t need to have any kind of advantage and yet you can be a leader.

“I was not the biggest, the strongest or fastest. But my goals were clear. My actions were and still are in service of those goals. I was a leader on the field then. I’m a leader in my community now. Now I’ve joined a new team and my goal is clear with this team, to lift up my brothers and sisters.”

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