Ray Lewis has become one of the most recognizable players in the National Football League. For those of you who are not huge football fans, Ray Lewis is a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Lewis is the last of the remaining players from the inaugural season of the Ravens. After being drafted by Baltimore in 1996, Lewis has remained with the Ravens since that time.
In addition to winning the Most Valuable Player award in Super Bowl XXXV, only the second defensive player to do so, Ray Lewis has also been selected to the Pro Bowl thirteen times. Ray Lewis has become, through the years, the face of the Baltimore Ravens as well as a team leader, motivator, and a favorite for the television cameras with his animated pre-game rituals and his frank speaking after the games.
This year, Lewis tore a triceps that kept him sidelined for much of this season. After this injury and many years of playing in the spotlight, Ray Lewis announced earlier this season that this one would be his last. He has made plans to retire at the conclusion of the season.
Through hard work, determination, and a faith that has sustained him through many difficult times, Lewis was able to overcome his injury and return to the field just in time for the playoffs. Even though the Ravens have been the underdogs, and at times seemed to be defeated, Lewis and his teammates have pushed through to victory in each of their playoff games and earning themselves a shot at another Super Bowl title this Sunday night.
Even though Ray’s final year as a Raven may seem storybook, life has not always been a cakewalk for him. Fresh off the Super Bowl win and MVP award in 2000, Lewis was involved in a fight that resulted in murder charges being filed against the star linebacker. These charges were eventually dropped and Lewis testified against two others that were involved. Not being let totally off the hook, Lewis was charged with obstruction of justice and pled guilty as a part of his agreement with the court.
Through all of the fame, the disappointment, the troubles, and the turmoil, Lewis never seemed to loose his faith in God. Those that have not followed his career may see him on television this weekend, they may hear him praising God, and some may think that he is showboating for the television cameras. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Lewis has always maintained a relationship with God, both on and off the camera.
You may be thinking; “Wow, murder charges, that is some Christian.” I am sure that many think that. In fact if social media is any indication, many do still wonder about Lewis’ troubled past. Over the past couple of days, I ran across the following headline on the social media website mashable.com.
You can click on the title to read the actual article but it is apparent that many people have not forgotten this incident and that it continues to plague Lewis until this day.
There were also reports in the sports media this week that Lewis may have used a banned substance to help speed up his recovery from his injury. Lewis denies the reports, has never failed a drug test given by the NFL, and claims that the source of the story is just trying to get some publicity by using Lewis’ name.
One thing that you can certainly say about Lewis is that he is controversial. His talent, his past, and even his faith makes him this way. Not to mention his outspokenness and lack of shyness around television cameras.
I know that Lewis’ past has not been that of a model Christian. But you know what? Neither has mine. And neither has yours. None of us are without sin. Some may argue that my sin was not as severe, but that won’t cut it, it was sin just the same.
What I do know is that Ray Lewis is a believer in Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for Ray’s sins, just as He died for mine, just as He died for yours. Who am I to judge? I am just a sinner too.
Lewis will be remembered for his incredible talent on the football field. He will be remembered for his off the field troubles. And he will be remembered by his teammates as their leader. That is where Lewis’ talents really shine through. Ray Lewis has a passion for leadership. A passion that is born from his devotion to Christ.
In his book, Men of Sunday, Curtis Eichelberger, talks about Lewis’ faith, his Christian childhood, and his troubled past. But the part that I really found interesting was a section in which he discusses the leadership that Lewis exhibits on the field and in the locker room.
Lewis says there are four steps to becoming a leader, whether you work in an NFL locker room or at the local bowling alley. First, master your craft. Second help others. Third, share the Word. Fourth, live what you are preaching so that you will be heard and others will know it to be true and genuine.
“A job title doesn’t define a leader. What you do [for a living] doesn’t define a leader,” Lewis says. “It doesn’t matter how many Pro Bowls I’ve gone to. It doesn’t matter whether I go into the Hall of Fame. None of that defines a leader.
To be a leader, you’ve got to be willing to serve others. Learn your job and become excellent at it. Then seek to help others. As they improve and benefit from your assistance, they will see the wisdom in it and will look to you for guidance and leadership again. It’s not enough to be great at your job. If you don’t serve others and genuinely seek to make everyone around you better, your talent won’t matter. Practice your craft, then help those around you,” he encourages.
What a great example of leadership of a Super Bowl quality. Every time a team takes the field for a Super Bowl, there will be a loosing team. Someone will win, someone will lose. We, the football fans, will get excited, cheer, yell at the television and overall have a great time watching a great game. But when it is all over, what has changed?
Nothing. The world will be the same place on Monday that it was before the Super Bowl. The world will still be the same. Football is a game. Let us not forget this throughout all of the hoopla and media coverage this weekend. A Super Game but still a game none the less. What will endure is the difference that Lewis has made in the lives of others in the locker room and off the field.
Let this be Lewis’ legacy, regardless of the outcome of Sunday night’s game.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2 NIV