Ray Lewis, while not the MVP, was the spiritual leader of the Baltimore Ravens. After 17 years, Lewis, regarded as the greatest middle linebacker of his generation, played his last game, and it was Super Bowl XLVII, and he won it.
Afterward, the man who’s given inspirational words to everyone from Michael Phelps to The Stanford Cardinal Basketball Team, had some words for the press:
RAVENS LB RAY LEWIS
(on ending his career like John Elway, Jerome Bettis and Michael Strahan) “Look, we said it all year, and now I can finally speak about it. I can think about ‘self’ a little bit now. What better way to go out? And, I think, more importantly, it was my teammates in the way I went out – the things we’ve been through all year. I was tested through this journey, it was an up-and-down rollercoaster, the injuries, the people, and we stayed together. And now, I get to ride off into the sunset with my second ring. Honestly, when God is for you, who can be against you? No weapon formed against us.”
(on Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco) “I am a Joe Flacco fan. I’ve been a Joe Flacco fan. For him to come in and do what he did today, and made some of the throws he made, that is what we’ve always seen. We’ve always said that when you win a championship, one man won’t win the ring. It will be a complete team. Today, we won as a complete team.”
(on the Jacoby Jones kickoff return for a touchdown) “Jacoby is, special-teams wise and team wise, he is one of the biggest differences that can help us change field position. For him to come out and do what he did tonight, I will let him tell the story. I was just told to put my hands on his chest, and I rubbed my hands down his chest, and I saw him break through there. You have to be a real fast person to catch him. He is a special man. To see him break that wide open, there is just no better way to do it as a team.”
(on the late goal-stand by the Ravens defense) “You know, honestly, the most exciting thing ever was the conversations that we were having at the goal line. Nobody ever panicked, everybody looked at each other, and there was no panic. When you have that, when your back is against the wall, and they have three more plays at the goal line, and if we all do our jobs, they won’t get in. For us to stand up like that, it is just a testament of what we’ve been (through) and how much trust we had all year with each other. To me, that was one of the most amazing goal-line stands I’ve ever been a part of in my career. What better way to do it than on the Super Bowl stage.”
(on how it feels to win the Super Bowl) “I had dreams after dreams, I couldn’t sleep. And every time I saw this moment, I tried to let my teammates know what this moment would feel like. And last night, when I had my conversation with them, I just spoke directly from my heart, to tell them what this feeling will feel like and what God has shown me. For us to finish it the way we did, and the sermon this morning that our pastor gave us was, ‘Finish the race.’ And, as a team, we finished the race.”
(on what is next for him after football) “Everything. The world. Life. Now, I get to see a different side of life. My family, and my sons, my kids, they’ve sacrificed for me, and now I get the opportunity to sacrifice for them. To see their faces, and to hear their comments, and to know what is on their hearts, everything is for them now. The only thing that ends for me, is football. Life really begins for Ray Lewis now.”
(on what was going through his mind during the delay in the third quarter) “Honestly, I just went out there and tried to keep everybody focused, and keep everybody loose. I just started catching passes, to put my mind off the lights. That is probably the first time that’s probably happened in the Super Bowl. For something that strange to happen, you just had to keep your focus. We were on a roll just then, and to stop that momentum and we saw when things started to shift. But, we finished it. It shows what our team is built for, no matter what we’ve been faced with. Coach (Harbaugh) called us up during the break and said, ‘Whatever goes on here, it doesn’t matter. We are here to finish this race.’ And, we finished it.”
(on what his best play was in the Super Bowl) “When the confetti came after the clock hit triple-zeros. There is no best play. That’s one thing about me, you’ve never heard me talk about my play. My play is what I can do for my defense and what I can do for my team. What we did as a team today was the ultimate. Individually, I am not going to speak about myself when it comes to this type of win.”
(on the Ravens’ journey to the Super Bowl) My journey, I’ve spoken about it time and time again, in your journey, you go through peaks and valleys, and we went through a lot of peaks and valleys through the journey. We started this year in a deep valley hearing that Terrell Suggs was probably going to be out for the year and hearing that Lardarius Webb got injured and said he was going to be out for the year. So, we heard it all. We heard that we couldn’t beat Denver. We heard that we couldn’t beat New England. We heard that we couldn’t beat San Fran. And, we overcame all odds. For us to be here as world champs right now, it shows you that if you believe in something, as men and as a team, what wins is chemistry. What wins is togetherness. That’s what we had through this journey, was togetherness. We never wavered one time, and it showed what our team is built on. Our team is built on true men, true leaders and true winners. And no matter what we’ve been through, we found a way to stick together as a team.”
(on what it was like to watch the coaches and teammates celebrate) “The one thing I kept telling my team and my coaches was, I wanted to see their faces when that confetti came out of the sky, and we were world champs. To feel that, to feel what they felt like – everybody had that look like they didn’t know what was going on, and I knew that because I felt that the first time I won it. It is the greatest reward as a leader, to show them and talk to them about the vision of finishing it. To give my coaches this victory, to give my owner this victory, to bring my city, Baltimore, back a second ring before I go out and before I hang up my cleats. There is just no better way to go out.”
(on how he would summarize his ‘final ride’) “I know that my faith has always been in God. My belief has always been in my teammates. This last ride, for whatever ups and downs, I’ve said a million times, whatever we went through as a team, we figured it out. That is the beauty of true champions. No matter what we went through, we found a way to keep fighting. That’s why we are sitting here as world champions today. So, my ride, personally, how else do you say, thank you for your teammates, thank you to the city that never stopped believing in me and believing in this team? Now, we get to take the trophy back to Baltimore as world champions.”
Ray Lewis is one of a kind. There will never be another player like him.