|Birthdate:||May 15, 1975|
|MVP:||Super Bowl XXXV|
(Tampa, FL - Jan. 29, 2001) Disneyland didn't warm up to him. Wheaties didn't include him on the Super Bowl box of champions. His Super Bowl XXXV ring was won in a city known for XXX dancing.
Meet Ray Lewis, the most complex MVP in the 35-year history of the Super Bowl. His Super Bowl story does have an "R" rating for violence. Lewis' post-Super Bowl XXXIV celebration last year ended up landing him in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit as a suspect in a double murder. Murder charges against him were later dropped.
Ray Lewis is a hero trying to shake the status of being a villain because he was involved in an unsolved altercation in which two young men were killed. His story isn't for the Magic Kingdom. This was real life. He made the mistake of hanging with a bad gang.
Save this story for Showtime or HBO, and place a parental advisory at the beginning. But don't distort the reality that Lewis was the reason the Baltimore Ravens have Super Bowl rings and the New York Giants don't. Lewis' defense pitched a shutout even though the score was 34-7, marred only by a meaningless 97-yard kickoff return by Ron Dixon. "One thing about the man upstairs," Lewis said. "He doesn't put you through tragedy without putting you through triumph if you take him to heart. There is no feeling of emotion like there is right now. To be where I was last year and be where I am right now." Lewis is a 25-year-old Super Bowl champ who was given a second chance. Twenty-five-year-olds don't mature overnight. But that fateful Super Bowl night last year changed Lewis, and the metamorphosis is ongoing. The charges -- all were dropped except obstruction of justice for which he pled guilty -- forced him to focus on a game that was almost lost to him. Those adversities made him focus. Picture him a year ago, dressed up in a plush white mink coat hopping the Atlanta club scene. This year, Lewis came to Tampa to party, but the dance floor was Raymond James Stadium.
Lewis, always the last Ravens defender to be introduced in pregame ceremonies, was urged by his teammates to try and copy an early season dance. Emotions caught up with him and his steps turned wild. Next, he grabbed a handful of grass to signify that Raymond James was Ravens turf. After that, Lewis and his defense spent three-plus hours raking the field with Giants' offensive players, and Lewis was the main gardener. He had five tackles and four pass defenses. More than anything else, though, he established his authority early in the game. Giants, stay off his turf. "Everybody was saying that coming up to the Super Bowl, that this was going to affect me, that I wasn't going to play well," Lewis said. "I had a higher power that helped me. There was nothing on this earth that would have affected me," Lewis said. "If people were waiting to see me stumble now, I'll stumble with a ring on my finger."
Lewis captured the MVP award by garnering 11 of 19 votes. Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer had five. Cornerback Duane Starks, who returned a Collins interception 49 yards for a touchdown, had one and a half. Kick returner Jamaine Lewis had one. Cornerback Chris McAlister had a half. But Lewis won the whole award because he is the heart and soul of the Ravens. Every Friday, he gets together with tight end Shannon Sharpe to tell him how many points he needs from the offense. Defensively, the Ravens don't need much.
"I need 10 points from you," Lewis told Sharpe. "Game over," Lewis said. He was right. The game was over. "This is the greatest show on earth," Lewis said of the Ravens' defense. "When we step on the field, we are going to hit you for 60 minutes. We not just broke records on defense. We shattered them. Honestly, what motivates us is getting three-and-outs. If we get them early, we're going to get you the rest of the day."
Marvin Lewis further motivated his troops by splicing together a five-minute video. He showed scenes from the movie Gladiator. He showed the scene in which Russell Crowe told the slaves that they were going to wreak havoc. Then came an isolated shot of Ray Lewis. Next came the fight scenes followed by Ray Lewis highlights. The finale was Crowe in a circle with the slaves and how they needed to stay together or die. Flashes of defensive backs playing together and linebackers playing together were shown. The team was so inspired that they watched the tape again Sunday morning. The image of Ray Lewis was striking.
"My body is tingling," Lewis said. "We are the world champs." (by: John Clayton)