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The lessons I learned from Ray Lewis as a Pittsburgh Steeler fan.

In 5 Minutes or less- The lessons we can learn from sports 12 post series

October 31, 2021


Ray Lewis, a leader at a very young age, was destined for greatness. However, Lewis never let the critics deter his confidence, work ethic, or perseverance. Instead of succumbing to the pressure, Lewis preserved through the hard times, made believers out of the critics, and pushed his way to the top of the National Football League (NFL). Today he is a retired Hall of Fame athlete, leader, and mentor. However, Ray's leadership extends beyond the football field or locker room. Lewis's impact will leave a lasting legacy that will endure the test of time.

New Thoughts

During the launch of John Madden's National Football League (NFL) inspired video game by Electronic Arts Incorporated (EA Sports) in 2012 for PlayStation 3, I overheard two of my sons discussing their latest acquisition. There was a pivotal moment in the conversation when my curiosity hit its peak, and I leaned in a bit closer for clarity. My sons, to my surprise, were discussing Ray Lewis, a middle linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens. Both were upbeat, joyful, and inspired by a segment in the game when Ray Lewis gives a moving motivational speech. Each son gave a different reason why the speech was inspirational to him, but they both concluded, Ray Lewis's speech gave those goosebumps.

In a home filled with Baltimore Ravens fans, this conversation is probably typical. However, our house is made up of die-hard Pittsburgh Steeler Fans, making this conversation unusual. Ray Lewis was our archenemy. At that moment, I realized Ray Lewis had something special about his leadership style and leadership ability that transcends his organization's boundaries. The conversation awakened a curiosity, thus prompting this additional research. To understand Ray Lewis as a leader, we must first understand Ray Lewis, the athlete.

The Athlete

As a high school athlete, Ray Lewis excelled in wrestling and later football. Lewis developed a deep passion for football and continued playing at the University of Miami. As a freshman, he started the final five games of the season. As a true freshman, Lewis contributed to his team and continued to contribute until his junior year. After three successful years at the University of Miami, Ray decided to enter the NFL draft. Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, Ray was a dominant player to play his position in the history of the NFL.

When most fans, athletes, coaches, and rivals describe Ray Lewis, the first adjectives that come to mind are fierce competitor, enthusiastic, intimidating, and loud. On the other hand, most people rarely describe him as a quiet man of great faith. However, when these unique characteristics come together, the outcome is a persuasive, dynamic leader whose charisma, persona, and passion motivate his followers.

The Speech

The short monologue for PlayStation 3, delivered by Ray Lewis with vigor, underscores the foundation of his leadership principles. The speech references the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership as defined by John C. Maxwell. Those laws include the law of process, the law of timing, and the law of legacy. Not to mention Ray is full of confidence.

“I've always been told that I was too small. I'm not big enough. I'm not fast enough. I don't have what it takes. To be the best and stay there (pause), sweat is necessary! Walter and Jerry had their hills, never being comfortable, with just good enough. It's right now or never, it's right now or never! I prepare so that no one can take what mines. No one can replace my mind! My heart! (Come on, defense!) Lombardi inspired me, and now our biggest prize bears his name. I'm older, of course, I'm older. That's the beauty of it, sixteen years plus. Different level of wisdom! Different level of understanding! Different levels of punishment! I want to live long after my records have fallen, long after my rings have tarnished. And whatever you have to do, make sure you chase your legacy every second of your life! Will you be remembered? How would you be remembered? Why wouldn't you fight for the greatest achievement ever? Leave (pause) Your (pause) Mark! To endure forever!”

(Lewis, 2012)

The Law of Process

According to John C. Maxwell, "even a person with natural talent has to prepare and train to become successful" (2007). Leadership does not develop in a day. Instead, leadership is an ongoing process. The process includes preparation, continual growth, self-discipline, self-assessment, and perseverance. Maxwell further states, "The goal each day must be to get a little better and to build on the previous day's progress"(2007).

The Law of Timing

The law of timing requires understanding the situation, displaying maturity, having confidence, relying on experience, wisdom, and intuition. Maxwell states, "When the right leader and the right timing come together, incredible things happen"(2007).

The Law of Legacy

The Law of Legacy defines the impact of today's leaders on future generations. Building one's legacy involves understating what it means to live the legacy now, choosing who will carry on the legacy, and ultimately passing the baton.


Confidence is a "self-belief; the knowledge that your preparation is complete, that you have done all things possible to ready yourself..." (Wooden). For example, Ray opens his speech with, "I've always been told that I was too small. I'm not big enough. I'm not fast enough; I don't have what it takes.” Lewis admits that he had to work hard on his speed, endurance, and size, but he knew that hard work would pay off, and he always believed in himself.

Ray Lewis grew up without a father and witnessed his mother's abusive relationships. "Momma always told me everyday day may not be a good day, but you can make everything alright by the way you approach it," says Ray when he speaks about optimism and confidence. Lewis heard the non-believers, but he never surrendered to doubt. Ray's accolades prove it, 13 pro bowl selections, 2-time defensive player of the year, and a super bowl most valuable player.


Ray Lewis has been a leader all of his life. Raised by a single mother with four siblings, he became the man of the house at an early age. Lewis never let his poverty, fatherless childhood, or his mother's abusive relationship stop him from greatness

After countless hours researching Ray Lewis, this journey has reiterated these valuable lessons:

  • Do not lose focus

  • Confidence is the key. Through hard work, determination, and perseverance, one can achieve the goals established. Even amid criticism, remain focused.

  • To be the best requires work, preparation, and training. Laziness is not an option.

  • The legacy left behind is determined by the life lived today. Work feverously to chase that legacy. Anything short of striving for that is cheating the legacy.

As a loyal Pittsburgh Steeler fan, I must admit that Ray Lewis' leadership extends far beyond Maryland's state lines. I plan to reenergize my leadership strategy by borrowing from the great Ray Lewis by mentoring more. He develops mentoring relationships with athletes, teammates, and those less fortunate, and those in critical need with every opportunity Lewis gets. I must take action and be the change I want to see in the world. Help an unsuspecting person by sharing my knowledge, my time and guiding them along the road of life. In doing so, I am living my legacy, changing generations, and paying it forward to leave my mark.

Key Takeaways:

What are you doing to give someone else good bumps? Who are you inspiring and motivating? What will your legacy be?


Jacobs, B. (2009, November 30). Why Ray Lewis is the Premier Leader in the NFL. Retrieved December 4, 2020, from Bleacher Report- Baltimore Ravens- Team Stream:

Lewis, R. (2012, June 11). EA Sports Madden NFL E3 Trailer- Ray Lewis HD. EA Sports, Inc.

Lewis, R. (2010, November). NFLLive.Com at halftime. (D. Sanders, Interviewer)

Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Maxwell, J. C., & Dornan, J. (1997). Becoming a Person of Influence- How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others. California: Maxwell Motivation, Inc.

Riddle, R. (2012, August 7). Ray Lewis: A Former Teammate's Inside Scoop on the NFL's All-Time Great. Retrieved December 2, 2020, from Bleacher Report- Baltimore Ravens- Team Stream:

Stephen Walker, P. (2012, February 9). Leadership in the Form of Ray Lewis and Tim Tebow. Retrieved December 5, 2012, from Podium Sports Journal: file:///L:/Leadership%20in%20the%20Form%20of%20Ray%20Lewis%20&%20Tim%20Tebow%20_%20Podium%20Sports%20Journal.htm

Wooden, J. (2012). The Pyramid of Success. Retrieved December 3, 2020, from The Official Site of Coach John Wooden:


1 Comment

Hart Coleman
Hart Coleman
Oct 31, 2021

As a former athlete, we must learn that leadership comes with the territory. I've seen professional athlete decline the job description but want the accolades that come along with the job. Youth look to our sports figures for guidance and athletes play a pivotal role in their development. I'm a fan of Ray Lewis because adversity even came his way as a pro but he stayed true to his faith and family and himself. He went on to be a successful player but more importantly a successful man.

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