Ray Lewis was widely viewed as the lone slam-dunk for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
And the expectation was spot on, given the virtual absence of discussion after his name was officially presented during the selection meeting in Bloomington, Minn., the day before Super Bowl LII.
‘The respect of it is to walk amongst legends, guys that came before you’
Still, until the former standout linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens heard the knock on his hotel room door from Hall president Dave Baker, who would inform him that he had been chosen, Lewis felt as anxious as his fellow finalists.
“I was like every guy,” Lewis told Howard Balzer and Gil Brandt. “It’s one thing when you hear people, ‘Oh, man, you’re in, you’re in.’ I’m like, ‘OK, wait ’til the knock comes. Then I’ll tell you I’m in.’ The respect of it is to walk amongst legends, guys that came before you, that paved the way and done it. So my nervousness was me sitting there saying, ‘Wow! This small-town, country boy from Lakeland (Florida) figured it out, made it through all the ups and downs. And now, you’re sitting here with a chance to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.”
‘I’m 20-21 and I heard Franco Harris say, ‘That’s a football player right there”
Lewis told a story about when, In 1998, when the Ravens were facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, he was warming up before the game.
“And I’ve got my jersey high, my abs everywhere,” he said. “I’m 20-21 and I heard Franco Harris say, ‘That’s a football player right there.’ And it never left my head. When we walked on stage (Saturday), Franco looked me. He said, ‘My goodness.’
‘You only realize it’s humbling when you start to listen to the names that came before you’
“So when you talk about what it meant to me, it meant everything. It meant exactly what it meant to every other guy that was waiting for the knock, because it’s the most (humbling) thing that you can ever do. And you only realize it’s humbling when you start to listen to the names that came before you — when you start to see the thousands of people who have been in it but now, guess what? You’re one of 318.”