CANTON, Ohio -- Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis spoke for 33 minutes, 17 seconds on Saturday night, capping the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.
Here is a transcript of Lewis' wide-ranging 4,400-word unscripted speech:
"Baltimore! Baltimore! We're in the building, baby. Oh, listen to me carefully. When God tells you something, believe in him. Listen to me, no matter the journey ... too many ups and downs but when you believe in me, 5, 15, 75. Remember 5 and remember 7 because they're going to have a recurring attitude in my message. Five, 15, 75. My mother had me ironically when she was 15 years old. We had no other route out.
"As much, I'm going to say it first now so I get it out of the way ... father, even though you're not here, I love you anyway. I love you anyway, daddy, wherever you at because that woman right there, 5, 15, 75. You hear me? Yeah. Remember what they told you when I was little: ‘We ain't going to make it. Ain't no way we're going to make it.' Well, guess what Mama, we made it. Crazy, right?
"Tell you about numbers. Five, 15, 75, right. I played 17 years. I go to the University of Miami, right, and I sign one of the last scholarships ever given. I didn't even have a scholarship. I wasn't even in the media guide. And coach Randy Shannon asked me, ‘What was the number you wanted?' He said the last numbers we got are these numbers, and I looked and those numbers were 5 and 2. And I said, ‘Give me that 52.' He said, ‘Why do you like 52?' I said, ‘Because that's God's number. That's completion.'
"I played 17 years and I led 17 years and I go play in Super Bowl 47. I get inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame [before] Super Bowl 52. Man, God's something else. Man, God's something else. Numbers, numbers, numbers. You can play with numbers, but some numbers you can never change.
"We were playing Dallas. I will never forget it. I talked to my daughter privately and I told her, ‘This is it for me. Daddy is going to let it go after this. I can't miss no more games. I can't miss my kids no more.' I'm in the game playing Dallas and I got my whole stadium. I drop back and [Cowboys quarterback Tony] Romo drops back. And I'm like, ‘Pick your hands up and just knock the ball. You've read this play. Intercept it. Just grab it.' I hesitate, put my hand up. When my hand comes down, pow. I hear a pop. My triceps popped from the bone. And I said, ‘No way. Something's wrong because we know when something's wrong.' I played about six, seven more downs. I got to the sideline and Dr. [Leigh Ann] Curl, who is sitting in this audience right now, she touched my arm and she said, ‘Ray, I'm sorry to tell you this but you got a torn triceps and nobody's ever come back from an injury like this.' Now you know, if anybody knows me, [anyone who says] it can't be done, that's like pouring a gallon of lighter fluid on an open flame.
"Ozzie [Newsome, Ravens general manager], where are you at, New? I called you the next day [after] I popped my triceps. This is how crazy I am. This is how much I believe in God. I called Ozzie the next day and I said, ‘New, call Steve [Bisciotti], Ravens owner. What did I tell you? Don't put me on IR [injured reserve]. Coach Harbs [John Harbaugh], what did I tell you? Don't put me on IR. Ravens, 2012. What did I tell you? I will be back. Take care of what you have to take care of but I will be back. I came back. And boy, did I come back. Man, boy did I come back. JB [Jerome Bettis, Steelers running back] knows what I'm talking about. Boy, when you walk off your last time and you leave with that thing and you hoist that Lombardi [Trophy] for your last time ever strapping up your cleats. It's a confirmation that I am living proof of the impossible. Living proof.
"Mama, you know what, I wasn't going to go here, but I got to because you are something else. Listen to me, I worked through pain like I've never known and I came back. All them boys sitting there -- [Joe] Flacco, [Justin] Tucker and all of Baltimore -- oh, did we hoist that Lombardi. And they tried to turn the lights out on us. Now, let's be honest. If you grew up with me and my mama in the projects, your lights might get turned off every Friday. But Beyonce had just performed. So, something had to happen. They just didn't go out. I'll promise you that those lights just didn't go out. But that's how you end a career. You take that challenge. When you answer the call and see the other side of pain, it's called glory. It's called glory. There is a young, 10-year-old kid who doesn't have a father and is ready to join a gang and is ready to give up. I'm telling you, ‘Don't give in and don't ever give up.' That ain't what we do.
"There are so many people that I want to thank here today. So many. But above all, I'm so grateful for my God, who gave me my strength in my darkest moments and humbled me in my moments of glory. You know people always talked about my dancing. They always liked to see 'Suga' hit that thing. Yeah, you know. Shay [Shannon Sharpe] be like, 'Suga Ray.' 'Suga' started shaking on him. But you know what I found out. Seriously though, like, as I started going -- and Harbs, you remember the conversation we had -- I didn't want the light to necessarily be on me because it wasn't necessarily about me. So, Dawk [Brian Dawkins], I was like figuring out the same power that you were talking about. When I started coming out of the tunnel, I wanted to really honor God. So, it was funny. When I went to the right, it was for the Father. When I came to the left, it was for the Son. When I came back for the middle, it was for the Holy Father, Son, all in one.
Lewis: 'Think what we can do if we work together'
Ray Lewis inspires people to work together to lead to make the world better during his Hall of Fame speech.
"Mama taught me God. Mama, you gave me every opportunity. No matter how hard it was, I watched you. And at 10 years old, I made a vow, a man would never put his hands on you again. I made a promise to that. I always had your back. You sacrificed for me. That's true love. As Martin Luther King said, 'Love is the most durable power in the world.' And my life has been a testament to his words. All I learned is from your example, Mama. They asked me all the time, ‘Who was your sports hero growing up?' My mama. My mama couldn't make it to my football games. My mama made it to one football game I ever played in. One! [It was] 1985, first time. I ran a kickoff back, a fake reverse [for] 75 yards. Yeah, Bus, I ran the ball, too. Don't hate. Suga was rough now. Yeah, Marcus Allen. I was Marcus back then. I'm just saying. Stay with me for a minute, though.
"It was something else to see what started to happen. Then, every day, I'm telling you something. My kids, there's nothing in life that I would not sacrifice for my babies. My first son, Ray III, Rayshad, Diaymon, Rashaan, Ralin, Raven, KK [Kaitlin], baby, it ain't just me up here. Daddy told you, ‘If you start something, finish it.' I want to thank you guys, Desiree, father's first true unconditional love is when he sees a baby girl. And the one I love the most is our relationship because I told you the greatest thing I can give you as a father is the truth. That is all Daddy can give you. I can buy you many things, but the reason I'm with you right now and every one of my kids is because of the truth.
"What I didn't have -- the touches and the hugs and the kisses that I give you -- I never had that. I never had a father physically touch me and tell me that he loves me. That's why I hug you guys so much. That's why I'm still kissing you on the mouth. Yeah, I kiss all my kids on the mouth. Don't hate. Stay with me now. Don't hate. I know, I know, I know. My son's trying to get physical and stuff. They think they're working out and stuff. But all those things I missed is the reason why I did what I did. It taught me the importance truly of just being wherever you're at. If I tried to sit up here really and thank my family that's sitting in this audience individually, somebody is going to get mad at me. It's impossible of me to thank every person in my family that helped me in my family. Man, I have one of the strongest families -- prayer warriors.
"It is amazing the way my family fights together and lives together and figures things out together. Sometimes you have to trade kids because somebody is going through a hard time. My family, my aunts, my uncles, my grandmother, my great grandmother, you gave me all the love I needed when I knew I was in trouble. If you were raised in my hometown and you didn't have a father, that's a bad formula. But I made it. They lifted me up when I could've fallen so low. To my brothers and sisters, wow. To my twin sisters, Laquesha and Lakeisha, my other brother Keon, my mama taught us a long time ago. She said, ‘A family prays together, stays together.' Mama tattooed that in our hearts.
"I remember when things got hard for us in Florida. My mama went broke again. We had to make a move in my 11th grade year. My mama piled me up in a van and said, ‘Let's go. We're going to Tennessee.' I said, ‘Ma, you taught me God. And my vision ain't in Tennessee. My vision is in Florida.' I got to Tennessee and my mom was committed to making me move there. And I fell on my knees one day and I had given up. I knew my vision wasn't in Tennessee. My mama walked up beside me and slid [something] on the left side of my shoulder. She slid a $39 Greyhound bus ticket back to Florida. She put $20 worth of food stamps in my hand. She said, 'This is all I can do for you.' I said, ‘I'll make it.'
"But when I was leaving, my little brother grabbed me. I'm going to tell it because I'm supposed to tell it. He was so fat and his cheeks were so chubby, we called him the Muffin Man. I have to tell people the truth. You have to tell the truth. He was so fat and I used to squeeze his stomach. Remember the commercial would say, ‘Sega, Sega.' I would squeeze his fat stomach to make his stomach say, ‘Sega.' But he grabbed me when I had to leave and he said to me, ‘Don't do it, Ray.' You said to me, ‘You can't leave me. I won't live without you.' But what you didn't know is that I would die to make my family successful. Now, look, I told you I was going to make it. It's not just me up here. It's all of us up here.
"I am truly blessed to have met so many men of faith. From my childhood pastors -- Pastor Brown and Pastor Sims -- my relationships with pastors is so vibrant that it's amazing. They have guided me throughout my life and continue to guide me to this day. I have to thank every pastor that has been in my life, prayed for my life and is still in my life. Listen here, Lakeland, Florida, wow. Polk County is in the building. Lakeland turned me into a man. Lakeland turned me into a warrior. Lakeland turned me into an inspirer, a conquerer. There was nothing I couldn't do. Kathleen High School -- Earnest Joe, stand up. That's my high school [football] coach. Coach Gary Lineberger, stand up. That's my first linebacker coach. Coach Stephen Poole, stand up. That's my wrestling coach. Those men, all the coaches that had me after them, those three men are who I am today. Those three men molded me and pushed me and laid the foundation of who I would become both as a player and as a man.
"I met my best friend Kwame [King], boy. We stayed three doors down from each other. I lost a lot of races to him. I was never fast. I was quick enough to get there. But I couldn't maintain the speed at the end. He would always beat me in all of these races. We were broke together. A lot of people don't know this -- we started this dance group called The Hardy Boys. I know, I gave away a deep secret. Just know that you will never see the film ever. It was so funny. We did everything to make money because we were broke. After 14 years [old], we talked about it where we were going. I'll never forget it. I was 14 years old and we were sitting up under that oak tree. We were both starving. No money. I looked at him and said, ‘We're going to recite Our Father's Prayer until we get a breakthrough.' That was at 14. I'm 43 and I'm still reciting Our Father's Prayer. I appreciate you for life.
"Warren Sapp, where are the Hurricanes in the building? Miami in the building. Let me tell you something. The University of Miami blessed me. The University of Miami gave me an opportunity when no school would give me an opportunity. They gave me the last scholarship. I always tell my kids, you're always being watched. They saw me play my game, [Robert] Brazile. They gave me the last scholarship they had with four days to go to sign. But when I got there, Warren Sapp, Pat Riley, Rohan Marley, C.J. Richardson, Chad Wilson, Malcolm [Pearson], they changed my mentality. I was surrounded by so much greatness. Thank you to the University of Miami. Thank you for the scholarship. Thank you for the opportunity. My goodness.
"Playmaker, playmaker. My first game, I started at Colorado. I had crazy numbers from that game. I told Sapp he couldn't beat me to the football. But that's another conversation. We go in this game in Colorado. I had this crazy game. I came out of there and Keith Jackson says, ‘Remember the name Ray Lewis. That's the next superstar.' Keith Jackson, first time. Rest in peace. I came right out after that and I said I made a statement. I said, ‘Honestly, I might be the greatest player to walk on out of here. Who knows?' Everybody went crazy. Oh my gosh, he says he's going to be the best. Michael Irvin called me on the phone and he said, ‘That's a Hurricane right there.' I knew I had arrived. I knew I was home.
"There are a lot of Hurricanes here tonight. But there's one that I'm missing dearly. Miss Charlie Mae, where are you in the audience? Would you please stand up? Miss Charlie Mae is the mother of my roommate who tragically was killed in college. We have stayed with each other since Marlin [Barnes] was gone. Mama McNair [mother of Steve McNair], since you lost Steve, I know you lost a son. But you gained a son. Me and Mama McNair talked every Sunday because I don't just have one mother. I have many mothers that's lost sons. And Mama, I thank you. I thank you.
"Oh my goodness, J.O. [Jonathan Ogden] come here. Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore. Baltimore. Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore, ready. [Lewis and Ogden perform his signature dance on stage]. Buddy, listen, you got to do it. Ravens fans, [Brian] Urlacher, I heard you earlier. Chicago has got some good fans. But, boy, those Ravens fans. I'm telling you something about them Ravens fans. They're crazy with it. Everybody that's sitting in this audience, that's Baltimore, played in 2001 the first Super Bowl [and] played in 2012, coach or owner, please stand up.
"The greatest visionary ever to me was Art Modell. Without Art's vision, I'm not standing here. Without Art's vision, Steve [Bisciotti, Ravens owner], we don't become the friends that we are. Without Art's vision, every man that's sitting in this room, we don't take a city and bless a city the way that we bless Baltimore. Art Modell, [Ravens president] Dick Cass, [Ravens executive vice president of public relations] Kevin Byrne, man priceless. First-class organization. [Trainers] Bill T [Tessendorf], Mark [Smith], oh my gosh, every trainer, everybody that's helped me. J.O. [Jonathan Ogden], [Ravens vice president of public relations] Chad Steele, Rod Woodson, Shannon [Sharpe], Goose [Tony Siragusa], Rob [Burnett].
"It's impossible to thank all of my coaches because you taught me how to be a better player. But more than that, you taught me how to be a better man, Rex Ryan, Mike Singletary, Jack Del Rio, Mike Smith, Mike Nolan. I could go down the line to the men that changed my life. This team taught me grown-man football. That's what 2000 taught me. Man, when you had to see Eddie George twice, Fred Taylor twice, Corey Dillon twice and Jerome Bettis, that's rough sledding.
"But I'll tell you that there was a moment in my life, my guy Rex, [the years of] 1999 to 2001 may have been some of the darkest moments of my life. But I'll tell you something. When God says, 'Can you hear me now?' He sends you a family to make sure you're OK while you're going through what you're going through. What you did for me, what my family did for me, Steve Bisciotti, what you believed in me. Michael Phelps, how many times did me and you sit in the same house looking at each other? What we said was Baltimore was our city. We'll do anything for Baltimore. Anything. That's the way you end it. A lot of people call you the greatest Olympian ever. I call you one of my greatest friends, brother. I appreciate you, man.
"I'm coming to an end because I want to bless you guys with something. Me and Ed Reed and Monte [Sanders, personal trainer], Rohan Marley, I just want to thank you guys for that trip. My guy [Ed Reed], you might be up here next year. Back to back again. I want to thank all of -- Monte, you're the best trainer in the freakin' world, you hear me? In that left corner, I want you to look in that left corner because I would never leave Baltimore. But in that left corner is all of my graduates from my solar company [Power52 Energy Institute]. We work in Baltimore, creating jobs and providing opportunities to give people a better chance. That's what we're doing. We took a bus up here to bless our city. That's our corner.
"To the Hall of Fame, I was introduced to something yesterday that forever changed my life. I saw egos set aside. I saw men talk as men. I saw men close a door from all aspects of life, from all races of life. We came to a solution and it wasn't no judgmental. It was just conversation. That's what makes this family so great. That's why I'm so happy to be a part of this family. Papa Brown [Jim Brown], I sat below your legs and you looked down at me and you said, ‘I'm passing the torch to you, not because of fear but because of respect. People will listen to you.' I thank you.
"Mama, look how far we came. Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. To the man that gave me that name, sitting in the incubator without a name, and a friend of my mom's done us a favor. He loaned me the name Ray Lewis. And I promised and I told him, ‘I will make your name great someday.'
"The Hall of Fame Class 2018, too many great names. Dawkins, Moss, Kramer, Brazile, Urlacher, Owens, Beathard. I'm just honored to be up here. There is something I have to ask. I always got to leave with an ask and let's get out of here after this ask. For all of us up here, it's how we reacted to these challenges that determines our greatness. Now, how do we react to this moment? How do we turn our legend into legacy? I've been thinking a lot about Martin Luther King and his challenge for us. His destiny was not to see his dream through but to spark the mind that will ask, ‘How do we execute that dream?' Who will answer that knock on the door in the middle of the night? I see that it's got to be us. It's got to start right now.
"Our country needs real leaders. We need people that are willing to step up and take action. We need people willing to fight for what is good and what is right. How do we react to challenges in our country right now? Think about this. We can go from being legends to building a legacy bigger than football, bigger than sports. I want us to work together to really take on these challenges, to look at our goals and what unites us. Surely, there is something. How about stopping our kids from dying in schools? Can we please put prayer back in schools? Please. How about protecting our children from a terrifying life of being sex trafficked? How about helping our neighbors that can't afford their medicine?
"How can we do this? How can we come together? The answer is simple. The answer is love. Hope, faith and love and the greatest is love. I'm talking about a selfless love. A true love from my mother and my God. The love described by Dr. Martin Luther King. The love that sacrifices and is defined by action taken for others. The actions of stepping up and being a leader. It's no different than we all did to get here. We rose to the challenge, week after week for the love of the game and for the love of our team. That love just doesn't go away when we retire. It's still in us burning to be used.
"I'm talking to you at home, too. Martin said everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subs [subjects] and verb agree to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. The next 30 days, I want you to think about why you get up in the morning. What's the most important to you in this life? Are you living every day to make this world better?
"We must come together as brothers and sisters. If I keep my hands separated, anybody can come and bend my fingers. But I promise you if I put my fists together, there is nothing we can't do. Think what we can do if we work together as a country. For me, my guiding purpose is to carry our God's destiny for my life. How do I do that? Not just loving my neighbors as I love myself but by challenging people to walk with me and teaching our nation how to love each other again. What wouldn't I do to make this happen? That's the reason why I'm here -- to call this crew to action, to inspire, to come together and raise up our country. Everybody can serve. Anybody can be a leader. Will you take action to lift up your community and inspire others to dream and to do more? You're a leader. Listen, our gravestone has a date when you're born and a date when you die and they got a dash in between. And that dash defines what your legacy is.
"I will leave you with this last thought. Dr. Myles Munroe compares leaders to the king of the jungle. He says the lion is not the tallest animal in the jungle. The lion is not the largest animal in the jungle. The lion is not the smartest nor the most intelligent animal in the jungle. And yet, when the lion shows up, he is king. You don't need to be intelligent. You don't need to be smart. You don't need to be a certain height. You don't need to have a certain weight. You don't need to have any kind of advantage. Yet, you can be a leader.
"I was not the biggest, the strongest or fastest. But my goals were clear. My actions were and still on service of those goals. I was a leader on the field then and I'm a leader in my community now. Now, I've joined a new team and my goal is clear with this team -- to lift up my brothers and sisters, to inspire the leaders and this next generation to fight for love, not money, not fame, not success, not how many followers I got but to fight for love. My mother once told me, ‘Run your race, Ray. Don't give up, do not sit down, do not lie down. But stand up, go forward and I'll go with you.'
"One of the greatest gifts my mama ever gave me was the Bible. The Bible made me who I am today. Ephesians 3:20 says, ‘Now unto him who is able to do, exceedingly, abundantly above far beyond you can ever ask, think or imagine according to the power that's working within you.' Walk with me out of here today with the mission in your mind, in your heart. Vow to be a leader in your community. Vow to be a ray of light in the world around you. Together, there is nothing we can't do. Hall of Fame 2018."