Out of Bounds

On Sunday Feb. 3 Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens will have a shot at the title that has eluded them for 13 years.

While the team’s journey is one to follow, another storyline to follow is Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis’ story. Scheduled to retire after the 2012-13 season, Lewis has been playing like a man on a mission. If taken at face value, his mission may seem to be to win the Super Bowl. But when zoomed out and put into perspective, Lewis’ story is not just about a man who wants to win a trophy, but a story about a man trying to redeem himself.

Lewis began his professional career when he became the No. 26 pick of the 1996 NFL draft. While he was a standout that possessed speed and tackling ability, Lewis was also deemed too small to play his position. Despite all of the discouragement, Lewis persevered and eventually led the league in tackles in 1999. He had a very promising beginning to his career, being selected to three straight Pro Bowls and posting strong stats in tackles, sacks and interceptions.

All of that changed on the night of Super Bowl XXXIV when Lewis attended a Super Bowl party. During the party, two of Ray Lewis’ companions Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting got into an altercation with two other men at the party. Eleven days later, the three men were indicted on murder and aggravated assault. Because of some missing evidence, Lewis was never charged with any of the murders. In the end, the NFL fined him $250,000 and a court sentenced him to 12 months probation. This punishment’s results were not only financial, but also detrimental to his reputation.

Lewis is now a motivational speaker and he often cites the “mistakes” he has made in the past. Obviously he has made mistakes varying from a murder indictment to fathering six children with four women. But what has he done to make him credible to listen to?

Since the murder indictment, Lewis has become an active member of the Baltimore community. He has started his own nonprofit organization called the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation, an organization whose mission is to provide personal and economic assistance to impoverished young people. Lewis has been honored with the James Brown award in 2006, an award given to those who have shown kindness off the field and in the community. Lewis’ Christian faith has also given him a transformed attitude on his life.

Lewis’ murder indictment put a smear on his career achievements and efforts. After the AFC championship game, Anna Burns Welker – the wife of a player on the opposing team – went to Facebook to cite Lewis’ struggles off the field. What she didn’t mention was the time and effort Lewis spent to polish his reputation and his genuine attempts to better his community.

If the Lewis and the Ravens win the Super Bowl, Lewis will redeem himself in the eyes of the Baltimore community through his off-field as well as his on-field efforts. Lewis’ story shouldn’t be defined only by the night of Super Bowl XXXIV, but by his efforts to clear his name and give back to the community.

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