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The Caw: Origin Of The Squirrel Dance

Posted Jan 7, 2013

Ray Lewis retold the story of his pregame dance roots after doing it for the last time.

Sunday was in part a day of reflection.

So it was only natural that after Ray Lewis did his signature “Squirrel Dance” for the final time (twice, actually), that he recount how it began.

“This guy in my hometown named Kirby Lee, he used to always do this dance, and the dance was called ‘The Squirrel,’” Lewis said

“I told him, ‘I’m going to do that dance some day.’ He was like, ‘You’re not going to do it.’ I said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ Then one day, they introduced the defense, and I came out, and I just did it. When I did it, of course the crowd went crazy.”

The rest is history.

“After that, they were like, ‘Oh, we need to see the dance again,’” Lewis said. “So, then it just kept on going, and I started adding music to it and movie clips to it. So, it was a good time.”

Lewis’ dance wasn’t always appreciated. Former Ravens defensive coordinator and Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis called it “nonsense” originally.

“We couldn’t learn how to get lined up, but we had choreographed a dance,” Lewis said in an NFL Films interview. “I almost melted down on the sideline.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh thought about banning it when he came to Baltimore in 2008.

“You would maybe assume it’s a selfish thing,” Harbaugh told NFL Films. “My first thought was, ‘We’re not going to do this.’”

Harbaugh told Lewis about his thought, and the linebacker accepted it, but said he should talk to other players to get their opinions. Harbaugh did, and they all objected because “it’s part of us.”

Harbaugh changed his mind, and eventually came to a different realization.

“You get in that stadium and Ray does that dance, the place just explodes,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what Ray’s all about. It’s not about him. Whether you come out as a team or whether you do it the way the Ravens do and it’s kind of built around Ray Lewis, it’s about where your heart’s coming from. Ray’s heart is all about the crowd and the players and his team.”

The dance has captivated players and fans alike for more than a decade.

Opposing teams used to line their sideline to watch. Over the past couple years, Lewis’ teammates would inch closer and closer to the linebacker as they tried to soak up his energy.

I’ve seen young kids and old fans take a crack at it. Heck, I used to do it before backyard flag football with my friends. Now even scuba divers are doing the dance (see video below).

The dance just never got old, no matter how many times Lewis did it.

And if this isn’t proof that it was cool, I don’t know what is. It even captured quarterback Joe Flacco, who I can’t imagine is a fan of any dance craze.

“It’s one of the coolest things in football, and we’re going to miss it around here,” Flacco said after Sunday’s game. “I wasn’t always necessarily a fan of it before I got here, but as soon as I saw it for the first time in person, I was drawn in. He got me.”

Lewis didn't rule out another possible Squirrel Dance. Perhaps at the Super Bowl?

We can only hope.


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