Heart of a Lion

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Webster's Dictionary defines passion as: any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling; the trait of being intensely emotional.

You can define passion, you can feel passion, but some wonder, can you see passion?

The simple answer is yes. All you have to do is look into the eyes of Ray Lewis. He personifies the emotion and desire one thinks of when the word passion is uttered.

"Sacrifice," Lewis emotionally bellows when asked about what goes through his mind when the word passion is mentioned. "Passion is giving up everything you've got for a cause, whatever the cause is, huge or small. It's something that can't be taught. Passion is a lifestyle of how you approach everything. Everything is from your spirit, because it's just who you are."

As the heart and soul of the Ravens' defense for the last 14 years, Lewis has personified that sacrifice and spirit. The numbers are staggering: 2,314 tackles, 35.5 sacks, 28 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and 14 fumbles recovered over his 191-game career. But it is more than the numbers that encompass Ray Lewis. It is the fact that every fiber of his being is concentrated on leading his team to victory.

But, it is not just those times on the field. It is in practice, during the preseason and in the offseason that shapes this modern day gladiator into what he becomes on game day. Lewis is a tireless competitor, watching endless hours of film, working out as many as three times a day when most other players are resting.

"I think the approach I take to being the best I can be is one of the major reasons why I have been blessed to play this game for so long," Lewis states. "I've got the same philosophy no matter what time of year. You can do whatever you want to do, but I just don't believe there's no one who can flat out out-work me. I always say, to play this game, to go where you want to go as a team, you must have the heart of a lion."

The 6-1, 250-pound Lewis is that lion on game day, and the football field is his private Serengeti. Like the leader of the pack, Lewis has his pride behind him, looking for the next challenge. The next challenge is being inspired and inspiring every Sunday against another worthy foe. How can you inspire your teammates, your organization and a city?

"Giving your all for a purpose," Lewis explains with a steely intensity growing in his eyes. "The man who is willing to sacrifice everything he's got for his brother next to him. Know that I will give you every part of my soul to make sure that I give somebody an inch of it. There's never any quit, never any doubt, never any fear. If my legacy is that, I pray that my legacy will always be one that respected this city. 'That's a man who gave everything he had within himself, but realistically it was for everybody else.' That would make me happy. As a leader, hopefully I'll be able to walk away with that."

Even before the game, leading up to the moments when he "unleashes his will," you can observe Lewis bringing the team together in a huddle, sharing his passion and demanding it in return. He looks every player in the eye to ensure they are ready to battle side-by-side.

Lewis perks up when asked about the pre-game ritual. He can't quite remember when it first began, but he knows what it can do for the team. "It started by me just getting in the huddle and doing it one time," he said. "I don't know what year it was, we'd do stuff like that at the University of Miami. So now when I do it, for me, I think it fires me up, because week in and week out, we run out on that field together. Everybody has a different path, so you have to get everybody on the same page and bring them in to get on one thought process."

Lewis then stalks the tunnel like a caged lion while his defensive teammates are being introduced to the masses. With every moment that passes, one can see the growing desire to inspire, lead and be victorious before his triumphant advance onto the field.

When talking about his game-day introduction, Lewis admits, "It is a total moment of surrender. No more worries, no more fear. It's probably one of the greatest feelings ever, because you release with everybody watching. It's you stepping out there in front of everybody, saying, 'This is what I will give. And I will give you everything I've got.' It's a great release."

Sometimes some people in life exude pure passion, and that is what shows through time and time again with Ray Lewis. Your team may win a game, but you will never 'beat' him. He will give you everything he has all game long, all season long and for his entire career. It is a lifestyle for him.

"It is when I am training, practicing, everything," Lewis concludes about the spirit of what pushes him to prefect his craft. "My passion overrides this selfishness of me saying, 'I'm tired today,' or 'I don't feel like it.' Passion always overrides that, because it's accountability to yourself and your teammates. That is the reason why you play the game the way you play."

As a fan, you can see his passion. You can feel his passion when he speaks. You can share the passion with him on the field. And, for the city that calls him its own, you can define passion with two words: Ray Lewis.

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