Fans inside M&T Bank Stadium Thursday night got a throwback during pre-game introductions.
As wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. walked out of the tunnel as the last player introduced, a familiar song blared through the speakers. The music shifted to Nelly's "Hot In Herre," which Ravens fans know best as theme music for Ray Lewis' iconic squirrel dance, and Smith paid homage to the Ravens legend with his own version of the dance.
After Baltimore's 28-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns, the 16-year veteran explained his thought process behind the dance.
"Here's why: I've always seen this organization, the Baltimore Ravens, you always see it," he said. "You see the speeches. You see the rambunctiousness of the Steelers and Ravens rivalry. You see Ed [Reed] knocking out Hines [Ward], Hines knocking out Ed. And then you see Ray, his little speeches and his dance. And I'm a Baltimore Raven. I'm an emotional player. I was like, 'Man, if this is it, I want to try it.'"
Smith reached out to Lewis before the game to get his blessing, and the future Hall of Famer was all for it. Once Smith had the go-ahead, he wanted to make sure he did his research to truly nail it.
"I was a little nervous, so I went back and I was YouTubing to make sure I was doing it [right]. I almost chickened out," he said. "It was pretty cool. I was just being a kid, just trying to do what I always wanted to do."
Lewis' pre-game routine was must-see theater throughout his career in Baltimore. Even players from other teams would often position themselves on their sidelines to see him dance out of the tunnel.
The dance had a way of firing up the team and the crowd, and that again was the case Thursday night.
"I was just being a kid. At the end of the day, we're all kids. It was a great opportunity," Smith said. "The music and all of that stuff, I felt kind of like a rock star."