Lewis' vow to son leads to retirement

Lewis' vow to son leads to retirement
January 3, 2013, 8:00 am
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Ray Lewis at peace with decision to retire

Not too long ago, Ray Lewis ran for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. He even threw for a score.

That’s Ray Lewis III, not the famous linebacker for the Ravens who is set to retire at the end of his 17th season.

At Lake Mary Prep, just outside of Orlando, his son set a Seminole County record for TDs in his senior season and will be entering college at the University of Miami. His younger son, Rayshad, is a freshman at Lake Mary.

That all made the father’s decision to quit the NFL now rather than later a relatively easy one. He informed his teammates in a meeting Wednesday morning, and it came as a surprise. 

“They both played on the same team and we went 11-1. And my sons had one of the greatest runs I was probably to ever witness to. … I would’ve never witnessed if I wasn’t hurt,” said Lewis, who tore his triceps Oct. 14 and is scheduled to return Sunday in a wild-card playoff game vs. the Indianapolis Colts that could be his last. “I told my teammates it always hurts to be away from them.

“But to be in my cast and everything, and to know that my sons knew that Daddy was there for the whole ride. … And I got to be there every Friday.  I did all my training, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (and) Friday I would get on the plane and fly there. I would meet him there and just be there to be with him through that journey of his senior year.”

To understand Lewis’ motivation to end his career now requires understanding where he came from. He didn't have any stability growing up in central Florida. 

“Not having a father myself, that damaged me a lot so I didn’t want my kids to re-live that. That’s why I say it’s bittersweet,” he said of his retirement. “I can never say I would do it differently because of what I had the opportunity to do –- and that is to see my babies go out and (play). Now he’s committed to the University of Miami, and we’ll go from there.”

That’s when Lewis became choked up, recognizing what he'll be leaving behind but also what he'll be going towards. 

“God is calling me in so many other areas of life. And my children, my children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father.  The ultimate -- for 17 years,” Lewis said. “Whether it's jump on a plane, jump right back, go to school …  I don’t want to see them do that anymore.

“I’ve done what I wanted to do in the business. Now it’s my turn. It’s my turn to give them back something. It’s either hold on to the game and keep playing or let my kids miss out on times we can be sharing together. ...  I can’t miss that. I don’t know if I can sit in a meeting room and fight with that war.”

Included in that was a promise that he made to Ray III. He sat with him when he committed as a junior at Lake Mary to play for Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden. He'll be a freshman there next season. 

"When he did that he did say, 'Daddy, remember what we talked about.' I said, 'Yes, Junior. I know what you are talking about, baby.' That's what I've always promised him," said Lewis, who was a first-round draft pick out of Miami by the Ravens in 1996. "I always promised that I wouldn't put myself before them when it comes to my baby going to college and making that next step in life."