Elevate your team by sidelining personal agendas
“I’ve never played the game for individual stats; I’ve only played the game to make my team be a better team.”
– Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens Defensive Linebacker
On January 28, 2001, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV, only allowing the Giants 152 total offensive yards – the third lowest total in Super Bowl history. It was a big win for the city of Baltimore, who hadn’t won a Super Bowl in 30 years. But maybe even bigger news than the win itself was the MVP honoree, defensive linebacker Ray Lewis. Just seven defensive players have won the MVP honors in Super Bowl history.
That win was 12 ago, and not only was it the last time Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl, but also the last time they even made a Super Bowl appearance. But that will all change come February 3, when the Ravens once again compete in the Super bowl, this time facing off against the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.
So what can we expect from former MVP and 11-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis this time around? We know one thing for sure. This will be Ray’s last professional football game, as he will officially retire from football as the clock runs out.
Looking back on his storied 16-year career, it certainly wasn’t all the glitz and glam of professional sports. In fact, the 12 months preceding his MVP title and Super Bowl XXXV were more than tumultuous for Ray. On January 31, 2000, he was arrested and shortly thereafter charged with the stabbing murder of two men outside a club in Atlanta, GA. There was no apparent evidence to support his arrest, and charges were dismissed in exchange for his testimony. Ray later pled guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge. The legal issues, as well as the amount of time he dedicated to resolving them, took not only a huge toll on his personal life, but also had a tremendous effect on his professional life.
Despite these off-the-field distractions, the Ravens came together and united as a team…especially the defensive team. They won five of their first six games and went 12-4 on the season. By the time Super Bowl XXXV rolled around, they had the second best-rated defense in the league.
Then there was during the post-game interview when Ray learned he was voted MVP. In my memory, the CBS reporter went on to say something to the effect of, “With everything that has transpired in the last year, how do you feel about being named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV?” Knowing how Ray Lewis charges his team with chants and motivation and dances on the field, combined with the egos in professional sports today, you might expect a pompous response. But, you’d be wrong.
In his 45-60 second answer, Ray never used the words “I” or “me.” Instead, he mentioned how proud he was of the team and gave 100 percent of the credit to his teammates. He said things like, “No one believed in us…we believed in ourselves…we proved ourselves week after week and today we are Super Bowl champions.” Even later, in a series of post-game interviews, he refused to take credit for the tremendous season or the Super Bowl victory. He continued to give credit to his entire team with an emphasis on the defensive unit.
The ability to set aside any personal agendas for the benefit of the team is one of the most important traits any one person should possess to make their team more effective. Ray Lewis has done this throughout his entire career. We all face personal dilemmas that affect our professional lives…the key is to control personal emotions and focus energy on the task at hand.
Over the years, Ray Lewis has done 100’s of recorded interviews, and every time he shows he is a man of unselfish character – both on and off the field. He is a classic example of why individuals may win games but teams win championships.