NEW ORLEANS --- If you go to the Baltimore Ravens practice facility in Owings Mill, Md., you may hear the sounds of 1980s sensation George Clinton's Atomic Dog blaring through speakers on the field. Then you will see about five players, including Ray Lewis, breakout into spontaneous hopping and dancing to the funky beat. No, the Ravens aren't practicing for a Throwback Thursday party. The music and the dance are a tribute to Omega Psi Phi Inc., the fraternity within the fraternity of the Baltimore Ravens.
“When I first got in here and I signed, I had my [fraternity] chain on and one of the bruhs asked me ‘Yo man where you get that chain from', I told him, then all of a sudden four more bruhs walked in,”Jacoby Jones, Ravens wide receiver said. “I was like ‘I'm going to love this.'”
Six players -- Lewis, Jones, Bryan Hall, Vonta Leach, Ramon Harewood Bobbie Williams and general manager Ozzie Newsome -- are all members of the century-old historically black fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. The fraternity was founded in 1911 at Howard University, whose colors are also purple and gold like the Ravens, is designed to foster the growth of men and provide outlets to serve the community.
The organization boasts esteemed athletic members such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Steve McNair and more. Outside of sports some members include Jesse Jackson, Langston Hughes, Bill Cosby and Steve Harvey.
“The organization asked me to be a part of it and it was a childhood dream of mine,” said Lewis, who became and honorary member in 2012. “I've always been a fan of the brotherhood, of who they are and what they stand for. To understand it and to get totally into what they stand for is everything. I think more of that needs to be spread around.”
The NFL has often been described as an elite fraternity and the seven Omega members on the Baltimore Ravens find comfort inside their brotherhood within the NFL. A few days before Super Bowl XLVII they posted a picture on social media (see above) doing the fraternity's traditional sign called “the hooks.” Lewis has used the sign during his introduction.
“When he came out the tunnel and threw up the hooks for the first time I know that sent chills through every bruh that was around” Jones said.
Brothers of Omega Psi Phi have the English bulldog as their unofficial mascot. Ravens players in the brotherhood will often greet each other with a bark or a simple “roo” in the locker room. They also bond through identifying marks like tattoos or flesh brands (below)which are common in the organization.
“It's overwhelming how many bruhs I come across in the world,” Lewis said. “When you walk around and sometimes you think you're by yourself and a bruh looks at you or they'll say a certain thing. We know each other. It's just an awesome feeling to know that you're never by yourself.”
Part of what makes the international organization so large are its collegiate chapters and alumni chapters, where most are initiated. Some collegiate chapters have been found guilty of hazing incoming members and were then suspended.
Baltimore Ravens players say Omega Psi Phi not only provides instant companionship in a new locker room, but it also gives them the will and determination to make it in the NFL.
During hard times, Jones likes to recite the Victorian poem Invictus that he learned while becoming an Omega. Jones says this phrase from the first stanza: “I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul,” provides motivation in his journey through the league.
“I use it for our whole team because this whole season we had to have unconquerable souls,” Jones said. The Ravens saw their celebrated defense ravaged by injuries this season, including their leader Ray Lewis.
The six Omega Psi Phi Baltimore Ravens members will be taking the field Sunday but an entire nation and lineage of Omega Psi Phi men will be with them. The leader of Omega Psi Phi, Andrew A. Ray, placed a banner on their national website with photos of the players along with this message.
“This weekend, a number of our brothers will display their athletic talents on the gridiron ... We wish them well and God's mercy and providence to ensure no one is injured.”
Make your voice heard in the comment section below or on Twitter @NFLMondayQB . Also make sure to check out more Super Bowl XLVII photos on our Facebook and Instagram pages. You can also follow Adena Andrews on Twitter @adena_andrews.