|Lewis says his work with children could become his fondest legacy. (US Presswire)|
OWINGS MILLS, MD. -- Ray Lewis is asked about his legacy, and it's not an easy question to answer considering his legacy is thick and palpable and historic. Then he answers by pulling out two big notebooks.
Lewis doesn't like the schedule-keeping gizmos. He goes old school with pen and datebook. Both are full, but it is the second one that's most interesting. In it is Lewis' workout schedule, and it's this insane level of physical preparation that, to me, has allowed Lewis to pass Dick Butkus as the best middle linebacker of all time and challenge the legacy (there's that word again) of Lawrence Taylor as the most impactful linebacker period.
Almost every day of the book is filled with something ... many somethings. Wednesday: two hours of workouts including 10 150s in sand.
Thursday ... more hours, including squats. The incline benches, the 20 miles on the bike, and more 150s. Even for an NFL player, Lewis' workouts are intense, reminiscent of what Jerry Rice used to do.
Lewis has at least 20 or 30 of these books chronicling his workouts dating back years. They are representative of his dedication as well as his attempt to beat back time as a 36-year-old player in his 16th season.
"When you're still chasing something," Lewis explains, answering the legacy query, "it's hard to look back. I don't look back. At least not yet. I'm chasing the greatest of all time. Period."
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When I ask the Ravens star how long can he keep up his frenetic pace the response was highly intriguing.
"My son will be a junior this year. I only play this game for another ring. If we can win it this year, and I'm being brutally honest with you, if we win it this year, I'm gone to then spend as much time as I can with him," Lewis said. "I'm gone to be with my son. And I feel like now we have enough pieces in place to make a good run at the Super Bowl."
So if the Ravens win a title this season -- and they have a definite shot to do so -- Lewis may not come back. Is that set in stone? No, but Lewis made it very clear that while he isn't consistently pondering retirement, a championship would likely lead to the end of one of the top five greatest defensive careers the sport has seen.
Lewis is only getting started in his conversation. The motor is beginning to warm, and when Lewis gets going it would take something atomic to stop him.
"I don't know when it will all be over for me," he says. "People want to use my age against me. They say I'm too old. People fear getting old. I don't fear that because now I have wisdom and a tough body to go with that wisdom.
"I don't ever want to be 24-year-old Ray Lewis again. I made too many bad choices. Now I have the maturity and I take care of my body. I haven't eaten fast food in 13 years."
Lewis next threw down a league-wide challenge.
"If people think I'm slow let me say this," he said. "Sideline to sideline there still isn't a 'backer in this business that can beat me. Sideline to sideline. Not one. I challenge you to find one.
"There are fast guys in this league but it's also not just about the speed. Young guys make a lot of money at the combine from running the 40 [-yard dash]. But then you put on the film and they don't play with heart."
Lewis inspires great emotion. Some love him, others hate him. But it is undeniable that we have watched a player who is only surpassed in effectiveness by names like Deion Sanders and maybe even Taylor -- and Lewis' legacy is giving Taylor's track record a serious run.
When Lewis is asked to specifically address his legacy, he pauses and shows me his cell phone. On it is a fresh text from a young kid named Darious who lives in Baltimore and needs a heart transplant. Part of the text to Lewis read: "You've done so much for me."
Lewis argues that watching Darious face such a horrible situation with courage has done more for Lewis.
Lewis has befriended Darious as Lewis has many young inner-city children around the country.
"If I had a legacy," Lewis says, "maybe that would be it."