CANTON: Ray Lewis, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Baltimore Ravens, entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday saying greatness in life means looking beyond sports.
“We can go from being legends to building a legacy bigger than football, bigger than sports,” Lewis told 140 Hall of Famers assembled on the stage in Canton, Ohio.
“Look at what unites us … the answer is simple, love. Hope, faith, and love, and the greatest is love.”
Lewis, one of the best linebackers in NFL history, was enshrined on Saturday along with Randy Moss, Brian Dawkins, Brian Urlacher, Jerry Kramer, Robert Brazile, Bobby Beathard, and Terrell Owens.
Owens opted out of the traditional ceremonies in Canton, preferring to reflect on his career before a crowd in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he played college football.
In a characteristically fiery performance, Lewis thanked family members, former coaches, friends, and teammates in the crowd for helping him achieve NFL greatness.
He spoke of the hard times shared with his mother, Sunseria Smith, who gave birth to him at age 15.
“Remember what they told me when we were little?” he said, addressing Smith in the crowd. “That we weren’t going to make it. Well guess what, Mama? We made it.”
He had a shout-out for 28-time Olympic swimming medalist Michael Phelps, who was near the front of the crowd with his wife, Nicole.
“How many times have we sat in a room together?” Lewis asked Phelps. “What did we say? ‘We’ll do anything for Baltimore!’ A lot of people call you the greatest Olympian, but I call you one of my greatest friends, brother.”
Lewis addressed the build-up to the 2000 season, when he was charged with murder in connection with the deaths of two men outside a Super Bowl party he attended in Atlanta.
The charges were eventually dropped, but he called those “some of the darkest moments of my life.”
Urlacher, who became the 28th Chicago Bear to be inducted, was the 2000 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and 2005 Defensive Player of the Year, when he had 171 tackles.
Moss, a sensational wide receiver whose sometimes erratic off-field behavior sparked criticism, was, like Urlacher, a first-year nominee.
He was Offensive Rookie of the Year for the Minnesota Vikings in 1998 and in 2007, with the New England, caught a record 23 touchdown passes from Tom Brady in the Patriots’ perfect regular season.
“To my gold jacket brothers, I vow I will wear it proudly,” Moss said of the jacket awarded Hall of Famers.
Owens donned his in Tennessee, before a crowd of several thousand.
“A lot of people say that I may regret not being in Canton 10, 15, 20 years from now,” Owens said. “But just like my choice to be here today, I choose not to live in regret.”
Owens said his departure from tradition wasn’t a protest at the fact he didn’t get into the Hall until his third appearance on the ballot, but to point out that sports writers who vote on admission “are not in alignment with the mission and core values of the Hall of Fame.”
“These writers disregarded the system, the criteria and bylaws in which guys are inducted, and ultimately the true meaning of the Hall of Fame and what it represents,” Owens said.