Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis has been a stabilizing symbol throughout his tenure in the city since being drafted in 1996. After 14 years of dominating the NFL, Lewis is easily the most recognizable sports figure in all of “Cham City.”

But even with a résumé that includes 11 Pro Bowl appearances, nine All-Pro team selections and a Super Bowl MVP honor, his success on the “gridiron” isn’t the reason the Baltimore City Council decided to make Lewis the only Raven ever to have a street named after him.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined several members of City Council, including President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, on May 11 to officially name a section of North Avenue “Ray Lewis Way” in honor of his humanitarian services. In addition the general public and local school children, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and the Rev. Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple AME were in attendance.

“Football fans know Ray best from confusing and abusing Baltimore’s opponents for years, but we also know he does so much more for our city as well,” said Rawlings-Blake said. “We’re so thankful for his philanthropy service and for being an inspiration to our people. In the future, this street will be known as a celebration of someone who meant so much to our community.”

The section of North Avenue named after the future Hall of Famer is the location of the DIAKON Center, where the Ray Lewis Foundation hosts its annual Thanksgiving giveaway. Each year, Lewis, along with several of his teammates, provide holiday meals to less fortunate families.

Lewis was so appreciative of the honor, tears of job streamed down his face. But the athlete, who turns 35 on May 15, said supporting the community shouldn’t be done for honors because it’s “right thing to do.”

“To much is given, much is required,” Lewis said. “They say, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and we have to get back to believing in that. If money defines you, then we’re in the wrong business. We need to get back into the loving business.”

Lewis’ mother, Sunseria Smith, serves as vice president of the Ray Lewis Foundation and was also honored at the unveiling.

“Ray does what he does because he lives with love, faith, hope, mercy and grace,” Smith said with just as much emotion as her son plays with every Sunday. “He was birthed to be a man that gives. People need to see that God is real and they’re going to see God through his work.”

Lewis believes folks will also be able to see God through his new street.

“If Ray Lewis Way does nothing else but one thing, let it make you look up, instead of down,” he said. “Let it be that inspiration for you to know there’s always a way to a better way of living. And that way is through God’s love.”

 

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk