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Ray Lewis: Separating the TV Ray from the work-week Ray

COMMENTARY — Former Oklahoma State tight end Billy Bajema and ex-Oklahoma nose guard Kelly Gregg know Ray Lewis, the man, the myth, the middle linebacker. That flair for the dramatic? He “saves it up for the games.”
by Jenni Carlson Published: February 1, 2013

Ray Lewis falls to his knees on the field and quotes Scripture in interviews and dances and cries and prays.

It's hard not to wonder about this guy.

What's with him?

Kelly Gregg chuckled at the question.

The Oklahoma native has seen the linebacker's antics up close. He spent 11 years in Baltimore, starting on the Ravens' defensive line and playing alongside Lewis.

“There's a TV Ray,” Gregg said, “and then, there's a work-week Ray.”

That's a familiar refrain when you talk to guys who have played with Lewis — and in this state, we have several of them. They say that the animated showman who the world sees on game day morphs into the consummate professional the rest of the week.

But as Lewis prepares to retire after a 17-year career — he says the Super Bowl will be his last game — the focus is on the strut-dancing, face-painted persona.

Billy Bajema spent seven years in the NFL before joining the Ravens this season, and what he knew of Lewis before was what the rest of us know.

“What you see on TV and in commercials,” the former Westmoore High and Oklahoma State standout said.

Now, the first thing that pops to mind when Bajema thinks of Lewis is the linebacker's leadership.

“The things he says to the team, the way he plays and the passion the he does everything ... aren't just for the cameras,” said Bajema, who's become a blocking tight end for the Ravens. “That's why the team rallies behind him and why his leadership really works.

“It's authentic.”

Trent Smith witnessed that during a two-year stint in Baltimore. The former Sooner was drafted by the Ravens in 2003, and he worried about being a newbie in the same locker room with Lewis.

Would he punk the rookies?

Would he want to fight?

Turned out, those fears were totally unfounded.

“Guys like Ray — guys who are always trying to get better and all they care about is winning — there's no singling out,” Smith said. “You were drafted. You are on his team. He expects the best from you.”

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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