I remember as a child, listening to older members of my family talk about some of the great athletes of their day. They’d talk about Jim Brown, Willie Mays and others. I’d hear about how great Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle were.
While they loved all of those players, the local players were the ones who REALLY stole their hearts. You’d hear about Brooks and Frank Robinson. I felt as if I actually lived through the Lenny Moore era. But one of the stories that really rubbed them raw was the fact that Johnny Unitas finished a storybook career with the San Diego Chargers and not the Baltimore Colts.
When I tell my kids about the greatest middle linebacker that I ever saw, I won’t say that. I will be able to say, like with Cal Ripken and Brooks, that he spent his entire career in Baltimore. Not only that, but he was on the first ever Baltimore Ravens team. There were some anxious moments after the 2008 season, when it looked as if he would bolt, but Ray and the Ravens made it work and he returned to play four more seasons.
Like with most great players, Ray will have some critics, but we all witnessed greatness in the making and now, that it appears to be over, we can say he was ours and ours only. I feel honored to know that I lived in a city that had, yet another, once in a lifetime talent. Yesterday it was Unitas, today it’s Ray.