By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Former Baltimore Ravens Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, stood on a basketball court at the Youth Empowerment Project in Fat Hogs Bay before four groups of 50 young British Virgin Islanders with an inspiring message last Thursday afternoon, before he sat down with a small group to kids to answer questions such as how he became a football player to what he eats.
Britnie Turner, who has been doing the BVI Strong Series since Hurricane Irma and promoting the territory, arranged the trip to YEP for Lewis, who was on Necker Island.
Lewis who had a rough childhood and his mother couldn’t afford the $15 for him to attend a football camp which a coach paid for when he was 10 and grew up without a father in his life, began by telling his young audience that when something is taken away from you, that’s when your greatest self becomes available.
The 2012 Super Bowl MVP further told them that they’re not going to find greatness until their comfort zone is disturbed.
Lewis spoke about growing up without his father, hearing his mother crying one day when they had nothing to eat but a bag of candy. He couldn’t do anything to stop her trying and began trying to figure out where life would take him next, before picking up a bible, began reading Psalms and Proverbs, then realized God wanted to use him even in his darkest hours.
Years later he said, he thanked his father for not being in his life, because being that uncomfortable because everything was taken from him, made him chase something that he couldn’t see.
“If you don’t believe in you, then, you don’t have a chance,” he said. “But that’s why we have to get away from the comfortable things. You have to get away from the friends that you call friends, but they really don’t want to see you do well. You got to get away from the coaches and the people who tell you what you can’t do.”
He added: “Do you know how many times I’ve heard the story that I’m too small, that I couldn’t make it through college, that I couldn’t make in in the league? I heard every one of them. I don’t hate them I used them.”
Lewis told his captive audience that in whatever they do in life, someone is always watching them. He said it’s not what you have been through, but where you’re going. Furthermore, he encouraged them to not to let anyone dictate their journey, but their effort.
“The only thing you can ever fight for and the only thing you can ever control in your life is effort,” Lewis said. “Giving everything you’ve got everyday of your life. The greatest reward ever is having someone following you, because they saw what you can do.”
YEP Executive Director Stacy Mather, said the energetic Lewis was phenomenal. The children he noted were excited and had a prelude to his message via YouTube.
“He literally got down to their level on the ground, watched them in their eyes and delivered a powerful message,” Mather said. “In the BVI, sometimes when you’re hearing from the same person, the message isn’t delivered. It’s all about the messenger. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and the general stress the children are feeling right now, it was refreshing for someone to come down to their level who is famous like he is. Someone who has been through the challenges that he has been through.”
Afterwards sitting with a small group, Lewis said the message he was trying to get across is that young children sometime think they’re the only ones going through something and they don’t believe in themselves, which is a cultural problem. Everything is about instant gratification.
“There’s this process they have to go through sometimes, because if you don’t go through it, you’d never know how great you can be in anything,” he said. “There are some storms that you can’t avoid. There are some pains you have to go through—you cannot go around, you cannot ask anybody to help you—you have to go through it yourself.”