CORAL GABLES, Fla. — For Miami freshman Ray Lewis III, there is no escaping his father’s shadow.
The kid doesn’t mind that reality, either.
Ray Lewis’ name and image are on the fence that surrounds the Hurricanes’ practice field. His words are displayed along one of the walls of the team’s new locker room. His résumé – two-time Super Bowl winner, 13-time Pro Bowler, quite possibly the greatest inspirational-speech-giver of all time – is known by just about anyone who follows football.
Now his son is getting into the family business. But there will be plenty of intrigue in how Lewis III develops with the Hurricanes, more because of his surname than anything else – though he insists that it’s not a burden to carry his father’s name around.
“If I let it, I feel like it could,” Lewis III said Friday. “But my mom did a great job raising me and I feel like she never let that get to me, either. I already know there’s going to be expectations. I know people are going to expect a lot. People are going to think a lot. People are going to make assumptions before they even get to know me. But like I said, if I let that get to me, I wouldn’t be playing.”
There’s no shortage of current Miami players with family trees that have deep, longstanding Hurricane roots.
Defensive end Anthony Chickillo is a third-generation Hurricane, and his cousin Wyatt Chickillo is a freshman on this year’s team. Freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen is the brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who starred at Miami. Wide receiver Greg Golden, another freshman, is the nephew of Hurricanes head coach Al Golden – and the son of Greg Golden Sr., a Miami walk-on during the Howard Schnellenberger era.
So this season will be a family affair.
And for Lewis III, it might be particularly special now that he’s at his mother’s alma mater and that his father – who retired after last season – will have more time than ever to see him play.
Ray Lewis was around at times during the summer, when the players were going through 7-on-7 drills to get ready for training camp, and his son savored the experience.
“The one thing I can tell you about Ray-Ray is he is a learner,” Al Golden said. “He is a learner. He is a football kid, he really is. I mean, everything you teach him, he learns and he improves. Now, he’s got a long way to go because he doesn’t have the number of reps over his whole career playing that position and the comfort level, but he’s a learner and just a guy who figures things out.”
Ray Lewis has talked several times in recent months about the symmetry of it all, how his last game – Baltimore’s win in the Super Bowl over San Francisco – came in the same week that his son signed with Miami.
“Everybody knows my dad is an NFL icon,” said Lewis III, who was a running back during his high school days at Lake Mary Prep near Orlando, Fla., collecting nearly 1,900 yards as a senior there. “He’s an NFL Hall of Famer. He’s done great over his lifetime.”
But at Miami, at least in the locker room, there hasn’t been much talk about his famous father, even though one of Ray Lewis’ quotes — “Effort is between you and you” — is printed atop one of the walls.
“That part is a little strange,” Lewis III said, laughing a bit.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was one of the players who hosted Lewis III on his recruiting visit, and came away from that duly impressed.
“He’s a great kid,” Morris said. “Obviously, he comes from a great family. He has a lot of principles already instilled in him. Coming from a family like Ray Lewis’ family, he’s very disciplined. On the field, he’s athletic. I’m excited to see what he’s going to become. Overall, he’s a really good kid who’s just trying to find his way here, and he will.”
Just like his father did, a generation ago.