Home » Unexpected: Ray Lewis at TEDxYouth@VHS (Transcript)

Unexpected: Ray Lewis at TEDxYouth@VHS (Transcript)

Full text of football player Ray Lewis’ talk: Unexpected at TEDxYouth@VHS conference. In this talk, Ray Lewis shares how the greatest glory in life comes from the greatest pain. He encourages us to keep on, never quitting and takes us inside the unexpected pain he experienced in his personal life as well as in the game of football. He shares how he took his greatest pain and turned them into his greatest victories.

Best quotes from this talk:

“Man believes in the possible, God believes in the impossible.”

“If you can find a way to push through pain, there’s something greater on the other side of it.”

“Because if you don’t control pain, it’ll control you.”

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Ray Lewis – Football player

Show of hands, how many people has dealt with pain somewhere in your life, right?

Today, I wanted to just really hit on something, successfully dealing with pain. I think you hear many stories in and every story I just sat in the back room and listened to them, I’m watching these people triumphing and figure out ways to keep going.

But how do you keep going? Why do you keep going, when the world says everything else is supposed to be opposite?

October 7th, we’re playing the Dallas Cowboys in Baltimore. And I’m studying all week, I’ve studied all week for this one moment, and I know it’s going to happen, I know, I know it’s going to happen. And I’m looking at Tony Romo and I’m watching him drop back and I’m saying to myself, I’m saying, drop and just pick up your hands and just pick it, pick means intercepts, right?

I’m saying just catch it, just pick your hands up and catch it Lou, you don’t start it’s played all week, fourth quarter big drive Baltimore going crazy.

And in the midst of it, the play happens, one run more drop, and I’m sitting there. And in my head I promise you I went through every thought, catch it, knock it down, don’t put hands up and the moment, I hesitated for a moment and by the time I put my hand up, my hand started to come down and I felt a sound, I heard a sound that I have never heard in my entire life, and my trusty apart from the bone.

And as soon as I hit it, I knew something was wrong and I said I cannot believe this, I said I cannot believe this because I know now, the 17 years of me playing. So, I know that this is my last, right, this is my last one. My triceps made nine surgeries, I had nine surgeries throughout my 17-year career, put them sit there and when I pop it, the moment I popped it, I said now you got a choice.

And I’m sitting out there with it pop and all of my players looking at me and they like alright Lou and I’m like I’m good let’s go. But, I know I am not good and I know something is functionally not right, something’s wrong, because I can feel a burn.

And three more plays after, five more plays after, seven more plays after, eight more plays after, I’m still out there fighting with my team, because it’s the fourth quarter and you can’t leave the battlefield, you’re going to leave the battlefield for injury, not pain.

Fifteenth play come up, young running back coming through the hole, I’m realizing that if I don’t sacrifice my body and throw it in the middle of him, he probably scores, we lose but I got one arm. So, I just do my body and just roll with him and he got the talking, you got to come on, you got to come home and I’m like, I’m going out.

And I went to the sideline and my doctor walked up, Dr. Corl walked up and she said what’s wrong? I said doc, it’s my arm. She grabbed the back of my arm and she touched right at the bottom of my triceps and she could actually push through, so where you can see her hand coming through another side, because it has snapped from the bone and I’m sitting there and she’s like why you smiling?

I say doc, it’s just an arm, she was like yeah but I got some bad news, I say doc what’s that? She said you just pop your triceps from the bone, I said its pop it from the bone, she said it’s gone, she’s crying, oh my god! Why are you crying?

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She’s like I never want to see your career in like this. I’m saying career in like this; she said because nobody has ever come back from this, nobody has ever come back from a triceps injury, right? We was 4-1 at the time, so he was a quarter way through the season, and I’m sitting there and she keeps moving and she keeps moving it, I said and I saw the smiling again, she said what’s your smile for because I said “Man believes in the possible, God believes in the impossible”, I said all I need you to do, it’s meet me in the office in the morning and giving my papers, papers means MRI, after winning got it, right, valid to say yeah your triceps is torn.

So, she hands me the papers, I called a friend of mine, I said man I need your plane man, got to go right now, I flew down to my college doctor, Dr. Uribe and I got there, now I never forget soon as I walked in the door, he said Ray, don’t do what I think you’re about to do, you say don’t do it, because it’s the greatest risk you ever take in your life. I said doc I am not got no other choice, at this point of my career I promised myself, why I came into this game, if I was going to leave it, I would rather die on the field.

But it’s something that tear my triceps taught me about there’s two sides of pain that I don’t think a lot of people really understand, right? There’s one side of pain that’s the suffering and the discomforts side of pain, that’s why everybody raised their hands when I first acts, do you have everything I’ve ever been through pain because that hurts, you remember what that felt like.

But, then there’s another side of pain, that’s called effort, it’s called glory, it’s called if you can find a way to push through pain there’s something greater on the other side of it. And if you never tap into it, it’s because the first time you felt that you backed off, the first time you feel ah that burned, the first time you feel that it’s too much, and we rationalize with ourselves to where we automatically stop. That’s why a bunch of us give up so much in life so quickly. That’s why kids have a problem finishing things in today’s dive, because soon as they feel a small bit of discomfort, of things they write, how they’re gone, I can’t do it, no more.

But, suppose I told you, the greatest pain of my life is the reason I’m standing here today. Suppose I was able to share with you, my routine was so crazy man, I was seeing almost nine doctors for nine weeks 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. every morning, 10 days, 10 days from triceps repair surgery, had my bike flew out, I flew my bike out, I got on my bicycle, my cycle a lot, I got on my cycle, I got on my bike and I tried to grip the bar and I couldn’t grip it, didn’t have enough stress and I sat there for 30 minutes and so I made up in my mind, stop crying and grip the handlebars, just grab the bar.

See, sometimes we think the pain is what controls us is what’s actually our subconscious mind that if we ever tap into that, that’s what dictates most of our lives and I’m sitting there, I said just squeeze it and I squeezed it, ten days out and I started riding a bike ten days out because the pain is tricky, because if you don’t control pain, it’ll control you.

And so that’s where my psyche started to change because I… look it was already in my mind that I was coming back but listen to what I had to hear about all of the people who had everything that’s saying about my career was over, every TV station, every ESPN channel, sad news, Ray Lewis career is over and I’m saying, wow! That many people can dictate if I’m coming back with my, that many people got control over what I do from this point forward, going forward, that many people can tell me, man I heard one comment says, one of the greatest warriors of all time and we lose him like this.

So, I said, oh my god! Haydn wrote me off, I think I’m like well pack it up but think about what we do, the moment we feel that, right? That’s back to the two sides — the two sides of pain.

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See, at that point I feel like a victim, I feel like oh man why me, you know, and think it, think it, think it. Then after the first day, I rode my bike, I came back, I fell twice, I feel I remember, then on the ground and I said Lou am not, nobody going to help you get up, what makes you get up when you fall down? What makes your mentality change if there’s a great situation or there’s a bad situation? How do you dictate that based on the level of pain because I think that’s what we’re getting in trouble at.

So when I started cycling, when I started going to see these doctors, I realized that I turned my greatest pain into my greatest achievement. I asked my mom one day, I said mom, I said would you buy me a deck of cards, she says Jr. I don’t gamble in my house and no cards coming in my house.

And I said mom, I don’t need them for gambling, I don’t need them for gambling, I just need a deck of cards mom.

My mom for years, from the time I was 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, I never saw a woman takes so much physical abuse than the way I’ve seen my mother beaten, every freaking day of my life. And I’m helping her but I can’t help her because I’m not strong enough. I don’t have the muscle to get these men off my mother, my mother’s a very high yellow woman and every time they hit her, she would bleed from her eyes and she walk around for days with sunglasses on in the house.

I said mom, I need a deck of cards, last altercation we got in, my stepfather hit my mama so hard in the face, my stepfather hit my mama so hard in the face, I called her and I looked at him with this rage and this pain in my eyes, like one day, one day I took this deck of cards, I couldn’t live in the house, so I had to live in the garage.

And after this last altercation we had with this guy, I ran to my garage and I grabbed the deck of cards and I flipped a seven and I started doing seven pushups, I flipped the six I did six, I flipped a nine I did nine, I flipped the two, I did two, I flipped another nine I did nine.

And so I got all the way through the deck, Jack, Queen, King were 10, Jack, aces twenty five and Joker’s fifty. Until I got sick and tired of what pain felt like am I good. It didn’t even matter to me, no more because I started shuffle them all over again and that’s when I started doing my sit-ups because I wanted to make sure sports wasn’t the reason why I started training.

It was to make sure man never put his hands on my mom again. That’s why I started doing what I started doing, sports was a byproduct of what people started to see, it was behind the scenes that was driving me crazy.

Ten years old, I picked up these deck of cards and one day I counted them and I found out it was 52 of them, in the deck of cards, 52. And I turned my greatest pain in my business for the greatest achievement ever, if the touched on barley trophy, 52 cards and ironically my number end up being 52.

I wish I made up a story but I didn’t. 1986, I’m sitting on the curb, my mama come home, she say baby Ray what you’re doing? I said my mom, waiting for my daddy to come get me, she said baby Ray your daddy am not coming, I say mom somebody said daddy in town and he coming to get me for Christmas, she say baby Ray daddy ain’t not coming, I say mom I’m not leaving, I’m going to sit right here 7:30 came by, 8:30, 9:30, she came back on, she said son get up, he ain’t coming, I said mom he got to come, I’ll be alright, I said that’s 11:30 at night, she finally walked over to me, she said baby Ray get up, he ain’t coming,

And I remember getting up from that freaking curve and I told my mama that day, mama, no pain, no pain will ever stop me from taking care you and my brothers and sisters because nobody knows what I’m dealing with the greatest pain a man will ever go through in his life. It’s the disconnection of a father when, you know, he is living.

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I thank my father because we’re friends now but I thank my father for not coming around me when I was a child, because the way he was living wasn’t a way I was supposed to live. So, sometimes they really find the root of who you are, you must go back generationally and find out if you’re following the same curses, that’s what pain is.

Pain is a repetition of the psyche, until you learn how to figure it out, until you learn how to tap it on the back and say I know you there but I’m built to deal with you. I don’t want nobody to leave here today and not understand, why we must find a way to push through pain to understand this on the other side of that is glory.

The night before the Super Bowl, I retort my triceps, couldn’t tell nobody, I couldn’t go to the doctors, I couldn’t go to my teammates, what I was going to tell them that I can’t play. I retort and it was bleeding so bad and it was burning so bad that I took a shoe string from one of my shoes and one of the fire speakers, I tie the shoe string around the tire, stick it and tied it around my arm to hang my arm up, so I can get three hours of sleep.

And I held it there all night and that’s just great, held my arm now all night. And I got up and I walked in that Stadium and I’ll never forget this, if anybody’s ever sold its ride, I came out of halftime and we’re busting San Fran [inaudible]. I know we’re on the west coast, I know we’re on the west coast.

But, I come out of halftime and I stayed in there little longer because I got ready to tell my trainers, I’m like, man listen, I can’t even punch nobody with my arm, it’s hurting that bad.

I said I got it, a whisper came to me, it ain’t about you, it’s about the team, I came out the locker room, my arm burning so bad, Jacoby Jones was walking to the end zone to receive the kickoff, I’m running towards the sideline, my arm burning so bad. God said go touch Jacoby. I turned around and put both of my hands on Jacoby chest. And I said I’m just doing what God told me to do.

And I ran back to the sideline and I watched a Kawagoe 109 yards.

So, everything that moment told me, well sometimes your greatest pain ain’t even about you, it’s about a greater purpose, that if you can find a way to push through that, if you can find a way to not make it about you, learn to appreciate the occasional storms, they’re coming your life, learn to appreciate how small they are, the occasional storms that come every day.

And then that’s the ingredient of how you really deal with pain, figuring that out.

Thank you! Got a few guys real quickly, if you don’t know the story, so if you are to share, she’s already shared her story. And me and her brother, we’ve done some stuff a few years ago and we’ve done some stuff in a Grove and everything and so I met him and it was awesome the time we spent together. And then I received the email about her taking one of my messages, warrior, tell me what, tell me.

Speaker 2: When you challenge a warrior, a warrior responds.

Ray Lewis: Absolutely! And she remembers that one time I said when you challenge a warrior, a warrior responds. So, she sent me this email thing, she sent me email to my agent and as soon as I saw it, I was like absolutely, I’m 100% in. I would love to come to share that story. And so that’s why I’m here today. Absolutely!

Speaker 2: Thank you.

Resources for Further Reading:

Don’t Waste Your Pain: Joel Osteen (Full Transcript)

Glennon Doyle Melton: First the Pain, Then the Rising (Transcript)

How We Can Face The Future Without Fear, Together: Rabbi Lord Sacks (Transcript)

When God Seems Too Late: Joel Osteen (Full Transcript)