Published August 05, 2018
Football legend Ray Lewis called for more enlightened leadership during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech and fellow inductee Randy Moss wore a tie bearing the names of African-Americans who died during interactions with law enforcement.
The last of the seven members of the class of 2018 on hand to be enshrined, Lewis spoke without notes and strolled along the stage to passionately urge his listeners to come together.
"Are you living every day to make this world better?" Lewis asked Saturday night at the end of his 33-minute oratory, often invoking the teachings of civil rights icon Martin Luther King. "Think what we can do if we work together as a country ... teaching our nation to love each other again.
"It's how we react to the challenges in our life that shows our greatness. How do we execute that dream? Who will answer that knock on the door in the middle of the night? And it has to start right now. We need people willing to fight for what is good and what is right."
Turning to the 140 Hall of Famers on the stage, he told them: "We can go from being legends to building a legacy bigger than football, bigger than sports. Look at what unites us ... the answer is simple, love. Hope, faith and love, and the greatest is love."
Lewis was joined by Randy Moss, Brian Dawkins, Brian Urlacher, Jerry Kramer, Robert Brazile and Bobby Beathard as inductees at the hall ceremony.
“What I wanted to be able to express with my tie is to let these families know that they’re not alone.”
One of the best linebackers in NFL history, Lewis won two Super Bowls with the Ravens; he often chanted "BALTIMORE!" during his speech.
"Tell me something can't be done is like pouring lighter fluid on an open flame," said Lewis, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who won a second Super Bowl for the 2012 season — coming back from a torn triceps — then retired. He was the MVP of the 2001 title game.
"I came back, and boy did I come back," Lewis said. "When you walk off the last time with that thing, that Lombardi, it's a confirmation I am living proof of the impossible."
His impact was immediate, both on the field, in the locker room, and even in pregame introductions, when his "squirrel dance" fired up fans and teammates alike.
Lewis was the first player with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in a career. An eight-time All-Pro and inside linebacker on the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team, he had a franchise-record 2,643 career tackles.
Another first-year nominee, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Moss brought the perfect combination of height, speed, soft hands and agility to Minnesota as the 21st overall draft pick in 1998 after a rocky college career. His 69 receptions, 17 for touchdowns, and 1,313 yards helped the Vikings go 15-1 and earned him Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
That was just the start for the eccentric but always dynamic Moss. When he finally hooked up with an elite quarterback, he caught a record 23 TD passes from Tom Brady in New England's perfect 2007 regular season.
Moss rubbed the face and top of his bust, then delivered a sermon worthy of any church or synagogue. He paid tribute to his family, to the fans of his five teams, and to his roots in West Virginia — he promised he would return to his hometown of Rand on Sunday to show off his gold jacket.
"To my gold jacket brothers, I vow I will wear it proudly," Moss said.
Along with his gold jacket, Moss sported a black tie with the names of a dozen black men and women , who were either killed by police or died in police custody, printed in gold letters. Some of the names included: Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Michael Brown.
“What I wanted to be able to express with my tie is to let these families know that they’re not alone,” Moss said in an interview on NFL Network. “I’m not here voicing, but by [having] these names on my tie, in a big platform like the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there’s a lot of stuff going on in our country and I just wanted these family members to know they’re not alone.”
Dawkins also delivered a powerful speech and, as he promised, cried during it.
One of the hardest-hitting and most versatile safeties in NFL history, Dawkins stared at his bust and nodded his approval to the crowd.
"The majority of success I have had has come on the back end of pain," he said noting he had suicidal thoughts when he battled depression. "On the other side of it, all of a sudden I became better. There's a purpose for my pain.
"I have grown leaps and bounds because of the things I went through. For those going through this now, there is hope on the other side. Keep moving, keep pushing through."
Dawkins was the leader of an Eagles defense that made four straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. Voted to the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team and a five-time All-Pro, Dawkins intercepted passes in 15 consecutive seasons and had 37 picks overall. He averaged nearly 100 tackles a year and spotlighted his versatility as the first player in NFL history to get a sack, interception, fumble recovery and touchdown catch (on a screen pass) in a game, against Houston in 2002.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.