When a linebacker comes into the NFL, it’s like a receiver who wants to wear 80 because of Jerry Rice, or a running back who wants to wear 22 because of Emmitt Smith. I always wanted to wear 52 because of Ray Lewis. Ask Patrick Willis why he wears 52. It’s a tribute to the best we’ve ever seen. Just seeing his passion for the game, every game, was enough for me. Anytime I see a player wear number 52, I know that guy has something to him. You can’t wear that number and not be a passionate football player. [...] It hasn’t always been easy because we’ve been losing here in Cleveland. But Ray will say things to me, or maybe send me a text, about how this won’t last forever. A couple of years ago, he said to me, ‘Stay the course. Things are beginning to change. I had to go through the tough times too, to appreciate the great time. You’re going to be part of the change.’ Just what an older player should say to a younger player like me. To me, he’s the best. The game’s not going to be the same without him.
– Cleveland Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson on the impending retirement of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Housed within Peter King’s latest “Monday Morning Quarterback,” Jackson waxes nostalgic of his time in college and initial fear of Lewis’ persona which turned into a desire to play in the AFC North so he could play against Lewis’ Ravens.
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