Substitute teacher

Ray Lewis visits the Dunbar football team

The Kickoff

November 15, 2006|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,Sun Reporter

The field was a muddy, slow track barely illuminated by temporary lights fighting off a deepening dusk. But for an hour or so yesterday, Dunbar High's football team got some Super Bowl attention.

Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis was a guest coach and motivational speaker at the Poets' early evening practice as a result of a winning essay written by Dunbar senior James Bailey.

Bailey entered a writing contest sponsored by the company that makes vitaminwater, an enhanced-water drink, in which he had to describe, in 52 words or fewer, how his high school team would benefit from a visit by Lewis.

In his succinct appeal, Bailey praised Lewis' nonstop drive and ended by saying, "That same heart and determination to make the play would be an exciting and rewarding experience."

Yesterday, the Poets - who play a first-round state playoff game Saturday - got a taste of what the Ravens' locker room experiences before a big game: some fire and brimstone from No. 52.

"I don't prepare to stop the other team," Lewis said with an evangelic fervor. "They have to stop me."

And that meant remaining focused so that every move, every decision points toward eventual success, Lewis said. The same is true in life, the linebacker added.

"The journey doesn't start when you get to where I am now," he told his rapt audience of 30, each on one knee. "The journey starts where you are now and when you make the decision to be different. To be different as a man as well as a football player."

Fortified by the charge, the Poets briskly went through their paces under Lewis' watchful gaze.

Dunbar coach Ben Eaton said he hoped Lewis' visit would have an impact and provide motivation beyond Saturday's game with Southside at Poly.

"Any amount of time young people get to spend with a person like Ray Lewis ... well, he's bound to touch somebody," Eaton said.

Bailey, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound wide receiver, said he got the idea to write the essay after waking one morning to a radio promotion advertising the contest.

Encouraged by his mother, Marie, who was instrumental in pushing her son's enrollment at Dunbar, Bailey polished his four-sentence gem into a winner.

"I love to write," said Bailey, who added that he's considering majoring in English when he gets to college. Asked if that meant he'd want to get into sportswriting, he said, "If all else fails, who knows?"

Lewis said it was important that success and a sense of achievement are passed on. If, for instance, he was an inspiration to a high school student such as Bailey, then Bailey could be a role model for others.

"For every action, there's a reaction," Lewis said. "For me to go through everything I went through and to still be here today and inspire a young man like that. Now he goes on and inspires someone else himself. Whether he makes it to the next level or not, there's some young kid standing out here right now who is envious of him and saying, `I want to be like James.' "

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