Ray Lewis told his teammates during a team meeting on Jan. 2 that “this will be my last ride,” and he’s retiring following the end of the Ravens’ playoff run—which began Sunday with a win against the Indianapolis Colts—closing one of the greatest careers in NFL history.
Following this announcement by the Ravens veteran middle linebacker, the media unleashed a torrent of articles chronicling Lewis’ legendary 17-year professional career and his larger-than-life legacy. Both fans and pundits alike debated where the 37-year-old, future Hall-of-Famer ranks amongst the greatest linebackers of all time, and whether he is the greatest defensive player ever to play the game. On the heels of Lewis’ revelation also came speculation as to whether this past Sunday marked the last time Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed will ever run out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium again. Reed, 34, who is currently in his 11th season with the Ravens and has tried unsuccessfully to secure a deal with the team for the past two seasons, may join Lewis in not returning to Baltimore when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have always been inextricably linked throughout their storied football careers. So it’s unsurprising that whenever one is mentioned, so is the other. They have followed similar paths to greatness. They both flourished at the University of Miami, where they became All-Americans. They both were late first-round draft picks selected by the Baltimore Ravens, overlooked because they were said to be too small. They both have amassed gaudy stats and plenty of accolades during their NFL careers, as they have dominated the field of play from their respective positions. They both have been the centerpieces of the Ravens’ vaunted defense that has terrorized offenses around the NFL for more than a decade, standing together as the organization’s franchise players and two of league’s most respected stars. When the curtain drops, they both will be sure-fire first ballot Hall-of-Famers.
One common element that lies at the core of their success—and it’s one that you won’t read too much about—is the bond they both share with Monte Sanders, or “Mont”, as he is sometimes affectionately known.
Sanders is the CEO and owner of Sanders Optimum Fitness
, but he has been much more than just a fitness expert and the celebrity trainer of this legendary duo. He is a workout partner, a close personal friend, a big brother, a confidant, and a trusted advisor. He is one of the secret ingredients behind their ability to play at such a high level for so long—in a league that’s moniker is “Not For Long”—as well as a transformative influence in their lives.
"The day I met Monte,” says the 13-time Pro Bowler and 7-time First-Team All Pro, Ray Lewis, “my life changed not for training perspective, but for a man. When I bumped into a man like that, the training part was easy [be]cause we had the same mindset."
“Spiritually, physically, it’s everything that goes along with life,” Reed told me at the Anquan Boldin Foundation’s Annual Charity Dinner at M&T Bank Stadium, in describing the impact Sanders has had on him. “Mind, body, soul. That’s Monte’s training. He’s my brother. So, I mean his training is for life. It’s motivating and it’s encouraging. It’s so much that it’s hard to sum it up. It’s still ongoing.”
How the Brotherhood Began
He remembered me and I remembered him. And pretty much he was like, “What are you doing tomorrow man?” And I was like, “Well, I’m working out.” And then he said, “I’m working out with you.” So I met him the next day and that was 11 years ago. –Monte Sanders on Ray Lewis
Sanders had been working as manager at a bank when he was laid off and his career came to a screeching halt after he had spent years working his way up the corporate ladder. “And one day, I just cried out to God and I was like, ‘Take over my life. I’m done with Monte. Just use me as you will,’” as Sanders recalled, in an extensive interview with Access Athletes, that he decided to rest it all on faith.
In this time of uncertainty and upheaval, one thing remained constant in Sanders’ life—his love for working out. Sanders turned to the passion he had developed as a young teenager growing up in Savannah, Georgia for solace.
One day when he was working out, one of Sanders’ friends told him he should go get certified. Sanders jumped at the idea, realizing that he could use it to make some money on the side until he figured out what God had in store for him.