Jamal Lewis is one of the greatest players in Baltimore Ravens franchise history.
His 10,607 career rushing yards make him the 25th-most prolific rusher in the history of the National Football League.
Lewis is also one of just seven running backs to rack up more than 2,000 yards in a single season.
He even had 295 rushing yards in a single game.
Lewis’ incredible play at running back helped the Ravens win their first Super Bowl title in his rookie year in 2000.
Jamal Lewis has clearly stated his case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.
Jamal Lewis was born on August 26, 1979 in Atlanta, GA.
His dad was a railroad worker. On the other hand, his mother was a prison warden.
They fought and bickered constantly.
Lewis grew up in Atlanta’s seedy and crime-infested Adamsville neighborhood.
Waking up to the sound of gunfire at night wasn’t a rare occurrence.
As a kid, Lewis talked to a drug kingpin who told him he never wanted him to sell narcotics. If he was strapped for cash, all he needed to do was ask, per Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne.
Young Jamal Lewis heeded his advice.
However, it wouldn’t be the last time he would deal with drugs.
Back then, kids had two choices: sell narcotics or enlist in the military.
Jamal Lewis chose neither. He wound up on the gridiron.
Lewis told Dunne in 2018 football was his escape from drugs and gangs when he was a youngster:
“Hell, where I grew up, you take a lot of risk. You risk your kid going out hanging with the wrong crowd, selling drugs. You risk your kid hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting killed.”
“You risk your kid hanging out with the wrong crowd, joining a gang. So which one are you going to take? I’ll take football any day out of all that.”
Lewis has no regrets. Many of his childhood friends are either dead or languishing in jail.
Interestingly enough, Lewis didn’t watch a lot of football on television during his formative years.
Apart from Super Bowl games, he watched highlights of Eric Dickerson, Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, O.J. Simpson, and Barry Sanders on VHS tapes.
When Lewis was in grade school, he’d run and play football on a nearby hill. The ground was strewn with debris, rubble, and glass shards.
He never wanted to get tackled because that meant he’d gash up his flesh. His speed on the makeshift gridiron ensured he didn’t have to endure that predicament.
Lewis considers that area his training ground for football, per Dunne:
“You’re a warrior. That is what it comes back to right here. This is where I was trained right here.”
“To be violent. My dad used to tell me, ‘You better hit them before they hit you.’ That’s where that attack mode came from.”
Jamal Lewis’ youth football days were a survival of the fittest. Kids his age suffered the consequences of violence on the gridiron. Many of them even got laid out because of concussions.
Lewis played football for Douglass High School in Atlanta from 1994 to 1996.
He had a school record 4,879 rushing yards for the Douglass Astros during that stretch.
Jamal Lewis announced in January 1997 he will play college football for the Tennessee Volunteers.
College Days With The Tennessee Volunteers
Jamal Lewis majored in arts and science at the University of Tennessee.
He wore No. 31 for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Just a month into Lewis’ freshman season with the Volunteers, he was charged with a felony related to a shoplifting case in March 1997.
Lewis competed with fellow freshman running backs Travis Henry and Travis Stephens in 1997.
He got a taste of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning’s work ethic during fall camp that year.
Manning knocked on Lewis’ door. The latter thought his quarterback would pull one of his pranks on him.
Instead, Manning pulled out several sheets of paper and drew up some protection schemes, per UTSports.com’s Brian Rice.
Manning also promised Lewis he’d start by the fourth game of the season if he learned the schemes he drew up.
Manning’s words were prophetic.
Just several games into the 1997 NCAA season, freshman Jamal Lewis eventually got his chance.
Two weeks before Lewis made his first start for the Volunteers, offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe approached him and told him he’ll never play for him
The reason: Cutcliffe felt Lewis wasn’t a good practice player, per Rice.
Lewis told Cutcliffe he was a gamer. That pivotal moment changed Lewis’ work ethic and practice habits for the better.
Only Cutcliffe would know for sure if it was a mere ploy to fire up Lewis.
Whatever the case may be, it worked.
31 days until kickoff🍊
No. 31 Jamal Lewis pic.twitter.com/A8JFV5CD4L
— More Important Issues (@More_Issues) August 26, 2020
Lewis finished the 1997 NCAA season with 1,364 rushing yards and seven touchdowns and consequently earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
He cherished the 31-29 SEC Championship win over the Auburn Tigers because the game was held at the Georgia Dome in his hometown of Atlanta.
Lewis also told UTSports.com some fifteen years later it was a great send-off for Peyton Manning.
The Volunteers went 11-2 in quarterback Peyton Manning’s farewell season in Knoxville, TN.
They lost to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 1998 Orange Bowl, 42-17.
When Manning left for the pro ranks, Tee Martin took over starting quarterbacking duties for the Volunteers.
Jamal Lewis forged a tight friendship with Martin, who he considers his mentor, per ThePostGame.com’s Jon Finkel:
“Tee was my mentor and helped bring me along. He was like my big brother. I always knew he could play.
“He had a big arm and he could use his legs to get out of tough situations. I came off a great freshman season and we had planned to rely more on the running game after Peyton left to help get Tee more comfortable.”
Unfortunately, Lewis’ sophomore season at Tennessee didn’t go too well.
He got off to a decent start with 497 rushing yards in his first four games before tearing his lateral collateral ligament.
Lewis was sidelined for the remainder of the 1998 NCAA campaign.
Lewis’ pattern of getting injured in his second season would continue in the professional ranks.
Despite losing Lewis, Phillip Fulmer’s crew played at a high level.
The Volunteers had an unblemished 13-0 win-loss mark in 1998.
They beat the Florida State Seminoles in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl 23-16 and claimed their second national title.
Jamal Lewis was back in harness for his junior season at the University of Tennessee in 1999.
He had 816 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 182 carries in ten games.
— FQSEC (@FifthQuarterSEC) April 14, 2020
The Volunteers won nine of twelve games in 1999 and made their second consecutive Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Regrettably, they lost to the Nebraska Cornhuskers on January 2, 2000, 31-21.
Jamal Lewis, who earned Second-Team All-SEC honors, had played his final down in Tennessee Volunteers Orange and White.
He decided to forego his senior season and declare for the 2000 NFL Draft.
Lewis had 2,677 rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns in twenty-seven games over three seasons.
Jamal Lewis would cement his legacy as one of the greatest players in Baltimore Ravens franchise history in the next phase of his football journey.
Pro Football Life
Since moving from Cleveland, OH in 1996, the Baltimore Ravens had averaged six wins per year prior to the 2000 NFL season.
They never reached the postseason until that point.
Jamal Lewis would be the game changer they desperately needed.
The Baltimore Ravens made Lewis the fifth overall selection of the 2000 NFL Draft.
He signed a six-year, $35.3 million contract with Baltimore the day before training camp kicked off in July 2000.
Lewis split carries with Priest Holmes in the former’s first year in the pro ranks.
Jamal Lewis became head coach Brian Billick’s starting running back in just his fourth game in the NFL.
Lewis’s career in the National Football League got off to a rousing start – he had 1,364 yards and six touchdowns in 2000.
The 1,364 yards he racked up were exactly the same he amassed as a freshman running back for the Tennessee Volunteers three years earlier.
Behind a stifling defense featuring Ray Lewis, Rob Burnett, Michael McCrary, Peter Boulware, Rod Woodson, Duane Starks, and Chris McAlister, the Ravens won their first Super Bowl title in 2000.
They manhandled the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, 34-7.
Jamal Lewis had earned his first and only Super Bowl ring.
He had 102 rushing yards and a touchdown on 27 carries in the rousing victory.
Lewis missed the entire 2001 NFL campaign after he injured his knee in training camp.
It was reminiscent of his sophomore season with the Tennessee Volunteers when he played just four games due to a torn collateral ligament.
Jamal Lewis came back with a vengeance from his knee injury.
He ran for at least 1,132 yards in four of his next five seasons in Baltimore.
The Ravens made the postseason twice during that stretch but never made it past the divisional round.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) September 14, 2020
The 2003 NFL season was Jamal Lewis’ breakout year.
Lewis’ 295 rushing yards in a 33-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on September 14, 2003 set a new single-game rushing record.
He had an incredible 2,066 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 387 carries in sixteen games for the Ravens.
Consequently, Jamal Lewis joined elite company.
He joined O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Chris Johnson, and Adrian Peterson as the only players in NFL history to amass more than 2,000 rushing yards in a season.
It came as no surprise Lewis was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2003.
Lewis also became a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro selection that year.
Lewis received drug charges involving conspiracy and intent to sell cocaine in 2004.
He eventually pleaded guilty so he lowered the chances of spending six years in the slammer.
Lewis also told Bleacher Report some fourteen years later the charges were completely “bogus.”
Nevertheless, Lewis spent four months in federal prison. He earned his release on August 2, 2005.
Jamal Lewis was already an astute businessman during his pro football career.
He ran the cross-country trucking business All American Xpress, Inc. in Florida and Georgia during his playing days with the Baltimore Ravens.
The business’ 200 trucks delivered perishable goods around the country.
Lewis told The Baltimore Sun in 2006 the trucking industry was one of his career passions:
“This is what I really want to do. To me, football is just a means to an end. I don’t want to rely on (Ravens general manager) Ozzie Newsome and (Ravens owner) Steve Bisciotti giving me another contract.”
“I have to take what they’ve given me and make it work for Jamal Lewis.”
Lewis and Brownlee Reagan, owner of several hotels in Tennessee, purchased the Fort Rapids waterpark and hotel in Columbus, OH for $6 million in 2010.
Unfortunately, the resort still reeled from the economic crisis of 2008 even after the purchase.
The Ravens released Lewis in the winter of 2007 after they failed to re-sign him at a reduced salary.
The Cleveland Browns agreed to a one-year contract with Lewis on March 8, 2007.
Jamal Lewis played for the Ravens? I only remember him as a Brown pic.twitter.com/w0y0zy2dRY
— Mike In A Gym (@MikeBCSN) April 28, 2018
Lewis wound up playing for the Browns in the last three years of his career.
He had a combined 2,306 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in the 2007 and 2008 NFL seasons.
The Browns averaged seven wins during that span and failed to qualify for the postseason.
The 2009 NFL season opener against the Minnesota Vikings was a massive turning point in Jamal Lewis’ career.
Lewis was on the receiving end of a massive collision on the Vikings’ sideline. He lost consciousness for a few seconds. Minnesota head coach Brad Childress tried waking him up.
Lewis rose up after a few seconds and returned to the Browns’ sideline.
Lewis’ headaches took a turn for the worse. His vision also worsened at the end of practices, per Dunne.
Two months later, Lewis announced he would retire at the end of the 2009 NFL season.
The Browns waived him on February 17, 2010. He didn’t re-sign with another team following his release.
Jamal Lewis is one of the greatest players in Baltimore Ravens history.
Former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome lauded Lewis’ game, per The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston:
“He had a little Earl Campbell to him, but with more speed.”
“Always a threat. Defenses knew if we don’t get this guy, he is going to take it to the house. There are very few guys you can say that about.”
“Jamal was so big, so big and so powerful, and he could get to his top speed in a hurry.”
Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who was Lewis’ teammate with the Ravens from 2000 to 2006, also spoke highly of the big, burly running back.
He told Preston in February 2021 Lewis was their “main engine” when they played together.
Ogden also said Lewis’ numbers deserve serious consideration from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His 7,801 rushing yards are the most in Baltimore Ravens franchise history.
— Best of Pro Sports (@pro_sports_best) August 30, 2021
Lewis’ 10,607 career rushing yards currently rank him 25th all-time.
He also had more than 200 rushing yards in a game three times in his 10-year NFL career. That many ties him with Eric Dickerson and Terrell Davis.
Four Hall of Fame running backs had four in their pro football careers: Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Barry Sanders, and LaDanian Tomlinson.
Lewis’ 36 career games of at least 100 rushing yards should also state his case for Canton someday.
Despite having six different starting quarterbacks in nine years, Lewis managed to rack up more than 1,000 rushing yards in seven seasons.
Jamal Lewis is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
The Baltimore Ravens inducted Lewis into their Ring of Honor on September 27, 2012.
After the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers for their second Super Bowl title following the 2012 NFL season, Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti gave Jamal Lewis a Super Bowl XLVII ring.
Bisciotti told Garrett Downing of the Ravens’ official website two years later Lewis sold the ring for $50,000 several months after he filed for bankruptcy.
“He sold it a long time ago, probably not long after we gave it to him,” Bisciotti told BaltimoreRavens.com in February 2015. “It was part of his bankruptcy (filing), and so they weren’t going to allow him to keep assets.”
Jamal Lewis earned more than $46 million in his pro football career.
Jamal Lewis has three children: Javen, 17; Ivana, 12; and Jazz 11.
Lewis contemplated suicide after the NFL rejected his requests for disability assistance three times.
“You think about death,” Lewis told Bleacher Report in May 2018. “I’ve thought about suicide. I’ve thought about ending it all.”
He feels the league denied him thrice because he was one of the plaintiffs in the concussion lawsuit he and his fellow ex-NFL players filed against the NFL in 2011.
Then, one domino came toppling down after the other.
The “cheerleaders” Lewis loved – the fans who filled a football stadium – were gone.
Lewis’ trucking company went out of business.
He filed for bankruptcy in 2012. He listed $14.5 million in assets and $10.6 million in debts, per The Baltimore Sun.
The repo man then took his assets.
Worst of all, Lewis felt a wall was wedged between himself and his family.
Learning of the deaths of three of his former offensive linemen – Orlando Brown diabetic ketoacidosis, Damion Cook to a heart attack, and Orlando Bobo to heart and liver issues – Lewis contemplated suicide even more.
At the time of Lewis’ interview with Dunne, polyps had been congesting his nasal passages for six months. Apart from breathing issues, a good night’s sleep was a rarity for Lewis.
He underwent surgery to remove the polyps in June 2018.
According to Dunne, Lewis is dealing with the lingering effects of concussions he suffered during his playing days in the National Football League.
By Lewis’ estimate, he had at least ten concussions during his 10-year NFL career. He also lost consciousness two or three times.
Lewis told Dunne he’s aware he suffered brain damage and there’s a chance he has CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
The symptoms manifest themselves in Lewis’ daily life: memory lapses, a quick temper, throbbing headaches, and sensitivity to light.
Lewis also suffers bouts of depression twice a week, per Bleacher Report.
Images of Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, and Aaron Hernandez linger in his mind occasionally.
He also showed some of his battle scars to Dunne – the most prominent one was a huge scar on his ankle due to a DeMarcus Ware tackle in the 2004 NFL season.
Lewis tried numbing the game day aches and pains with Novocain.
When the effects of Novocain wore off some eight hours later, Lewis said it was sheer “torture,” per Dunne.
Lewis resorted to another alternative: liquor.
“You just had to get some liquor, man, and be drunk,” he told Bleacher Report in 2018. “Because it hurt like hell. And then we’d start all over again and get ready for the next game.”
Lewis’ suicidal thoughts faded when the wife of former NFL running back Joe Burns convinced him to attend their church in Atlanta’s Buckhead district.
“No stress,” he told Dunne. “No thinking negative. Thinking positive. Keep it moving. I just let go.”
It marked another turning point in Jamal Lewis’ life.
Metro Exhibits, a trade show booth company, reached out to Lewis on LinkedIn. He’s currently the head of its branch in Atlanta.
Lewis is also currently the president of Southeast Exhibits, a company that focuses on brand interactions.
— Jamal Lewis (@Jamal31Lewis) January 30, 2018
He’s also the president of BuyerConnected, a supplier for the retail industry, per his LinkedIn page.
Lewis studies his three companies on his iPad round the clock.
It’s his way of flexing his neurological muscles. He said his late 89-year-old grandmother lived to a ripe old age because she played word games on her computer incessantly, per Bleacher Report.
Jamal Lewis also tried his hand at sports media after he retired from the NFL.
However, after four days with the NFL Network, he realized it wasn’t up his alley, per Dunne.
Lewis doesn’t let depression get the better of him. He has a new zest for life.
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Aside from his businesses, he’s heavily involved in his kids’ lives.
Lewis didn’t get the chance to spend a lot of time with them during his 10-year NFL career. Now, he regularly attends Javen’s AAU basketball games and Jazz’s baseball games, for instance.
— Jamal Lewis (@Jamal31Lewis) June 22, 2015
Jazz also plays football. Lewis told Dunne he will allow him and his brother Javen to play football if they so choose.