Dannell Ellerbe signed with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and played with the team until 2012. He started alongside Lewis during the Ravens' second Super Bowl run.
I was like everybody else before I met Ray. I thought Ray was going to be like how Ray is during game day every day. During the games, when there were cameras around, it was like he flipped a switch and he was Ray Lewis. But when it was time to study and be around us and just chill, he was just one of the guys.
I was more surprised at how open he was. He's been through a lot. He was like what, year 13 by the time I got there, so I knew he'd been through a lot in the league and stuff like that. For him to still be open and helping me get better and helping everybody get better and putting the team first, it was amazing.
I remember the AFC Championship Game, because I had a back injury that I was playing through the whole playoffs. Before the game, I went to his room and he prayed for me and stuff. It was the last year. It was stuff that I already knew, but that was like the glue that brought it all together. You knew he really cared about you. He prayed for me and everything like that.
My back was killing me. It was crazy. It was to the point after we got off the field to go sit on the bench, I had to get a hot pack to just sit down. I couldn't move. I couldn't get up and walk around. He said, "Come to the room, come pray with me." That was the only time, because my back was messed up.
He really cared about his teammates. That's a lot of stuff that you really don't get. You get a lot of veteran guys who are celebrities and stuff like that who get this bigger-than-life perception of themselves and people put them on a pedestal, and some people take it and run with it. With Ray Lewis, he was down to earth.
I know when I study film, he always told me to find a certain number of plays that I knew when they lined up like this, this play was coming. He said, “That's what's going to set you apart.” Most of the game, you're looking for one or two big plays. So you're waiting on five plays and you know they're coming, that's how you get your name recognized.