In addition to his status as one of the best linebackers in NFL history, Baltimore Ravens veteran Ray Lewis also may be the league's top motivational speaker.
Lewis showed off his ability to coax every ounce of effort from fellow players again on Tuesday evening when he delivered a pregame locker room speech to Stanford's basketball team in advance of its NIT semifinal against UMass. Then Lewis watched from one row behind the Stanford bench as the Cardinal beat the Minutemen 74-64 to advance to their first NIT title game since they won the event in 1991.
The speech from Lewis had Stanford players transfixed in a way that would be difficult for Johnny Dawkins or anyone on his staff to duplicate.
"Wins and losses come a dime a dozen," Lewis said. "But effort? Nobody can judge effort. Because effort is between you and you.
"I'm pissed off for greatness. Because if you ain't pissed off for greatness, that means you're OK with being mediocre."
Stanford's revitalization in the NIT has been a pleasant surprise from a program that was underwhelming in Pac-12 play after a strong nonleague performance this season. Outside shooting has improved, senior big man Josh Owens hasn't faced as many double teams and the stingy defense that was Stanford's trademark in November and December has returned to its previous level.
Aside from Owens, Stanford has a young nucleus consisting of freshman point guard Chasson Randle and a bevy of sophomores who were part of a strong 2010 recruiting class. The Cardinal could take a lot of momentum into the offseason if it beats Minnesota in the title game, which means perhaps Dawkins should invite Lewis back for one more pep talk.