My column for the Daily News is online. It’s called, “A tale of two NFLs.” Here you go.
1975 was a good year for football players. That year spawned two of the NFL’s best – Ray Lewis and Donald Driver – but there could not be two men more different. One represents all that the NFL can be. The other represents all that the NFL has become.
Ray Lewis is bound for the Hall of Fame as one of the best linebackers the league has ever known. Lewis has embraced his community and has become an iconic Baltimore figure. It is hard to argue with the statistics. As I write this before the Super Bowl has been played, Lewis has accomplished 131 solo tackles, 31 interceptions, and 20 fumble recoveries. Few players have been as disruptive to opposing offenses as Lewis.
At the same time, Ray Lewis has a history rife with controversy. After the Super Bowl in 2000, Lewis was implicated in the murder of two men who were stabbed to death outside of a nightclub in Atlanta. The two men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, suffered painful deaths at the point of a knife thrust repeatedly through their chests. Lewis and his cohorts sped away in their limousine. Eventually, Lewis avoided murder charges and pleaded to the lesser charge of obstruction of justice.
Just last week Ray Lewis was implicated in another controversy when he was accused of using a deer antler spray as a stimulant. Lewis has adamantly denied using such substances, but Sports Illustrated claims to have a recording of Lewis asking to have the stimulant mailed to him.
While Ray Lewis is undoubtedly one of the best linebackers to ever play the game, his legacy will always rest in the shadow of his character.
This week also saw the official retirement of Donald Driver. He will not likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame despite being one of the best receivers in Packers history. Driver has accumulated more than 10,000 receiving yards and 61 touchdowns as a Green Bay Packer.
But Driver’s performance on the field pales in comparison to his performance off the field. He has been an active member of the Wisconsin community and a generous benefactor for the less fortunate. Driver has been a tireless advocate for the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and a spokesman for Goodwill Industries. Along the way, Driver competed in Dancing with the Stars and charmed Wisconsin (and the nation) with his infectious smile.
Both Lewis and Driver are at the end of their NFL careers. One of them is going out with class. One of them never had it.
Thank you, Donald Driver, for showing the world that character matters and that good men do finish first.
Owen - your columns usually elicit a diatribe on both sides but today’s has to qualify as one of the best. Double D is the kind of a man we can all look up to. Thanks for saying it.
The greatest thing about DD is his humility. You see a lot of great athletes that you wouldn’t want to spend ten minutes with outside of football.
Donald is a great man - and will continue to be long after Lewis is forgotten.