The Story Behind the Photo of Ray & Peyton…

I’m sure a lot of you saw this photo floating around twitter this weekend. It’s cool to hear the story behind it in MMQB. Oh, and I’m already sick to my stomach at how many Ray Lewis interviews/dances/speeches that I’m gonna see on TV this week. Gross.

DENVER — Ray Lewis was sick Saturday night, 90 minutes after the Ravens had stunned the Broncos here, and he was waiting in a stadium anteroom to be connected with Deion Sanders for an NFL Network interview. “Flu?” someone asked him. He nodded in the midst of a coughing jag, said he’d had it all week, sounding like a Contagion victim. He did not look good, and if it hadn’t been Deion on the other end, Lewis would have walked away. Then word came from a Ravens security man that waiting in the locker room was the vanquished Peyton Manning, who wanted to see him. And Lewis very much wanted to see Manning. As NFL Network technical people fiddled with the connection, seconds passed. Patience got thin.

“I’m missing a great warrior right now,” Lewis said to no one, a sense of urgency in his voice.

After eight minutes, the interview was over and Lewis was unhooked and he walked back into the nearly deserted Ravens locker room. There was Manning, waiting in a charcoal suit with his wife, Ashley, and their 21-month-old son, Marshall. Hugs all around.

Ashley Manning, hugging Lewis, said: “I’m not very happy, but I’m happy for you,” and she sounded like she meant it.

Peyton and Lewis talked quietly, out of earshot, for four minutes. It’s right that no one would hear it. Manning had a sad smile most of the time, and Lewis a wide one.

Over the years, I’ve seen a few of these postgame meetings between friends or stars with admiration for each other. Most often it’s a handshake, a few whispered words, a hug, and one is off to his team bus and the other off to his life. This was longer. This was one of the greatest linebackers of all time, in the last month of his football life, and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, after one of his toughest losses, who had to say goodbye to Lewis. I heard only one word out of either man, standing a few yards away, and it was Lewis saying, “Respect.” Not sure of the context, but come on. Connect the dots.

The buses were waiting for Lewis, and he had to go, but Ashley said, with a touch of the fan in her, and knowing that Marshall Manning one day would appreciate it, “Can I get a picture?”

Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, Marshall Manning. Smiling for the iPhone.

A powerful, cool moment on a weekend full of them. None quite like this one.

I can’t begin to fathom what they talked about for four minutes. Literally the only thing they have in common is they get paid to play football and make commercials, other than that, complete opposites.

-bp

[photo via Chad Steeler/Ravens director of media relations]

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