Mustangs football camp

Offensive linemen run through drills during the Mustangs’ football camp at Energy Capital Sports Complex last season.

Ray Lewis III has been on a mission since the day he was born.

Lewis III, 26, never really had his own identity growing up. He was always living in the shadows of his father’s professional football career.

His dad, Ray Lewis, was a two-time Super Bowl champion linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. In his 17-year career, Lewis broke the NFL record with 2,059 career combined tackles, including 1,568 solo tackles.

“I was born into a situation that’s perceived by everyone the way they want to perceive it,” Lewis III said. “I didn’t have my own identity and I still don’t. ... I don’t even get my own identity. It’s always just, ‘Son of Hall of Famer Ray Lewis.’

“I have my own identity now. I’m not trying to fill his shoes now. I have a different size and I have my own shoes to fill.”

Lewis III signed with the Wyoming Mustangs professional indoor football team Tuesday. He’ll play in the defensive backfield during the team’s second season playing in the Champions Indoor Football League.

After graduating from high school near Orlando, Florida, Lewis III played at the University of Miami, his dad’s alma mater. Lewis III transferred to Coastal Carolina University before finishing his college career at Virginia Union University.

After college, Lewis III started working in Oklahoma as a registered behavior technician for children with disabilities. He always was drawn to working in a career that was meaningful to him when his football days came to an end.

But Lewis III received a phone call from first-year Mustangs coach Michael Coleman, who was just hired by the team on Oct. 8. Coleman offered Lewis a roster spot on next year’s team.

“I didn’t necessarily think I was going to get the call the way I did,” Lewis III. “Excited is an understatement. My momma always told me to stay ready because you never know the type of plan God has in store.

“He basically just told me he watched and saw the athlete that I was and the talent he saw.”

Mustang players don’t have to report to Gillette until February, but Lewis III plans to move to Wyoming in December to get familiar with the weight room and facilities he’ll be using during the season. His main goal will be to build a relationship with the Mustang fans in the city and to win both on and off the field.

Overcoming adversity

Being the son of a legendary football star isn’t always smooth sailing.

Lewis III will be the first to admit he didn’t always handle the pressure well. But some of life’s most valuable lessons are taught through adversity and hardship, something Lewis III has experienced firsthand.

While attending and playing football for Coastal Carolina in 2016, Lewis III was arrested and charged with sexual assault, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The charges were dropped the following year after court records showed that Lewis III’s accuser had sent a text message to a second woman saying they could sue the Lewis family for a “ton of money.‘”

Lewis III was never charged, but the accusations led to his dismissal from the CCU football team. That’s when he returned home to Orlando to figure out his next move.

“Instead of just staying in trouble I bounced back,” Lewis III said. “I got back into school and I finished my degree and I got myself a job. I didn’t let that break me.

“Don’t get me wrong, I was broken plenty of times. There’s not some solid story about me just bouncing back immediately. No, no, no. There was a lot of hard nights and a lot of nights crying with my momma.”

Losing his chance to continue playing college football hurt, but upsetting and disappointing his mother was a pain Lewis III never wants to experience again.

Lewis III enrolled at Seminole State College to finish his associate’s degree before enrolling at Virginia Union. Five years after the accusations, Coleman saw something special in Lewis III and decided to give him a chance to prove himself for the Wyoming Mustangs.

“When I got a phone call from a coach who saw me play almost six and seven years ago now and saw my talent, that’s not all a coincidence. You can tell that someone beautiful designed this, regardless of religion. ... Grateful is an understatement.”

Coleman plans to use Lewis III’s speed and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball. But Lewis III will do anything he has to do for the team in order to see playing time, he said.

Lewis III said there’s a good chance that Gillette fans could see his father in attendance at a game or two. But Lewis III is most looking forward to having his mom in attendance after all the support and love she’s given him throughout his entire life.

“My mom is a superhero,” Lewis III said. “It ain’t a good feeling making your momma cry. ... My dad has always been as involved as he can be. But my mom, she hasn’t missed a parent-teacher conference or a game or missed an argument in my life.

“Everything that I’ve had to endure in my life, she was there.”

While his contract with the Mustangs is official, Lewis III will have to wait another five months to put the finishing touches on his new identity. That new identify will come on an indoor football team looking to find its footing in the competitive CIF.

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