Ray Lewis’ leadership, mentoring and guidance are propelling the Ravens towards this year’s Super Bowl. But it turns out that the soon-to-be-retired, soon-after-to-be-enshrined linebacker also had a big hand in helping the Giants to win last year’s Super Bowl.
When Antrel Rolle was unhappy with his role on the Giants in his first year with the team in 2010, the player he called to talk to about his issues was Lewis. Rolle said on WFAN on Tuesday that he had an hour-long conversation with Lewis that helped Rolle adjust to Tom Coughlin’s coaching style – something that Rolle at first had difficulty coming to grips with – and ultimately become the player that the Giants needed to get them their Super Bowl XLVI title.
“When I was having a difficult time with adapting to Coach Coughlin’s ways, he was the guy that I called upon,” Rolle said. “I got his number and I called him and I just asked him: ‘Ray, how should I handle this situation?’ I was like: ‘It’s extremely difficult for me, I’m not used to this,’ and so forth and so on. And we had an hour-long conversation just about life. He was telling me how I should approach the situation. He was telling me how I should deal with Coach Coughlin but still get some things across. He helped me out a lot. I listened to what he said and it helped me out a lot. If you’ve ever been around Ray Lewis, man, he’s probably the most humble individual and the more real individual you’re going to ever be around. That’s just the reality of it.”
Rolle and Lewis are both products of the University of Miami, so there is a connection between the two. But Rolle said it wasn’t just that shared heritage that drew him to Lewis.
“More importantly that the U thing, I called on someone who had been through it all,” Rolle said. “No matter what adversity it was that Ray had to overcome, he overcame it. That’s what it boiled down to. Me going to someone I consider to be a mentor, me going to someone who is going to tell it to me straight and someone who is going to tell me what I need to hear as opposed to something that I want to hear. He told me what I needed to hear and from that day on I never had any issue, I never had any (problems). And I can honestly say we’re great. This is the best I’ve ever felt and it’s going to continue to stay on this path.”
Rolle made it clear that he never had a confrontation directly with Coughlin, but it was clear from shortly after he arrived that Rolle had difficulty with Coughlin’s demands and ways of doing things. The most public example was Rolle’s assertion that the Giants did not have a beneficial schedule for a night game on the road when they lost to the Colts in Indianapolis. That was just one of what were likely many brushfires between the safety and the Giants.
“One thing I never had was an issue with Coach Coughlin,” Rolle said (although it sure sounded like it after the 2010 season in this interview). “I had an issue with me dealing with certain things, more so my own personal issues, not Coach Coughlin. Coach Coughlin and myself have never had an exchange of words anything close to it or never had a bad eye on one another. I’m sure he’s wanted to curse me out at times, but it never ever crossed that line.”
As for Lewis leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl this year, Rolle said he thinks that the team will want to play well for him in his final game.
“Personally speaking, I think that has a lot to do with it, more so than what people actually think and realize,” Rolle said. “Last year in our playoff run, after our loss to the Washington Redskins (in Week 15), Perry Fewell sat me in the office and he broke things down where it went farther and greater beyond myself. He asked the question, he was like: ‘Deon Grant, that’s your boy, right? That’s your brother?’ I said: ‘Absolutely.’ And he said: ‘How many chances do you think Deon has to compete in another Super Bowl or play on a team of this caliber?’
“When he said that, at that point in time I wasn’t too fond of playing the nickel position and so forth and so on, but at that time it went outside of myself, it went outside of my own selfish reasons. It went outside of me going out there and doing the best I can do for me. It went to: Let’s give him this opportunity; I’m going to do this for Deon; I’m going to try to best the player I can be for Deon to make sure he goes out with a bang. I think that’s their mentality at this point. Ray Lewis is their leader, Ray Lewis is the firepower behind that team, and they want him to go out with a bang.”