What event most changed your life?
My stepfather was a very abusive person. He used to put bruises on my mom’s face, and I still have a scar on my forehead from when I got thrown into a bed rail. When I was nine, we had gotten into an altercation with him, and I told my mom, “One day you will never have to worry about a man hitting you again.” A lot of people thought that I was training for athletics back then, but I was becoming stronger to protect her.
How does a man make himself stronger?
I asked my mom for a deck of cards. She said, “Boy, you know I don’t allow no gambling.” I was like, “Ma, it ain’t about that.” I would go into my room – I lived in the garage at the time – and flip the deck up. If the card was a six, I’d do six push-ups. Then if the next card was a face card, I’d do 10. An ace, 25. Joker, 50. I’d go through the whole deck like that. Then I’d reshuffle and do the same thing with sit-ups. That was my workout. I use the same cards to this day, but now I’m up to three decks.
What piece of clothing should every man own?
A suit. A long time ago, my uncle told me, “I don’t care how much money you make; dress like you’re okay with yourself.” And that’s what a suit does for me. I don’t care where we’re going; I’m gonna wear a suit all day, every day.
What’s the best way to intimidate other men?
By pure force. Let me explain my job very simply: My job is to line up five, seven, 10 yards in front of a man and run into him at full speed. There’s one secret to hitting hard, and that is to completely dedicate your body. That’s the difference between a man going forward and a man going backward, no matter how big he is. When that man on the other side can look back and say, “That joker didn’t slow down, he didn’t flinch, he didn’t brace just before the hit, he just came at me with everything he had,” he remembers that. That creates intimidation.
What’s the best way to motivate other men?
As men we are built a certain way – to not share our feelings. Most of these guys I play with have pain they won’t share with nobody, so what I do is share mine first. I tell them a little bit of what I’ve been through. That kind of breaks them down. And once you’ve discussed these things, it opens up a world of trust. Then when you step on the field, it creates a bond so strong. We’re one mind, one spirit.
What advice would you give the younger you?
Use a condom.
What’s the worst physical pain you’ve experienced?
My hamstring being torn from my butt bone. This was 2004, and we were playing the Bears. I’m running toward the sideline at Thomas Jones, and I tried to pull up and pow! Oh, my goodness! It was like a gunshot. I threw my hand in the sky and just pointed to my sideline, like, “Meet me in the locker room because I’m done.” I remember that after that surgery, using the bathroom was the most challenging thing ever. My mom had to help me, which was embarrassing, so I just wouldn’t eat.
What one skill should every man have?
A work ethic. I don’t know a man on this Earth who can outwork me.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
One time a teammate had done something wrong, and I came to the sidelines and threw my little temper tantrum. And Coach Singletary said something I’ll never forget. He said, “Ray, I’m gonna talk to you as a man now. You go into this warrior mentality on game day, and nothing else matters. But in the midst of this, you have to show humility.” It really changed my direction. Now I’m the calm one who’s always saying, “Don’t stress. We’re okay. We’ll find a way.”
What’s the best way to fire yourself up?
In my hotel room before a game, it’s complete peace. I don’t watch TV. I don’t listen to music. I’m just reciting my prayer.
Then I put on my slow music to slow my mind. Everything is cool, and I’m thinking about love. If you see me coming into the stadium, I’m just smiling.
Ten or 15 minutes before I go onto the field, I put on Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight,” and I become a different person. You have to remember the words: I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life. As a child, I dreamed of this, I’ve been waiting for it, this moment was mine all the time, and when that breakdown comes – ba-doom ba-doom ba-doom ba-doom-doom-doom – that’s my transition! I am a warrior!