- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

It’s hard to say who is more excited about the Maryland Terrapins’ season opener, Keon Lattimore or older brother Ray Lewis.

For Lattimore, a running back with the Terps, playing before his hometown fans at M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore has been a dream, one that will be fulfilled Sept. 3 when Maryland plays Navy for the first time in 40 years.

Lewis, however, is the one who can’t stop smiling. It’s too unrealistic, says the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who has played in that stadium for years. It’s too hokey to be true, too nice of a tale.

“You could have never drawn this up as brother and brother, saying we’re going to be right now down the road from each other, that you’re going to be playing in the stadium that I’m playing professionally,” Lewis said. “You’d never be able to draw that up.”

Though only half-brothers and born nine years apart, Lattimore and Lewis have become close. Lattimore started for three seasons at Mount St. Joseph’s High in Baltimore, all the while living with his older brother, whose shadow was more of a security blanket than a burden. Nothing kept them from playing football in the backyard or taking turns playing as Lewis on football video games.

Lewis grew into a mentor. He delivered long talks about living with passion, about enjoying the moment. And Lewis is doing just that by enjoying his little brother’s turn.

“When I see him, I see a younger me,” Lewis said. “It’s just so much fun because I know I’m not getting younger, so I know my career is getting to the point where I get to be his fan. All these years he’s been my fan. He’s been learning off me, but when I see him on the football field, I think, ‘Oh, my goodness. This is my little brother. The one I taught these things to.’

“I think that’s why I’m the little kid when I see him play. … It’s like poetry in motion watching everything he’s going through right now.”

Said Lattimore: “It’s almost like he’s me. Like he’s going out there to play. Even in high school, he was on the sidelines. He takes a lot of pride in me. It’s a close relationship.”

Lattimore understands Lewis a lot more now than he did just a few years ago. Lewis spoke about juggling family time with the demands of playing college ball in Miami. Lewis tells Lattimore to relish the evenings when he is able to drive from College Park to Baltimore to eat his mother’s cooking or talk to his big brother about problems on or off the field.

“We’re pretty high on each other,” Lattimore said. “It wasn’t just a brother-brother relationship. It was more like a best friend and father figure. He was teaching me the right way to grow up.”

Lattimore conceded it’s not always easy being Lewis’ little brother, especially when they play in the same market. There are catcalls from the stands, the ones that say Lattimore isn’t good enough. Even his coaches sometimes tease him, saying they will tell Lewis if he misses a block. And everyone has an opinion about Lewis’ past legal troubles.

“Ray Lewis the football player, it’s hard being his brother,” Lattimore said. “Ray Lewis the regular individual, it’s easy.”

Said Lewis: “One reason why I told him it wouldn’t be hard is because I always put the pressure on my shoulders. Everything I told him to do was go out and have fun. Don’t worry about what everybody says about you or me. Do what you do.”

Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said he has never coached the brother of an active pro player in his 36 seasons, much less one playing nearby. He knew it would sometimes weigh on Lattimore.

“That’s something Keon always lives with,” Friedgen said. “Keon looks up to Ray, but he also wants to be better than Ray. He’s a very motivated young man.”

Friedgen wouldn’t mind the famously intense Lewis spreading some motivation to the rest of the Terps before they face Navy. The Midshipmen get the emotional bump of the Brigade marching into the stadium. Friedgen may counter by letting Lewis woof it up with the players on the sideline. Lewis said he wouldn’t mind, either.

“I’d like to invite his brother to come do the dance,” Friedgen said. “I think the guys would be fired up. Is Ray doing anything?”

Like many parental figures, Lewis says it’s all going too fast. The 30-year-old Lewis remembers Lattimore playing peewee ball when Lewis was in college. Now Lattimore is a redshirt sophomore, and Lewis is a few years from retirement.

That’s why Lewis urged Lattimore to return from a dislocated collarbone last season instead of taking a medical redshirt. Sure it would be painful, he said, but it would be bearable. Don’t skip a chance to play. Lattimore missed only four games and carried the ball seven times over the rest of the season.

“There’s a difference between pain and injury,” Lewis said. “Injury? Is your leg hanging off? Is your arm hanging off? You can’t play. That’s simple. But if it’s something you can strap up, don’t take not one day for granted. It’s going to come too fast. I remember when he was a kid coming up, and now he’s in college. I truly believe pain is only temporary. How you deal with it is how you get through it.”

The two even work out together in the offseason. Lattimore (6-foot, 235 pounds) is only one inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Lewis, but those backyard games have been abandoned. They’re too big now for that kind of horseplay; someone could get hurt.

Instead, they toss a coin to see who will be get to be the Ravens when they face off in video games. Lattimore loves to level the NFL’s two-time defensive player of the year and Super Bowl XXXV MVP — on the big screen, anyway.

“Why not? But it doesn’t happen [too often],” Lattimore said with a grin. “They have him so magnificent in that game it’s unreal.”

What about three years from now, when Lattimore gets a chance to turn pro? Would Lewis meet his brother on the field with the same passion as Xbox allows?

“I think the day I go pro is the day he’ll walk away from the game,” Lattimore said. “He wants to see his younger brother play.”

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