Super Bowl XLVII will mark the end of the celebrated and scrutinized career of Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis.
The future Hall of Famer who grew up in Lakeland, Fla. is retiring to spend more time with his kids. Three of those children live in Lake Mary—just 20 minutes north of Orlando.
Without question, Lewis is the most polarizing player in the game. To many, he's an inspirational leader, a charitable man of God and a role model. Others claim he's a womanizer who got away with murder.
Local 6’s Jamie Seh sat down with the mother of three of Lewis' children, Tatyana McCall, who has known Lewis for more than half of her life and who likely knows him better than anyone else.
McCall rarely gives interviews, but was anxious to have the opportunity to set the record straight.
While McCall and Lewis are no longer a couple, she's been a part of his life for two decades.
They met at the University of Miami, and today they remain close, co-parenting their three sons: 17-year-old Ray Lewis III, 14-year-old Rayshad and 12-year-old Rahsaan.
McCall describes Lewis as caring, kind, sensitive and when Seh asked if Lewis is funny McCall responded, "all day, every day and twice on Sunday."
McCall says a lot of people don't know about the Ray Lewis she knows, but she says that doesn't stop most of them from judging him.
"We are all ex something’s. Ex-drunks. Alcoholics. Womanizers. Whatever it is. He's got a past. So what,” said McCall.
McCall is a strong woman who has her MBA and is currently working toward her PhD.
She says Ray Lewis is a man who has reinvented himself.
“He is the first one to say, ‘I didn't always get it right,’” McCall said.
Lewis is unmarried, has three sons with McCall, another boy and two girls with three other women.
“Yes, six kids, four women. The oldest is 17, the youngest is 11,” said McCall.
She says he has always been involved in their lives, and she says the criticism of having those children with different women is unwarranted.
“It's painful because the reality of it is all that happened to one person, to me. If I've embraced, accepted and moved on, what is it to you?” asked McCall.
Then there's the double murder outside an Atlanta nightclub 13 years ago.
Lewis was there, fled the scene, and eventually police charged him with murder.
“The charges were dropped by the prosecution. He pled guilty to obstruction of justice,” explained McCall.
The fatal stabbings are still unsolved and to some Lewis is still a suspect.
His critics cranked up the volume when the Ravens punched their tickets into the Super Bowl.
McCall described the moment the team won and her son received a disturbing message, “We're all celebrating and Ray-Ray casually walks into the kitchen and shows me a tweet on his cell phone. Someone tweeted to him, 'How does it feel to have a father who's a murderer?' So Ray Ray said, 'So what should I say?', and I said, 'What do you think you should say? Is your father a murderer?'”
McCall believes what happened 13 years ago changed Lewis. He embraced his Christian faith.
His charity, The Ray Lewis 52 Foundation, has helped thousands of kids in Central Florida and in Baltimore.
“He still doesn't always get it right, but none of us always do. At the same time, he's willing to try to figure out how to do better, and I think that's the greatest thing,” said McCall.