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Where Did the Ray Lewis “Squirrel Dance” Come From?
AP Photo/Nick Wass, File

It doesn’t actually make sense that the most memorable thing about one of the most intimidating football players ever is dancing. However, Ray Lewis will always be remembered for his signature dance.

Throughout his Hall-of-Fame career, the legendary Baltimore Ravens linebacker always pumped up the crowd, his team, and even opposing players during pregame introductions. But where did “The Squirrel” dance actually come from?

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Here’s how it usually went:

Step 1: Play “Hot in Herre” by Nelly.

Step 2: Pick up some grass.

Step 3: Scream like crazy.

Step 4: Slide to your right.

Step 5: Slide to you left.

Step 6: Hip thrust.

Step 7: Throw arms back and scream at the sky.

Lewis finished his career as not only one of the best players at his position in NFL history, but also one of the most iconic dancers. And it got its start way before he began playing football.

At 15 years old, Lewis started playing football, but it was two years before that, when he was part of a dance group called the Hardy Boys. It was all started by a hometown friend, Kwame King, but Lewis didn’t do the dance as soon as he played football or even in college at the University of Miami.

In an interview with ESPN after being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Lewis told the story of where the dance actually came from:

“In my hometown, Kirby Lee, a childhood friend of mine who was in the armed forces, always used to do this dance. We named the dance ‘The Squirrel,’ the way the squirrel moves. He always did it. Kirby was my biggest fan. He has my number tattooed on his shoulder. I told him that one day I would do his dance. He said, ‘No, you won’t.’ I’ll never forget it, I got in front of the mirror and I started flowing with it. The next week, I go to Marvin [Lewis, then the Ravens defensive coordinator] and say, ‘Look man, they’re going to introduce the defense. The stadium needs some excitement.’ He was like, ‘Go ahead and do your thing.'”

— Former Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Ray Lewis

The dance became a sensation immediately and was up until his final time on the field. It has been so popular that when the Ravens franchise was building a statue in honor of him, it was the pose of his dance that he chose to have built.

Ray Lewis’ Last Dance

Lewis’ last real pregame squirrel dance came in his final season before a playoff run.

Because of injury, he only played in six regular season games and missed the last 10 before the playoffs. He announced the postseason would be his “last ride.” Thankfully, he had a chance for a true final home game in an AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts.

With two games on the road against the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, he didn’t do it because he wouldn’t be introduced. The next big moment he would be doing the dance, and his final as a member of the Ravens, though, was after Super Bowl XLVII.

In the Super Bowl Champs celebration in M&T Bank Stadium, Lewis was introduced onto the turf like he had been dozens of times before and did the famous squirrel dance wearing street clothes, that time as a two-time Super Bowl champion.

Since retiring, he has been seen doing his dance at tons of events like on Monday Night Football, the Pro Bowl, his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and anything he is at because it is what people want to see.

After all, it really is so interesting to watch a complete badass do a silly dance.

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