The NFL's relationship with the United Kingdom stretches back decades. Those ties grew stronger this week.
When the London Warriors, an amateur football team, went looking for a guest speaker and coach, they aimed high. Ridiculously high. They went after Ray Lewis.
To their collective shock, Ray Lewis showed up.
"They wrote me a long letter telling me how impactful it would be if I could share some time with them and speak with them," Lewis told NFLUK.com's Inside The Huddle podcast. "They told me they didn't have the money, and I said that for something like that, I'm not looking for money. I told my team 'I want to go to London. ... I want to go talk to the Warriors.' "
How popular is Lewis in London? Gathered inside a local school auditorium Tuesday night, players had no idea the Baltimore Ravens linebacker was about to hit the scene. All coach Tony Allen had to announce was the arrival of "No. 52." It was enough to sink the room into frenzy.
Lewis unleashed one of his trademark fire-and-brimstone pep talks. No notes. No teleprompter. Just the riff.
"The London Warriors story resonated with me for a number of reasons but mostly because of where the kids come from -- most of the kids come from neighborhoods like I came from," Lewis said. "Ninety percent of these young men are either going through or have been going through the same things I went through. They just need some form of motivation and, for me, that was the reason I came over here."
Lewis is spending three days with the team this week, coaching them up before their game against the London Blitz.
"I'm pinching myself," defensive back Vernon Kay told NFLUK.com. "I cannot believe Ray Lewis is training with the London Warriors on our terrible (artificial turf) pitch in south London. This is a massive thing for our club, and it is not an exaggeration to say this visit from Ray is going to change lives. ... I have never practiced so hard in my life, and the same goes for a lot of the guys on our team."