“With the 26th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select Ray Lewis, Linebacker, Miami!”… Little did anyone know that these words would be the start of a Hall of Fame career, the words that put a franchise on the map and more importantly the words that changed a position and the entire sport permanently. Ray Lewis announced yesterday that he would retire at the end of the season, culminating what is one of the greatest careers in the history of the game.
People who are not sports fans don’t know why some athletes are held in such high regard because all they do is play a sport. For those who think this, they need to look no further than Ray Lewis. Not only does he have the work ethic that every person in every profession should emulate, he is also charitable off the field and respectful to everyone he comes in contact with. He is more than a football player, he is a teacher and a leader. He has had successes and he has had failures, but every day Ray Lewis worked to better his life off the field and his game on the field. These are the qualities that not only make him a great football player but also a great person, and every person, no matter what walk of life they are from, can respect that.
In January of 2000, Ray Lewis experienced something that nobody should ever have to experience in their life – he experienced a prison cell and a murder accusation that would change his life forever. Certainly as Ravens fans, we were quick to defend Ray Lewis, and after the facts of the case led to his acquittal, there was happiness and relief from all of Ravens Nation. To some, the murder acquisition is all that defines Lewis and to those people I say “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry you can’t look at the facts and that you only believe he was acquitted because of his status. Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Rae Carruth were all athletes and were all convicted and spent jail time. There are tons of athletes who are found guilty of crimes every day. So maybe, just maybe, Lewis actually was innocent. I’m sorry that you let this cloud your thoughts and that you only see Ray Lewis as a murderer and not for the man and player that he is. Luckily I am not one of those people and when I am telling my kids and grandkids about Ray Lewis, I will tell them about everything he did on and off the field. That is his true legacy.
Sports are special because they bring people together. No matter your social class, race, sex or age, everyone in Baltimore can relate to each other through our love for the Ravens. The Ravens are Baltimore and Ray Lewis is the man that represents the Ravens and the entire city. When Ray Lewis steps on the field, he is playing for an entire city and he is the reason the Ravens franchise is where it is today.
For the last 17 years there were ups and downs in my life, and many other people’s lives, however there was one constant: Ray Lewis. No matter how bad things are going, Ray Lewis stepping on the field united a town, he made everyone forget about everything else and be thankful they got to watch greatness and class for almost two decades.
It certainly is not an understatement to say that Ray Lewis is the greatest middle linebacker of all time. He is one of the greatest players ever to play in the NFL, but more importantly he IS BALTIMORE. Over half my life has been spent with Ray Lewis playing for my favorite team and whether his career ends in one more game or four more games, I consider myself lucky to have witnessed it.
Thanks Ray for being the greatest on the field and a role model off the field. See you on Sunday and in Canton in five years. You are simply the best and better than all the rest.
My Favorite Ray Lewis Play Ever