Ray Lewis made his mark on Baltimore both on and off the field over the course of his 17-year NFL career.
Each and every Sunday, Lewis provided a spark on the football not just with his Pro Bowl caliber of play but also with his ability to lead. Teammates and fans alike would gladly follow him to battle and they fed off of every word the two-time Super Bowl Champion uttered.
While Lewis may no longer be suiting up for the Ravens on Sundays at M&T Bank Stadium, his legacy will always be remembered in our hearts and minds. Likewise, his image will be forever entrenched outside of Gate A next to another Baltimore icon, Johnny Unitas.
On Thursday, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager/executive vice president Ozzie Newsome unveiled the statue of the 13-time Pro Bowler.
“We didn’t take this lightly for Johnny Unitas to share this plaza with the greatest defensive player of all time,” Bisciotti stated to the audience. “He truly was a leader who made good men great…We are witnesses to the greatest leader in the history of the NFL.”
Surrounded by members of his family, the Modell and Unitas families, and friends and several former teammates including Michael McCrary, James Trapp, Brad Jackson and Duane Starks, Lewis took to the podium to thank each one personally.
“We did it… Everybody here had a hand in me,” Lewis said of all the guests who were there in support of his special day.
The statue, which measures over nine feet tall is made of pure bronze and features not just Lewis’s signature tunnel entrance but also the grass that he would grab while making his entrance.
Every minute detail from the uniform to the Art Model patch is simply amazing. The statue took over 11 months to sculpt and cast. While Lewis’ commitments with the four-letter network kept him away from Baltimore, he did make a visit to artist Fredrick Kail twice, one time before the sculpting began and once to approve the maquette.
Lewis spoke of his difficult journey to the NFL, from being a country boy from Lakeland, Florida to his college career at the University of Miami and the opportunity general manager Ozzie Newsome gave him here in Baltimore.
“I made up my mind that no weapon formed against me would prosper,” Lewis remarked about overcoming the adversity he faced from a young age. “Stand for something, or else you’ll fall for anything.”
Before Lewis bid farewell to head to Seattle for the ESPN’s coverage of tonight’s game, he said he couldn’t thank the city of Baltimore and his fans enough for supporting him through thick and thin over his great career.
“Last, I’ve got to thank Baltimore. I’m never leaving Baltimore. This is forever my city.”
And with that, Lewis embarked on one last “squirrel dance”, which drew roars of cheers from the many fans that showed up to celebrate him.
Follow me on Twitter @sportguyRSR