There was no greater image to cap a legendary career than seeing Ray Lewis emerge from the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium holding the Lombardi Trophy as 100,000+ fans packed the stadium to celebrate a Super Bowl victory.
Even though Lewis spent the first half of his life in Florida, he adopted Baltimore as the city also adopted him. His face may be plastered on video games, commercials and highlight reels, but nothing can replace the goosebumps Lewis gave fans before he did his iconic squirrel dance before his home crowd.
Retirement was imminent for this gridiron great but the reminders of the man Lewis is made it easier to appreciate his absence given all that he’s done for a city and their football franchise.
Before the 2012 season, the Ray Lewis of Baltimore companies, Under Armour, erected a three dimensional billboard along I-95 welcoming those entering Baltimore city from the highway. On Ravens Walk outside Unitas Plaza at the stadium, a replica billboard sat along the street where fans could put their face in the place of Lewis. A great marketing tool to not only show off your fanhood, but to also brand a local company.
Well, the Ray Lewis billboard is no more.
As I drove to work this morning, I noticed a crane on the southbound side of I-95. As I passed, I turned and saw that Lewis’ head and pieces of paper to look like Lewis was bursting from the sign were removed. Billboards change all the time, but to Baltimore, this billboard was more than just an advertisement.
Permanent memorials far greater than a billboard will be constructed in upcoming years to honor Lewis as one of the greatest players to ever play the game of football, but for the time being, the Under Armour billboard was a nice touch.
It may sound stupid, but the removal of Ray Lewis welcoming people to Baltimore is just another reminder of how much he really changed Charm City.