It all started in 1993 at the University of Miami. At the time, Ray Lewis was a mere 18 years old and was looking to make an impact on not only football, but the world. Lewis wanted to show the world that just because you were a professional athlete, you didn’t have to act like one.
As Ray shined in his three years at Miami, Lewis chose to forgo his senior year of eligibility and make a leap into the pros – a risky move for a linebacker, but Ray knew. He knew that he wasn’t any average linebacker. He was Ray Lewis, and the entire country was about to know his name.
On draft day, 1996, a legacy began. FOUR linebackers were chosen ahead of Lewis. How do those four teams feel today?
In his rookie year, Lewis compiled 110 tackles, and led the entire NFL in tackles-for-loss. He was out to prove that even though he was small (for a linebacker), nobody could touch him.
For 16 years, nobody did touch him. Lewis stretched out his career as long as possible, and in the process, he racked up honors that made players like Dick Butkus stand up and cheer. Along with winning a Super Bowl in 2000, Ray’s list of major accomplishments grew as the years passed.
A 13 time pro-bowler, a Super Bowl MVP, a 2x DPOY, a record holder for the most games ever played by a LB, 7x AP first-team all-pro, and of course, the award for the best dance to ever be held in Baltimore.
Yeah, those four teams are feeling pretty bad.
17 seasons. 17 seasons that Ray Lewis has danced out of the tunnel. 17 seasons that Baltimore has worn number 52 jerseys. 17 years for a team to rally around one player.
On the field, he is a machine. Off the field, he is the definition of a giver. He has never let the term “professional athlete” get in his way. Instead, he uses the term to his advantage to help and serve. He utilizes his fame to help many, many through tough times, and focus on the thing that really matters. LIFE.
The typical process when a player retires goes usually about the same. Major media outlets talk about it for a couple of hours, and then go on to the next story. This retirement however, is much more than a news story. It is a day in history. A legacy as long and prosperous as Ray’s just doesn’t go away like that. It leaves and deserves time for people to dwell on how lucky they were to experience a career like Ray’s.
It will be unusual when Ray is gone, but in the end we have to realize that he will never actually be gone from the field.
A career lasts for a while; a Legacy lasts a lifetime.
Thank you #52 for all the memories you have provided Baltimore. We love you.