Do you know that when the Super Bowl rolls around a week on Sunday it will have been 12 years since Ray Lewis last appeared on the NFL’s biggest stage? If I told you that he wasn’t the first to have such a stretch between Super Bowls, how many others would you say have had similar dry spells? If I told you that there were two others, could you name them?
Whilst you try and figure out the other two, let’s just ponder upon what it might mean to taste the success of going all the way to the final showdown early on in your career and then to continue playing for such an extended period of time before reaching the top again.
Does the taste of such early success drive you to keep on playing the game until you reach such heights again? In the case of Ray Lewis I would say that it probably has. Even though he was a five-year veteran when he won Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, he was almost completely different, both as a player and as a person. Now my knowledge of Ray during those early years is fairly limited (seeing as I was 10 years old at the time), but from what I know he was quite brash and still carrying a bit of ‘The U’ mentality on his shoulder, and perhaps it was this attitude that led to him to being around the incident that led to his arrest following a Super Bowl XXXIV party that has tarnished his career. As an athlete he was perhaps at his peak, and had acquired enough smarts, that combined, he quite literally changed the way offenses played the Baltimore Ravens during the early years of this century.
Today, Lewis is a man who is possible the ultimate role model both as a leader and a person, not only for other players but for many people, being famous for his pre-game speeches as well as his post-game trips into the city of Baltimore to help those in need. Athletically, he is a shadow of the player he was twelve years ago and whilst still putting up quite remarkable numbers, there’s no way that offenses account for him as much as Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed or even Paul Kruger. What I’m getting at is that even though Lewis has become the elder statesmen and his talents have faded athletically, that because of his growth as a person throughout his career his hunger for getting to the Super Bowl again has probably grown, not only to go out on top, but to win the Lombardi trophy for those around him due to his sense of being a father figure in the locker room. I am not saying that this alone has kept him going all these years, just that it’s been a factor recently seeing as he’s been playing on a team that’s been very competitive, especially since 2008.
Anyway, those two other players, Darren Sharper and the late Junior Seau; Sharper also went twelve years between Super Bowls whilst Seau went thirteen. Sharper had the most success of the two by winning on his return trip with the New Orleans Saints after originally failing in his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers whilst Seau lost with both the San Diego Chargers and the New England Patriots. If Lewis manages to lead the Ravens to a win against the San Francisco 49ers, he’ll be breaking new territory by going 2-0 in Super Bowls with twelve or more years between them. Anyone up for watching a little history?