Since the beginning of the Baltimore Ravens‘ existence, Ray Lewis has been the face of the franchise. Drafted in 1996, Lewis was the top rated inside linebacker in the NFL Draft that year. He was considered by many scouts as a game-changer with speed and intensity, but a lack of size worried many.
The Ravens took a chance on the linebacker out of Miami and to this day, that may have been the best chance they have ever taken as a franchise.
In his rookie season in 1996, he led the NFL in tackles for loss(15) and led the Ravens’ defense with 110 total tackles. It was then that Baltimore realized that they had something special.
Where can a player go after racking up 110 tackles in his rookie season? In Ray Lewis’ case, the only way to go was up. In fact, Lewis led the NFL in total tackles in his second season with an astounding 183 total tackles– also, a career-high.
It’s been two seasons since the 37-year-old linebacker has been 100 percent healthy, and prior to the 2013 playoffs, Lewis announced he would be retiring because of the injury issues and his age for a linebacker. Lewis had some off-the-field issues like his 2000 murder trial, but the case was dropped and Lewis quickly moved on from it.
The question remains: does his legacy hinge on a Ravens win in the Super Bowl?
My answer is simple: no.
It’s easy, Lewis has already led the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2001, where he was also named the MVP of that game. Throughout his career, he has established himself as a leader and one of the most feared middle linebackers in football.
He has led the Ravens in tackles in almost every season since he has been on the team and is considered one of the best linebackers of all-time. He is easily in consideration with the top five linebackers in NFL history, and his awards and accolades can back that up.
His 13 Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pro selections, 2 NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, 31 career interceptions and 2,050 career tackles are enough to make sure his legacy will never be tarnished for losing a Super Bowl.
If anything, making an improbable run at the Super Bowl in 2013 helps his legacy even more than a loss in the big game would hurt his legacy.
Ray Lewis will soon be a Hall of Famer and will go down as one of the best to ever play the position, win or lose.