Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis became the player with the longest time between Super Bowl wins, with a dozen seasons separating his two career championships. He wasn't much of a factor in Super Bowl XLVII, but the rest of the defense clamped down in the closing minutes for the win. (Photo : Reuters)
Those two words bring about several adjectives that can describe the remarkable 17-season NFL veteran. Controversial. Fiery. Decorated. At times, bizarre. And among Baltimore Ravens fans, beloved.
Now, after healing from a torn triceps injury that many thought would end his season, he had led the way for the Ravens in this unlikely and emotional last ride to the Super Bowl. After Sunday, win or lose, Super Bowl XLVII at the New Orleans Superdome in New Orleans, La., will be the final game in the career of arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history.
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Lewis announced that he would retire at the end of the season in January.
In his storied career, Lewis, a career-long Raven since being drafted by the team in 1996, has amassed just about every accolade that a linebacker could ever get. 13 Pro Bowl appearances. Two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. A Super Bowl title. The all-time record for sacks, with 41.5. A staggering 972 career tackles.
When it is all said and done, Lewis will be remembered as one of the most passionate, exciting players to ever play on the gridiron, his dancing pregame entrances and awe-inspiring pregame speeches legendary.
He will also be as remembered for his controversial off-the-field incidents, including the suspicion that followed him ever since he was implicated in a January 2000 double-murder trial, to which he made a deal to avoid jail time.
And only days before the last game of his career, Lewis was implicated in a growing performance enhancement drug scandal involving deer antler spray after Sports Illustrated reported that Lewis and other top athletes approached the makers of the banned substance, which is used to heal torn muscle.
Lewis has denied using the substance in order to return from his triceps injury faster.
Love him or hate him, it will be hard to forget Lewis after the career he's left on the field. Whether or not Lewis-who has been on a postseason tear all through last month-leaves another lasting memory is still up in the air, but he's left a slew of great moments for fans to remember him by.
Latinos Post breaks down the Top Five Plays of Ray Lewis’ Career:
5. Ray Lewis’ First Career Sack
Hey, we all have to start somewhere. For Lewis, his first of what would become an NFL record 41.5 quarterback sacks came against, ironically, the man he and Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh will be opposing on Sunday—49ers head coach and then-Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh, John’s brother. Lewis sacked Jim on October 13, 1996 in a Ravens vs. Colts game. Jim shouldn’t take it too hard; he wouldn’t be the first to get hammered by the most feared linebacker of his generation.
4. Ray hits a big sack on “Big Ben” Roethlisberger
They call Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback with the Pittsburg Steelers “Big Ben” for a reason. At a statuesque 6’5” and 241 pounds, he’s a big, tough and rugged quarterback and doesn’t go down easily. Apparently, Lewis didn’t get the memo, as evidenced by this monstrous sack back in 2008.
3. The Last Dance at Ravens Stadium
For years, the sight of Lewis and his passionate, unique and entertaining pregame intro have never failed to leave audiences thrilled and his teammates fired up. Akin to the intros that a professional wrestler does, Lewis would come out in a haze of smoke and pyrotechnics and cut his signature side-to-side swaying dance that would let teammate and opponent alike know one thing—it’s game time.
Watch Lewis do his dance for the last time in his storied career at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., during an emotional playoff game on Jan. 6.
2. Lewis shines at Super Bowl XXXV
Less than a year removed from his highly-publicized murder trial proceedings, Lewis had one goal in mind during the 2000 season—to win the big game in his home state of Florida. And that’s exactly what he did when Super Bowl XXXV came to Florida in 2001. In a dominating performance, Lewis netted 3 solo tackles, 2 assists, and blocked 4 passes to win the Super Bowl MVP award as he led the defensive powerhouse Ravens to a 34-7 pummeling of the New York Giants for Baltimore’s first and only Super Bowl trophy.
1. The Last Ride Goes to the Super Bowl
If the 2012 NFL Playoffs is Lewis’ last ride, then he’s making sure he’s going out in a blaze of glory. Through the playoffs, Lewis has played with renewed vigor. In the playoffs, Lewis has netted 13 tackles against Indianapolis in the Wild Card Playoff, 17 tackles against Denver in a classic double-overtime AFC Divisional Playoff win, and 14 tackles against New England in the AFC Championship game.
He’s on fire, and he’s going to leave it all on the field in the final game of his career on Sunday against San Francisco.