For 17 seasons Ray Lewis has been the anchor for the Baltimore Ravens as well as the leader for the entire team.
Year in and year out you had to worry about number 52 whenever you were matched up against the Ravens. And year in and year out he continued to prove that he was among the best linebackers in the league. Drafted 26th overall out of Miami in the 1996 draft by the Ravens, Lewis has played every game in his career in Baltimore.
The future Hall-of-Famer played his last game in front of the home fans at M&T Bank Stadium this past Sunday when his AFC North champion Ravens eliminated the Indianapolis Colts and their rookie sensation quarterback Andrew Luck from the playoffs.
Earlier last week Ray Lewis announced that he would be retiring at the end of the Ravens playoff run. Lewis missed ten games this season when he tore his right triceps in week six against the Dallas Cowboys.
In his absence the Ravens somewhat struggled and backed into the playoffs, losing four of their last five games but still finishing with a 10-6 record that was good enough to win the division and have a home playoff game in the first round.
It’s quite symbolic of how valuable Lewis has been to the Ravens throughout his career. Lewis will go down as one of the best linebackers of all time, mainly because of his consistent dominance that he had in his career.
Almost every year you can expect the Ravens defense to be ranked somewhere within the top ten in the league, often times within the top five, behind the leadership of Lewis.
In his lengthy 17-year career, Lewis has recorded more than 2,000 tackles and 41.5 sacks. He is a 13-time pro-bowler and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice (2000 and 2003).
He has the stats, sure, but what really separates Lewis from the rest of the linebackers in the league is his leadership and presence on the field. His pregame speeches where he huddles his teammates up before their contest are always a joy to watch. Lewis plays with a love and passion for the game that is just rare to find these days.
In Lewis’s career the Ravens have made it to the playoffs nine times and have won the AFC North Championship four times. In 2000, Baltimore won their sole Super Bowl when they defeated the New York Giants. That season the Ravens had one of the best defensive seasons by any team in NFL history.
That defense was of course led by Lewis. The Ravens finished that season 12-4 and made their way into the playoffs with a wild card berth. Since then the Ravens have missed out on an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, but have consistently been one of the better teams in the AFC.
The Ravens have a shot to win the Super Bowl once again this year, and if Ray wants to finish his career on top he will have a tough road to travel in the AFC playoffs.
Next up is the top ranked Denver Broncos this Sunday.
After the Ravens win over the Colts this past Sunday, Lewis took a victory lap around the stadium to thank the fans that have supported him so passionately throughout his career. It will be sad to never see number 52 play at home for the Ravens again.
Tyler Rollason is a Winder-Barrow High School graduate and mass communications major at the University of West Georgia. You can e-mail comments about this column to