NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOO!! NOOOOOOOOO!! Please tell me this is not happening. Ray Anthony Lewis is retiring. NOOOOOOOOOO!!
The hard hitting, shoulder fracturing, knuckle popping, leader of the Baltimore Ravens is calling it quits. After 17 years, Lewis has decided to go out like a superhero: on top. Sure, he has lost a step or two or three over the last few years. However, despite his slowing down, every opponent always knew he was still capable of changing the course of the game at any time.
When the news broke Wednesday, I already knew I had to make my way to The Korner to talk about it. I even got a request to blog about it :-}. Along with that request, my requestee asked that I offer up my opinion of Lewis being charged with murder. To me, the murder charge is irrelevant when it comes to Lewis’s career. Just like Pete Rose’s gambling. Let the man in the Hall already! Sorry, got sidetracked. Charged with murder in January of 2000, Lewis could have easily let the bad boy image that some wanted to portray define him. Found guilty of obstruction of justice and ordered to pay the NFL’s heaftiest fine at the time, Lewis could have easily decided to quietly ease back into the NFL life. Surrounded by teammates whom he would win a SuperBowl with the following year, Lewis could have easily let someone else become the face of the franchise.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Instead of running from the experience, Lewis took the experience and ran with it. He allowed the incident to fuel his fire and drive him to become a better father, teammate, friend, mentor and man. That murder charge has not and will not define who Lewis is. If anything, that charge served as motivation for Lewis to inadvertently become a human definition of what overcoming adversity looks like no matter how steep the mountain may be.
The amount of respect I have for Lewis is enormous and I hope to meet him one day so I can tell him. For the past 10 years, the player I have enjoyed watching the most, besides Peyton, is #52. Any time he was on my screen, I was guaranteed to see him giving 125% every time he stepped on the field. I was guaranteed to see him motivating his team. I was guranteed to see him truly loving to play the game of football. However, it is the type of man off the field that fuels the respect I have for him. Lewis is a natural born leader. If you have ever heard him speak, whether in person or in a press conference or in the huddle, you know that he has the gift of leadership. I do not think I can find a person that has not felt inspired after hearing him talk. Shoot, his retirement press conference left me feeling like I could run a marathon, that same day.
Ray Anthony Lewis is one of a kind. He revolutionized a franchise, city and league with his desire to be more than just a football player. It has been a privilege to watch him play. When he officially retires, Lewis will be revered as one of if not the best linebacker in the history of the National Football League. Some sports fanatics will argue that he is not better than LT. Some will argue that Dick Butkus was better than both of them. I was not around for the days of Butkus and I was young during the days of LT. I do know you can not go wrong with either of them. For as much as Lewis will be remembered for the way he played the game, I think he will be remembered more for the way he played the game of life while. Veni. Vedi. Vici. He came. He saw. He conquered. And he is just getting started….
Thank you Ray Lewis for your passion and dedication to the game!! I am glad you are getting your flowers while you are still here to receive them. See you in Canton in 2018!
P.S. I am going to truly miss seeing Ray Ray do his intro jig. I think I will now use that to announce my arrival in various places.