Words: Kyle Simpson
Baltimore, MD – I have been alive for 17 years. As a Ravens fan, I have never experienced a team without Ray Lewis either on the field or on the sideline. The number 52 has become synonymous with Baltimore football over the last 17 years, but following this year’s playoff run it will be the last time Ray Lewis steps on the football field as a player. The Raven that I had grown up with is retiring.
Lewis was an inspiration to his teammates, family, and fans. Not only professionally (although having 13 Pro Bowls and the titles of Super Bowl MVP and Defensive Player of the Year do gain you more than a little credibility), but personally as well. He more often than not would lead the team in a pregame huddle that would fill the team with a fire to do what was necessary to win, preaching about sacrifice and not playing for yourself, but for your team. He was also vocal after a loss, most noticeably after the AFC Championship last year when the Ravens Super Bowl hopes were dashed by a dropped catch and missed field goal. He said “We did what we had to do, we did all we were supposed to do, now it’s our job to make sure we finish it next time.”
Lewis cited the main reason of his retirement in the press conference held early today as he just wanted to be with his kids as his oldest son got a full ride to the University of Miami. Lewis vowed to be there to watch his son play football and break the generational cycle of fathers abandoning their children that he had been exposed to as a boy. “My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for the last 17 years, it’s my turn to sacrifice for them.”
As of now, this Sunday at one o’clock will be the very last time Ray Lewis steps on M&T Bank Stadium’s turf as a Raven. The only way the Ravens can host his last potential AFC Championship game is if the Cincinnati Bengals win all of their slated playoff games (which would be Houston then Denver, both away) and the Ravens have to go through the Colts at home, then play away at New England. “We’ve got to battle for that, we’ve got to get to Louisiana for him,” stated Ravens’ Safety Bernard Pollard.
Ray has my best wishes going forward and eternal gratitude for showing me what life is really about, he will never know the way he touched so many lives by just speaking his mind. There will never be anybody like him to ever put on shoulder pads. And while his retirement does not come as a complete shock, it is still heartbreaking nonetheless. 52 forever, Ravens Nation.
“I want to live long after my records have fallen, long after my rings have tarnished. And whatever you got to do, to chase your legacy every second of your life. Will you be remembered, how will you be remembered, why wouldn’t you fight for the greatest achievement ever? Leave. Your. Mark. To endure. Forever.”- Ray Lewis
Photo used with permission from Keith Allison