Some of the best moments in Super Bowl history have involved high-caliber players ending their careers as champions. Few can forget Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway winning his second consecutive title in what would be his final game, or Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis going out on top in his hometown of Detroit.
While there may not be a ton of opportunities for that to happen this season, there are certainly a few veterans reaching the end of the line. These stars would love to win the big game one last time, or even for the first time. Here are three veteran players who deserve a proper sendoff by winning the Super Bowl.
LB Ray Lewis (BAL)
At 36 years of age and with 16 years of NFL experience under his belt, there won't be many more opportunities for Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis to win the Super Bowl. Lewis has done it once before as he was named Super Bowl MVP when the dominant Baltimore defense defeated the New York Giants to culminate the 2000 season.
Lewis and the Ravens haven't been back to the grandest stage of them all since then, though, but they are just one win away now. Lewis is still competing at a very high level and is a cornerstone of the Ravens defense, but retirement is likely on the horizon. There would be no better way for Lewis to leave the game of football than with a second Lombardi Trophy in tow. As one of the most dominant defensive players of his era, he certainly deserves it.
OG Brian Waters (NE)
For the first time in 12 NFL seasons, New England Patriots guard Brian Waters is playing for a team other than the Kansas City Chiefs. Lo and behold, he is one win from his first Super Bowl. Waters has been considered to be among the elite guards in the league for the past several years, but he is only now getting the recognition he truly deserves.
While quarterback Tom Brady and the explosive New England offense have made Waters look good this season, he has seamlessly transitioned to life with the Patriots. At the age of 34, Waters probably has a few solid seasons left in him, but winning the Super Bowl could certainly compel him to hang up the cleats. If he does, it would be the perfect ending to an unheralded, but fantastic career.
Which player most deserves to go out on top with a Super Bowl win?
S Ed Reed (BAL)
Safety Ed Reed has been part of the vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense since 2002 and may be the best safety of his era. Despite that, however, he has never had the privilege of playing in the Super Bowl. Although injuries are always a concern for Reed, he makes big play after big play when he's on the field. When you combine his injury history with the fact that he is now 33 years old, however, this may be his best chance to win it all.
There have been whispers about Reed possibly retiring over the past couple seasons, so it would be fitting for him to win the Super Bowl this season so he could go out on his own terms. If Reed wanted to, I'm sure he could play at a high level for several more seasons. Rather than risk injury, though, retiring may be his best option. A Super Bowl win would make that decision much easier.