The ultimate sign of respect to me in the NFL is when every guy who plays your position is compared to you and every team is looking for the next you every year come draft day. That's the kind of respect that Ray Lewis has commanded from almost the very start of his NFL career.
Even though he has had impressive statistics over the course of the year, I don't think I have to quote any of them. The impact Ray Lewis has on a game can't be calculated by watching the stat sheet anyway. Since 1996 he has controlled the center of the field for the Baltimore Ravens. Whether it be a running or passing play, offensive coordinators had to game-plan for him and and opposing players worked really hard to avoid him.
Most of the time all of those efforts proved to be futile.
And it wasn't just that he tackled you, he tried to destroy you! His effort and enthusiasm were infectious and he helped to raise the level of play of those around him as well. If there is one guy who has been central to the Ravens consistently fielding one of the best defenses in the NFL it was Ray Lewis.
He also has a ring from back in 2000 when he helped direct one of the best defenses in NFL history in my opinion.
The search will go on for the next Ray Lewis long after he has retired. But the real Ray Lewis will only have to wait five years to put on that gold jacket.