Ray Lewis: Legendary Linebacker Will Be First-Ballot Hall of Famer
Lewis will have to wait the customary five years before he's eligible, but if it weren't for that rule he'd be working on his speech for this August.
Throughout his storied career, Lewis has established himself as one of the most well-known and respected players in the league. He's the type of player that teammates love and opponents respect, the type of player that the Hall of Fame was built to commemorate.
Here's why Lewis is all but guaranteed to be voted in as soon as he is eligible.
A player's impact can't be totally defined by statistics, but Lewis isn't lacking in the department.
Lewis was as prolific statistically as a middle linebacker can be in his career. According to ESPN, Lewis racked up over 2,000 tackles during his 17 seasons, not taking into account seasons where he was injured; that's over 100 tackles every year for almost two decades.
In addition to being a consistent tackler—a middle linebacker's most important task—Lewis also had a penchant for making big plays. He's the only player in NFL history with over 40 sacks and 30 interceptions with 41.5 sacks and 31 interceptions. That's the kind of production that will guarantee immediate Hall of Fame consideration.
Impact on the Game
As impressive as Lewis' stats are, they don't tell the whole story.
Lewis was one of the most influential players of his generation. Evidenced by his selection as one of the linebackers on the NFL's all-decade team in 2010.
Lewis was the anchor for one of the league's fiercest defenses in NFL history and has become the standard by which all 3-4 inside linebackers are judged by today. Teams all around the league switched from the more traditional 4-3 defense to a 3-4, but few teams were able to duplicate the success of the Ravens without a supremely talented man in the middle like Lewis.
When looking back on the 2000's Lewis was arguably the best defensive player in the league and redefined how the position was played. Even today, players like Patrick Willis and Brian Cushing have games patterned off of Lewis's skill set.
Impact on the Ravens
Ray Lewis was the Ravens.
When the Cleveland Browns made the controversial trip to Baltimore and became the Ravens, the organization made two draft picks that would define the franchise for the next decade.
The first pick was Jonathan Ogden. He's a finalist to be inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2013 (h/t NFL.com).
The other, was Ray Lewis.
Ogden set the tone for the offense and was a big reason that they were able to become the smashmouth football team that they would become. But Lewis was always the personification of what the Ravens were all about.
Since their inceptions the Ravens have been built on an excellent defense that plays an aggressive and in-your-face football. A direct reflection of Lewis' personality.
In a league that sees players shuffled around all the time via trades and free agency, there's something to be said for a player like Lewis that has stuck with the same organization for his entire career. As much as he accomplished as an individual and changed the way the position was played, it's the impact he had on one organization that stands out as his best contribution and a no-brainer to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
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