The Baltimore Ravens have only been around since the 1996 season. They won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season, setting a record for the fewest points allowed in a 16-game season with 165 points. That is 10.3 points per game.
I don’t think that one player can win you a Super Bowl (except maybe Gale Sayers), but I do know that without Ray Lewis, the Ravens would not have won the Super Bowl. He is, in my mind, the best all-around middle linebacker to have ever played the game of football.
Note that I said all-around. I’m not saying that I would prefer Dick Butkus tackling me instead of Ray Lewis. Heck, I would rather have a train tackle me than Dick Butkus, but I don’t remember Butkus ever stomping all over the field yelling at the top of his lungs “THIS IS MY HOUSE!”
Lewis has the most passion, along with speed, great tackling capability, he could play coverage, rush the pass, stop the run in the backfield, and regenerate the team with his great plays. How does he regenerate his teammates, one might ask?
Because Ray Lewis as a football player went beyond the title of leader to a ruler of a kingdom, and that kingdom was that defense. With his passion, he elevated that defense to another level from good to great. Ray Lewis is, without a doubt, a slam-dunk first ballot Hall of Famer. He won the Super Bowl MVP Award because of his passion and leadership. He was the second linebacker ever to do it.
Ray Lewis never played on a team that featured eight other Hall of Famers. The '70s Steelers had: Mike Webster, Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, Mean Joe Greene, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Lambert himself.
You can’t count Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe because they were near the end of their careers when they played with the Ravens. The '70s Steelers were young all around during their dynasty.
Lambert’s Steelers had this amazing offense, while Lewis’s sometimes didn’t even throw a touchdown pass. It is easier for a defensive player to excel when he knows that his offense is going to go give them a rest. Lewis dealt with all these three and outs and still produced shutouts. He felt that he should be in on every tackle, every play.
Ray Lewis was the fifth linebacker chosen with the 26th overall pick in the 1996 draft. The other four that were drafted ahead of him were: Kevin Hardy, John Mobley, Duane Clemons, and Reggie Brown.
None of the others can compare to Ray Lewis. Two suffered early injuries that cut their careers short, and the other two were, at most, only contributors. Ray Lewis was a star and a steal. He showed that even though he wasn’t as tall as some of the linebackers, (He’s 6’1" at most) that he could do the job even better than them.
Ray Lewis said in an interview, “From day one, I said I wanted to be the greatest that ever played this game. No disrespect to the ones that ever came before me, but that’s the only reason I’m here. I’m here only to be the greatest that ever played this game.”
He has made quite a case for it, winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2000 and in 2003. He has had over 1,500 tackles, 30 sacks, 25 interceptions, a Super Bowl ring, Super Bowl MVP award, nine Pro Bowl selections, and much more—not including this year.
He will be the legend of the Baltimore Ravens that our next generations will hear about. Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens will be synonymous with each other. Barry Sanders and the Lions, Joe Montana and the 'Niners, and Ray Lewis and the Ravens.
So beware when you go to Baltimore’s stadium, because it is his house, and he doesn’t like rude guests.