Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis could not have dreamed of a sweeter end to his 17-year career than returning to the Super Bowl, but the 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker said he was happiest for his teammates.
The 37-year-old Lewis, who got to raise the Lombardi Trophy in 2001, is the only remaining member of that Baltimore title team as the Ravens return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 12 years.
“To do it for Joe [Flacco], to do it for Sizzle [Terrell Suggs], to do it for Ray Rice, to do it for Ed Reed ... I really wanted them to feel what that confetti felt like, just hearing your name being announced going to the Super Bowl,” Lewis said after Sunday’s 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.
That road victory lifted the Ravens into the National Football League title game on Feb. 3 last year in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers, who beat the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC title.
Lewis has already said this post-season would be his “last ride” and the two-time defensive player of the year has spent a lot of time reflecting on his career.
“There’s something special in that locker room,” Lewis said. “There’s just a certain type of love that we have for each other.
The fiercely competitive linebacker hit a scary low when he was held in an Atlanta jail linked to a double-killing outside a nightclub after he had attended the 2000 Super Bowl as a spectator.
Five months later, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and was fined US$250,000 by the NFL.
One year after the incident cast a cloud over his future, Lewis was named MVP of a Super Bowl win against the New York Giants as the undisputed leader of a defense that set a record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season.
Lewis worked to build a life away from the playing field that mirrored the quality he achieved on it, creating a foundation to help disadvantaged youth in Baltimore and growing to become one of the league’s most respected players.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about the impact Lewis has had on the team’s march to the Super Bowl.
“I’m just feeling an incredible amount of awe. Ray would be the first to tell you this, so I’m just going to share it: awe in the work that God can do in one man’s life. To me, Ray’s the epitome of that,” the coach said.
Lewis returned this season after missing 10 games because of a torn tricep.
Ravens players keep bringing up Lewis and his last hurrah as a rallying point.
Lewis, the only NFL player ever to amass at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions, said knowing that his team feels that way is his greatest satisfaction.
“It’s why you play the game,” he said.