Who is the most important draft pick in Baltimore Ravens history? Who is the one player that has done the most for the organization since it moved to town from Cleveland in 1996? No matter who you discuss one name will come up every time.
That name is Ray Lewis.
Lewis came to the Ravens as a middle linebacker out of the University of Miami in 1996. He was an All-American with the Hurricanes, but thought too small to be a top pick. Baltimore used their number one on offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden of UCLA. He went on to play 12 seasons and was elected to the pro football hall of fame in 2013.
Lewis was drafted in the second round. It was the only time he would ever be second to anyone on the Ravens. From day one, Lewis was a tackling machine and as he gained experience, Baltimore’s defense became dominant.
By 1999, Lewis was considered one of the best linebackers in the game, but he almost threw it away on a January night in 2000. While attending the Super Bowl in Atlanta, Lewis was caught at the scene of a nightclub fight which ended with two men being killed. He was identified as the killer and arrested. After no evidence was found, Lewis was held on lesser charges, agreed to a plea bargain and cooperated enough to be released on probation.
In a 2000 season surrounded by controversy, Lewis helped lead the Ravens to their first world’s championship. In fact, he was the leader of one of the greatest defenses to ever play the game. In the AFC playoffs, Lewis returned an interception for a touchdown to help seal a win over the Tennessee Titans. In the Super Bowl, Lewis dominated and Baltimore’s defense did not give up a point to the New York Giants. This performance earned him Super Bowl MVP honors.
For the next 12 seasons, Lewis was the face and leader of the Ravens. He carried them to the brink of the Super Bowl twice before finally winning his second championship ring in 2012. His desire and dedication was unmatched by anyone in the NFL. Lewis announced his decision to retire while Baltimore was making their Super Bowl run and ended his career after the game.
What Lewis has done on the field is well known and commendable, but what he has done off of it is more important. Ray Lewis has made himself a willing mentor to people in and out of the Ravens organization. He has given himself to the community and become a man of God.
When you are the face of an organization and league, there is a responsibility that not all athletes have. The city of Baltimore loves its football and their players are heroes. This dates all of the way back to when the Colts called the city home. When Ray Lewis got himself into trouble, it hurt the entire community. It was a black mark on the team and city and Lewis had to seek redemption.
Though the January 2000 incident has not been forgotten, Lewis has done more than enough to atone for his actions. He has won back the heart of the city and is the most important draft pick in Baltimore Ravens history.