The Pro Football Hall of Fame continues their series on the eligible Class of 2018 with a look at one of the most revered middle linebackers to have ever played the game, Ray Lewis.
While the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was applauded for all of their accomplishments, patiently waiting in the wings were Baltimore Ravens faithful’s for the opportunity to quickly point out that their potential first-ballot Hall of Famer is a strong candidate for Class of 2018.
A fierce competitor, Lewis made a career out of punishing opposing players. Most media pundits believe he is the best middle linebacker to ever suit up in the NFL. Mentioned in the same vein as Hall of Famer and Giants legend Lawrence Taylor, both were 10 time All-Pro selections in their respective careers.
Most notable in Lewis’ career, in 2000 he led one of the best defenses in NFL history. The Ravens defense allowed only 2.7 rushing yards per game and only gave up 165 points during that season, a feat which is unheard of and forced massive 26 fumbles.
Over the course of his career, he complied over 2,000 tackles, was a 13-time Pro Bowler and a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl MVP. Lewis was also selected as an All-Decade player for the 2000s.
Here is what Hall of Famers Ozzie Newsome, Warren Sapp and Shannon Sharpe had to say about Lewis and his illustrious career, courtesy of ESPN
"Ray Lewis will not only be remembered as one of the greatest to play his position, he will also be thought of as one of the greatest players in NFL history," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said after Lewis announced his retirement four years ago.
"You can't say football without Ray Lewis," said Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a teammate of Lewis' at the University of Miami. "He provides a comfort that you can’t outrun him, you’re not going over the top of him, you’re not going to go through him."
"When you talk about great defensive players, Ray ranks favorably with the [Lawrence Taylors], the Reggie Whites, the Dick Butkuses, whoever you want to put up there," said Shannon Sharpe, a Hall of Fame tight end and a former teammate of Lewis'. "I don't think you can go very far without talking about Ray Lewis and his accomplishments."
For 17 consistent seasons, Lewis defined the middle linebacker position, a team and a city. A two-time Super Bowl winner, he was a passionate leader and vicious tackler who dominated from sideline to sideline and elevated the play of those around him.
In 2014, the Ravens paid homage to Lewis by unveiling a statue of Lewis in front of M&T Bank Stadium which stands majestically next to Hall of Famer and Baltimore legend Johnny Unitas.
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