Ray Lewis: What Super Bowl Win Means for Ravens LB's Legacy

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Linebacker Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before playing against the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After 17 years in the NFL, the great career of linebacker Ray Lewis has finally come to an end.

Like John Elway and others before him, the veteran was able to end his career in the sweetest way possible—on top of the sport as a Super Bowl champion.

This final victory will help give some perspective on the legacy of one of the best ever to play the game.

Regardless of what you think about the linebacker, there is no denying his accomplishments. The veteran has been the physical and emotional leader on one of the best defenses in the NFL for almost two decades, and he has put together a career that is sure to land him in the Hall of Fame.

He has been selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times in his career and he has been named First-Team All-Pro seven times.

In addition, Lewis has won two Defensive Player of the Year awards and even the Super Bowl MVP after the 2000 season. 

As a result of these accomplishments, it is an almost certainty that he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of being on the ballot.

While it did not seem like the University of Miami product could add to his legacy after all of this time in the league, the recent playoff run did just that.

After Lewis missed 10 games during the season with a triceps injury, he returned to the field for the playoffs. By simply being on the field, he helped transform an entire team that had been struggling—the Ravens lost four of their last five regular season games—into Super Bowl champions. 

This victory caps off an incredible career for Lewis and it proves that he is one of the most influential players ever to step on a football field.

However, this is more than just a story about a tremendous player. This final game caps off one of the great turnarounds to a player's character in sports history.

When Lewis was in his first Super Bowl 12 years ago, he was considered a troubled player who had recently been involved in a double murder case. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge. 

It was at that point that Trent Dilfer, and not Lewis, was chosen by Disney to represent the Baltimore Ravens in the annual parade following the Super Bowl, according to Sports Illustrated. This is usually reserved for the game's MVP, which was Lewis.

Since then, the veteran has transformed his image into a leader, role model and fan favorite.

Fans have gotten haircuts as a tribute to the star player (via @BleacherReport):

Ravens fans continue to impress with their haircuts, this time with a Ray Lewis tribute (via @bustedcoverage) twitter.com/BleacherReport…

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 23, 2013

He even has hotels making light shows that represent his famous entrance dance.

Lewis is the hero for the city of Baltimore and the franchise that he has represented from its beginning.

Fans still have mixed opinions on the star player, but the perception of him at his latest Super Bowl appearance was completely different than it was the first time around.

By winning his second career title, Lewis showed that none of the external issues ever got to him. He stayed focused on the true prize and continued to working until he once again reached the promised land.

The veteran has earned respect from throughout the league and his legacy will live on forever as one of the best defensive players in football history.