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Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

He'll have his induction day on Aug. 4, and there will undoubtedly be hordes of Ravens fans that descend on Canton to take it in. Ogden was a generational left tackle and the best Raven on the offensive side of the ball for much, if not all, of his career. Lewis, though, has long been known as the franchise's iconic player, his name synonymous with the organization.

"It's pretty clear Ray was the heart and soul of the Ravens for 17 years. If anyone is deserving of the honor, it's Ray Lewis," Ogden said. "As the first two draft picks in Ravens history, Ray and I came in with the same mentality that we were determined to create something special. From the beginning, the bond we shared was incredibly special. That connection is even stronger now, as everything has come full circle, and we're able to stand side-by-side in the Hall of Fame."

Years after he last played, Lewis still casts a giant shadow on the organization. A statue of Lewis in the middle of his elaborate pregame dance stands in front of M&T Bank Stadium, alongside one for former Colts great Johnny Unitas. Fans still come to the downtown stadium in droves wearing No. 52 jerseys and his presence, whether it's at a game or a charitable event in Baltimore, garners much fanfare.

"Ray represented Ravens' football perfectly. He established what it meant to 'play like a Raven,' which has become a standard we believe in and our fans understand," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It was an honor to coach Ray on the field and to maintain our friendship off it."

Lewis' passionate, hard-hitting and unrelenting style helped give a young franchise an identity that persists to this day. Lewis' legacy is highlighted by the two Lombardi trophies that are on display just inside the front entrance of the team's Under Armour Performance Center.

"It all comes back to Ray," former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said this past week. "Building that tradition and sustaining it is an important factor in the Baltimore Ravens. You might beat us, but you're going to get the hell knocked out of you. You're not going to win next week because we beat the hell out of you. That's kind of the Baltimore Raven image and it starts with the guy we had there in Ray Lewis."

 

After selecting Ogden fourth overall in the 1996 draft, the Ravens essentially settled on Lewis, an undersized linebacker out of the University of Miami, with the 26th pick. The linebacker they truly coveted, Texas A&M's Reggie Brown, had been picked by the Detroit Lions nine slots earlier and Lewis was the top remaining linebacker on their board. At the time, the Ravens hoped they were getting a solid contributor to help anchor the middle of their defense. Lewis was much more than that.

He finished his career with 1,562 regular-season tackles, 411/2 sacks, 19 forced fumbles, 20 fumble recoveries, 31 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. He's the only player in league history to have over 40 sacks and 30 interceptions.

"Every time he stepped on the field, he was the best player on the field," longtime Ravens outside linebacker Peter Boulware said.

Any review of Lewis' playing career has to include his involvement in a post-Super Bowl XXIV altercation in Atlanta that left two men dead. Lewis was initially charged with murder, but the charges were dismissed when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

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