Ray Lewis, the spiritual leader of the Baltimore Ravens defense and face of the franchise, announced on Wednesday he will be retiring at the end of this season, which is his 17th in the NFL.
"I talked to my team today," Lewis said. "I talked to them about life in general. And everything that starts has an end. For me, today, I told my team that this will be my last ride."
When the Ravens host the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday in Baltimore, it will most likely be Lewis's last game in the city he helped define the past decade and with which he was so closely associated. Lewis will be returning to play in the AFC wildcard game after sitting out most of the year with a torn triceps.
According to ESPN, Lewis "has gone to 13 Pro Bowls, been named first-team All-Pro seven times and has been voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice."
The linebacker, known for intimidating NFL players with his bone-crunching hits, "led the Ravens to the 2000 Super Bowl when he was the key figure on a defense that set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season."
Following that Super Bowl win, though, Lewis was charged with murder when two people were killed outside an Atlanta nightclub. Lewis was in the group of people who fled the murder scene. He was later exonerated of all charges. Lewis also was accused of punching and kicking a pregnant woman at a bar. Those charges would later be dropped due to "conflicting reports by witnesses."
"God is calling," Lewis said. "My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father for 17 years. I don't want to see them do that no more. I've done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it's my turn to give them something back."
His son, Ray Lewis III, will be a freshman at the University of Miami next year, which is Lewis's alma mater. Lewis was a standout at Miami and helped create a culture in which the football program's alumni came back to mentor and motivate Miami's players.
"It's either hold onto the game and keep playing and let my kids miss out on times we can be spending together," Lewis said. "Because I always promised my son if he got a full ride on scholarship Daddy is going to be there. I can't miss that."
Known as one of the game's all-time great leaders and motivators, Lewis gave an
inspirational postgame speech to pump-up his dejected teammates after the Patriots eliminated the Ravens from the playoffs in the AFC championship game. He also motivated Stanford's men's college basketball team before last season's NIT finals when he appeared before them in the locker room before the game.
Lewis is a future hall of famer and is in the discussion as one of the best middle linebackers in the history of the NFL.