Ray Lewis walked onto the field late in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.
A moment later, his replacement at middle linebacker,
He no longer wears a Ravens uniform, but Lewis’ presence was very evident Sunday in his return to Baltimore to be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
“Just to see it is completely awesome,” Lewis said moments after getting inducted.
Lewis was inducted during a halftime ceremony, which included a video presentation and introduction by General Manager Ozzie Newsome. Past Ring of Honor inductees Jonathan Ogden, Jamal Lewis, Peter Boulware, Matt Stover and Lenny Moore all returned to be part of the ceremony.
In his speech, Lewis thanked the organization and the fans for supporting him throughout his career.
“This organization is No. 1 in the entire world,” Lewis said to the crowd. “Baltimore, what we did together – not once, but twice – this city is what love is all about. This stadium, for 17 years, I gave everything I had. I left it all on the field. Thank you. Thank you.”
Lewis watched the game with his family rather than from the sidelines, but every time he was shown on the video boards he brought a roar out of the crowd. Lewis was the first person introduced to lead the defense out of the tunnel, and walking onto the field one more time was an emotional moment for the team’s long-time leader.
“The love that’s out there in that stadium and the love that this city has for me and the respect that these fans have for me – it’s overwhelming,” Lewis said. “It’s humbling because I only know the path I chose, and to see it now, this is it. This is why you got through all those hard times.”
It was a much different entrance for Lewis than the one that electrified the fans for the last 17 years. Lewis trotted onto the field in a suit, and there was no squirrel dance. Lewis told the team officials that he did not want to do the dance because he had already done his final dance at the team’s Super Bowl celebration with the Lombardi Trophy in hand.
Instead Lewis jogged out with a smile on his face, donning two Super Bowl rings and was greeted by former teammates who crowded around to welcome him back.
“That was really something. You just don’t know how emotional you’re going to get about those things,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “When Ray came out, the crowd went crazy the way they did.”
“He’s done so much for the city and for our defense and for our team,” defensive tackle
As much as Lewis enjoyed the embrace of the fans and his old teammates, the day was also a reminder that he has moved on to the next chapter in his life and is content with his new role.
“I gave everything I had, and now it’s my time,” Lewis said. “It’s my way to honor God by walking with who I am as a man and being completely happy that the game is done for me.”
The ceremony brought some closure to Lewis’ storied career with the Ravens.
The first time he took the field in Baltimore was as a 21-year-old rookie at Memorial Stadium. Over the next 17 years he developed into one of the most dominant defensive players the game has ever seen, leading the Ravens to two Super Bowls while also becoming an iconic figure in the community.
Sunday was an opportunity to celebrate his legacy, and for Baltimore to say thank you.
“To be back where it all started from is probably one of the greatest gifts I could ever give myself,” Lewis said. “This time I walked out there as a man, a complete man. It feels good, it feels good to know I ran my race, and now I’m here.”