No figure in the history of the Ravens encapsulates the emotion and winning culture of the franchise better than Ray Lewis.
The iconic middle linebacker terrorized opponents during his 17-year NFL career, and brought a passion to the game that grew to symbolize Ravens football. Even two years after his retirement, a sea of fans wearing Lewis' No. 52 fills M&T Bank Stadium each Sunday, honoring the legend that helped set a standard of excellence within the franchise.
Walking onto the field as a 21-year-old rookie, Lewis joined a team without an identity. Having just moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996, Art Modell's Ravens were a new team ready to be molded. The 26th pick out of Miami couldn't have been a better fit for the job.
Seventeen years later, Lewis' two Super Bowl rings, Super Bowl MVP award, 13 Pro Bowl appearances and two Defensive Player of the Year awards put him in rare company among the true greats. In fitting fashion for a legend of his stature, Lewis left the game on top, finishing his career with a triumphant goal-line stand to help seal victory in Super Bowl XLVII.
"There will never be another leader like him," linebacker Terrell Suggs said following Lewis' final game. "We sent him out like his brothers, and his legacy will go untainted. How else do you show your leader your appreciation?"
Aside from his play, his leadership and love for the game helped make him an idol within the city of Baltimore. But if you ask Lewis, the affection is definitely mutual.
"This organization is No. 1 in the entire world," Lewis said during his induction into the Ravens Ring of Honor. "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."
See 52 of the best photos of Ray Lewis through his 17 years as a Raven.