Comparisons between Ravens rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and Ray Lewis are buzzworthy.
Statistically, the similarities in their rookie years are startling.
But in the eyes of Head Coach John Harbaugh, the man who has filled Lewis' shoes isn't the rookie. It's veteran inside linebacker Daryl Smith.
"By way of comparison, if I could, I would lead into this thought: Daryl Smith deserves a lot of credit as it applies to Ray Lewis," Harbaugh said.
Lewis played 17 seasons in Baltimore, etching himself in history as one of the best defensive players of all-time. He was the Super Bowl XXXV MVP, a 13-time Pro Bowler, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and capped off his career with a Super Bowl XLVII victory.
The Ravens signed Smith a few months after Lewis' retirement. While Smith doesn't draw nearly the same attention as Lewis, he's been a leader in a different, quieter way. He also took Mosley under his wing, helping to teach him how to be a professional and about the different ins and outs of the game.
"Ray Lewis is an iconic Raven and means a lot to the city and to football," Harbaugh said.
"For Daryl Smith to come in and to fill those shoes, so to speak, to be the guy who replaces Ray Lewis at that position, and to play the way he has, and to carry it out the way he has where we all feel so good about who he is as a person, and really to allow Ray to still flourish in his way, that says a whole lot about Daryl Smith – the kind of player he is and the kind of person he is."
Smith has also brought outstanding production to Baltimore.
At 32 years old, Smith notched a career-high 128 tackles in this, his 11th season. Lewis had 103 tackles during his 11th season. Lewis played six more years after that, averaging 110 tackles per season.
Smith also added one sack, an interception and a fumble recovery in 2014. He seemed to get stronger as the year went on, despite still playing nearly every single snap.
Smith continued his strong play in the postseason. He had 10 tackles and two forced fumbles in Pittsburgh, then picked off quarterback Tom Brady in the divisional playoffs, setting up a Ravens touchdown just before the end of the half.
Smith signed a four-year contract last offseason with the Ravens, and he doesn't see stopping now.
"I definitely want to come back next year," Smith said. "Body feels pretty good, still love the game, and I want to win here. We're so close. I look forward to next year."