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NFL linebacker Ray Lewis is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl MVP and played his entire 17-year career with the Baltimore Ravens.
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Ray Lewis was born in Bartow, Florida, in 1975. The oldest of five children, Lewis became a football star at Kathleen High School and was recruited to play at the University of Miami. In 1996, Lewis was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. He led the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2000, and was named Defensive Player of the Year that same season. In 2013, Lewis led the Ravens to another Super Bowl victory. He retired in 2013.
"Now I get to ride into the sunset with my second ring ... Baltimore! Baltimore! We coming home, baby! We did it!"
[On the Baltimore Ravens' victory in Super Bowl XLVII.]
"Greatness is a lot of small things done well, stacked up on each other."
Widely considered one of the best linebackers in the history of football, Ray Anthony Lewis was born Ray Jenkins on May 15, 1975, in Bartow, Florida. Lewis' early childhood years weren't always stable. His mother, Sunseria, was just 16 at the time of his birth and his father, Elbert Ray Jackson, was largely absent during his son's childhood.
As a boy, and the eventual older brother to four younger siblings, Lewis quickly became the man of the house. He helped his sisters with their hair, and made sure his younger brother arrived at daycare on time.
Disgusted with his father's lack of contact, Lewis abandoned the name Ray Jenkins and took the name of her mother's boyfriend, Ray Lewis, when he entered Kathleen High School.
At Kathleen, Lewis was a standout wrestler and football player, who overcame his smaller size at the linebacker position with a fierce intensity and unmatched instincts. During his four years at the school he led his squads to a bevy of state and city titles in football and wrestling.
In 1992, Lewis, armed with a full scholarship, enrolled at the University of Miami, at the time home to one of the country's best football programs. He quickly became a vital piece in a vaunted Hurricanes' defense. Overall, he ranks fifth all time in school history in tackles, and at the end of his junior year was runner-up for the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker.
Following the 1995 season, Lewis declared for the draft. In the spring of 1996, the Baltimore Ravens made him a first round pick.
Outspoken and ferocious, Lewis spent his entire 17-year career with the Ravens. Out of the gate, he was a force and led the club in tackles his rookie season. In 2000 and 2003 the league named Lewis its Defensive Player of the Year—just the sixth player in history to win the award multiple times.
In addition, he earned 13 trips to the Pro Bowl during his career and was named to the NFL's All Decade (2000s) team.
Lewis's best year arguably came in 2000, when he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title, and took home the game's MVP honors in the win. Overall it was an astonishing year for the Lewis led Ravens defense. The team registered four shutouts during the season and established league records for fewest rushing yards and fewest points allowed during a 16-game season.
The spiritual leader of the team, Lewis continued to play at an astonishingly high level well into his 30s. But by the 2012 season, his game had started to slow. Shelved for part of the year with triceps injury, and unable to dominate the field like he once had, Lewis announced that he would retire at the end of the season.
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