Raymond Anthony Lewis Jr. (born May 15, 1975) is an American former professional football player who was a linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens for his entire 17-year career in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Miami Hurricanes, and earned All-America honors. Lewis was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft, and upon his retirement following the 2012 season, was the last remaining active player from the team's inaugural season.
Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the stabbing deaths of two men in 2000. The following season, he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and led the Ravens' record-setting defense to victory in Super Bowl XXXV. Lewis also became the second linebacker to win the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award, and the first to win the award on the winning Super Bowl team. Lewis won his second Defensive Player of the Year award in 2003, becoming the sixth player to win the award multiple times. After a triceps tear that sidelined him for most of the 2012–13 season, Lewis returned for the Ravens' playoff run and earned his second Super Bowl victory in his final NFL game. On February 3, 2018, the fifth anniversary of his final game, Lewis was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Due to his numerous accolades and prodigious football play, Lewis is considered to be one of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history. He was a 13-time Pro Bowler, a 10-time All-Pro, and one of the few players in NFL history to play in a Pro Bowl in three different decades (1990s, 2000s, and 2010s). He is also considered to be the greatest Baltimore Raven of all time.
Lewis was born in Bartow, Florida. He is the older brother of former University of Maryland running back Keon Lattimore. Lewis was an All-American linebacker for the football team at Kathleen High School in Lakeland. In addition, he was a prolific wrestler for the school. His father was absent most of his life, which was a cycle through generations, but he was a record-setting high school wrestler before he was incarcerated for drug-related offenses. He revealed that his stepfather was extremely abusive towards his mother, and got a deck of 52 playing cards to start his push-up regimen, so he could get stronger to protect her. This also was the reason behind choosing the #52 jersey in his professional career.
Lewis enrolled in the University of Miami, where he was a member of the Miami Hurricanes football team. As a freshman, he was an immediate contributor and became a starter for the Hurricanes' final five games. He compiled 81 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, and four pass deflections en route to being named to the freshman All-American team.
In his sophomore season, Lewis earned first-team All-American and All-Big East honors. Lewis led the Big East with 153 tackles and also contributed nine tackles for a loss, two sacks, and an interception for a Hurricanes team that had the nation's top-ranked defense and finished No. 6 in both the writers' and coaches' polls.
Lewis's junior campaign was even more successful, as he was again named to the All-American and All-Big East teams, and finished as runner-up for the Butkus Award, given to the top linebacker in college football. Lewis finished his junior season with 160 tackles, the second highest in University of Miami team history after Ed Weisacosky's 164 in 1965. Lewis also totaled eight tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, four pass deflections and one touchdown. Against the West Virginia Mountaineers, Lewis contributed 15 tackles.
Lewis led the Big East in tackles his last two seasons and accumulated the fifth most in Miami history despite playing only three seasons.
After the 1995 season, Lewis decided to forgo his final year of college eligibility and enter the NFL draft. The Baltimore Ravens, who were entering their inaugural season, selected Lewis 26th overall in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Lewis was the Ravens' second ever draft pick behind offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden who was selected #4 overall the same year. Lewis eventually earned his undergraduate degree in Arts and Science in 2004 at the University of Maryland University College.
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||10-yd split||20-yd split||20-ss||3-cone||Vert jump||Broad||Wonderlic|
|6 ft 0 ⁄8 in
|34 ⁄8 in
|9 ⁄8 in
|All values from NFL Combine|
1996 season: Rookie year
Lewis was the top-rated inside linebacker heading into the 1996 NFL Draft, in which Kevin Hardy was considered the draft's only outstanding linebacker prospect. Taken as the fifth linebacker in the draft, Lewis was seen by scouts as possessing speed, tackling ability, and intensity, but many considered his lack of size a potential liability. In his first career game, a Week 1 19-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders, Lewis earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his seven-tackle, one-interception performance. Lewis earned USA Today's All-Rookie team honors after his 15 tackles for loss led the NFL and 110 tackles led the Ravens in the 1996 season. He added two and a half sacks, six pass deflections, and an interception on the season.
In Week 9, against the Washington Redskins, Lewis earned his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week honor. Lewis recorded an NFL-best and career high 184 tackles in 1997, which is unofficially the second most ever in a season, and earned his first Pro Bowl berth at the end of that season. In addition, Lewis totaled four sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and 11 pass deflections.
In 1998, Lewis made his second trip to the Pro Bowl after recording 120 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and seven pass deflections. He led the Ravens in tackles for the third consecutive season. He was also named to The Sporting News All-Pro Team. In what would prove to be Hall of Fame Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders's final game, Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense held him to just 41 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
In 1999, Lewis led the NFL in tackles with 168. He was named to a third-straight Pro Bowl and the All-Pro first team. He also totaled three and a half sacks, three interceptions, eight pass deflections, a safety, and a forced fumble. Lewis won the 1999 NFL Alumni Linebacker Of The Year chosen by past NFL players voting according to the position they played.
2000: Record-setting defense and first Super Bowl run
In 2000, Lewis led a defense which many call the greatest in NFL history for a single season. The team set a 16-game single-season record for fewest points allowed (165) and fewest rushing yards allowed (970). The team recorded four shutouts, one shy of the single-season record. The unit finished first league-wide in six key defensive categories. Including the postseason, and excluding three combined touchdowns that were given up by the Ravens offense and special teams, Baltimore’s defense allowed only 184 points in 20 games. Lewis won Super Bowl XXXV MVP honors, Defensive Player of the Year honors, earned a unanimous All-Pro selection, and was once again named to start in the Pro Bowl. The Ravens became only the second team to ever record a defensive shutout in a Super Bowl, as they dominated the New York Giants 34-7 to win the franchise’s first ever world championship. Lewis’s regular-season total of 137 tackles once again led the Ravens. He also added 31 tackles, two interceptions, 9 pass deflections, one fumble recovery, and a touchdown in the four-game playoff run.
In 2001, Lewis earned his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl selection, when he led the NFL in tackles with 162 and earned first-team All-Pro honors. In Week 15, he earned his third AFC Defensive Player of the Week honor in a 15–0 shutout of the Cincinnati Bengals. Lewis scored a touchdown in the 2002 Pro Bowl. In the Ravens' two playoff games, he totaled 17 tackles, three forced fumbles, and one pass deflection.
In 2002, Lewis was limited to only five games due to a shoulder injury. He still managed to rank fifth on the team with 58 tackles. In addition, Lewis compiled two interceptions, two pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Lewis earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 4 against the Denver Broncos after posting 18 tackles (11 solo), two pass deflections, and an interception on Monday Night Football. After having been selected to the Pro Bowl for five consecutive seasons (1997–2001), Lewis's streak was stopped by his season-ending injury. In his absence, the Baltimore Ravens defense finished ranked 19th in points allowed.
Lewis was the leading vote recipient for the 2003 AP All-Pro team, earning 49 of 50 votes. He also won the annual AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year with 43 votes out of 50. He was named to his sixth career Pro Bowl for the 2003 season. Additionally, Lewis earned Pro Football Weekly, PFWA, and Football Digest Defensive MVP honors and was named to Dr. Z's Sports Illustrated All-Pro team, Pro Football Weekly's All-NFL team, Pro Football Weekly's All-AFC team, Football Digest's All-Pro first team, and The Sporting News' All-Pro team. Lewis also earned the KC 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year award for the 3rd time in four years, the 2003 NFL Alumni Linebacker Of The Year, and finished with 161 tackles, one and a half sacks, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 14 pass deflections, and one touchdown. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Month for November and AFC Defensive Player of the week for his 15-tackle, one-interception performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 17. In the Wild Card playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, Lewis totaled 17 tackles.
In 2004, Lewis was named first-team All-Pro by the AP, second-team "All Pro" by College and Pro Football Weekly and Football Digest, and "All Pro" by The Sporting News. He finished the 2004 season playing 15 games while recording 146 total tackles, one sack, two fumble recoveries, one fumble forced, and six pass deflections.
Lewis's 2005 season was cut short by an injury in Week 6. He was placed on injured reserve in Week 8, having amassed 46 tackles, a sack, an interception, 2 pass deflections, and a fumble recovery in the season's first six games. The Ravens struggled to a final record of 6-10.
In 2006, Lewis led the Ravens defense to an NFL-best ranking in 14 major defensive categories, including total yards allowed, points per game allowed, and interceptions. The Ravens also finished second in sacks, take-aways, and rushing yards allowed. Lewis missed two games due to an injury, but still recorded 103 tackles, a personal best of five sacks, two interceptions, and eight pass deflections in 14 games. He also forced a fumble and recovered one. The Ravens allowed just one 100-yard rushing performance in the 14 games Lewis played. Lewis was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week following his seven-tackle, one-sack, and three-pass-deflection performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl, but withdrew because of a hand injury, ceding his spot to fellow Ravens linebacker Bart Scott. Lewis finished fifth in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. Lewis totaled 15 tackles and a pass deflection in the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite the Baltimore Ravens' mediocre 5–11 season, Lewis was the team's leading tackler. Against the Cleveland Browns, Lewis recorded 16 tackles, recovered a fumble, and returned an interception for a touchdown. He also earned his ninth career Pro Bowl nomination. He finished the season with 120 total tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 10 passes deflected, two interceptions, and one touchdown.
In 2008, Lewis led the Ravens to the AFC Championship game while totaling 117 tackles, three and a half sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and nine passes deflected. He was named a starter to the Pro Bowl, his tenth such nomination, and was named an Associated Press first-team All-Pro for the sixth time. In addition, he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week following his eight tackles, two interception, and two pass deflections against the Houston Texans in Week 10. In the three playoff games against the Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, and Pittsburgh Steelers, Lewis totaled 29 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one pass deflection in three games. After the season, he became an unrestricted free agent, but agreed to return to the Baltimore Ravens to complete his career. The contract, which would've run through 2015 (including two option years), was said to be worth $10 million the first year, but was highly incentivized.
In 2009, Lewis was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press for the seventh time (ninth selection overall) and named to his 11th Pro Bowl. He accumulated an AFC-leading 134 tackles on the season. He also added three sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and seven passes deflected. Lewis added 21 tackles, one sack, and one pass deflection in two playoff games. In the September 2009 issue of Sporting News' Magazine, Lewis was selected to their Team of the Decade (2000s). In Week 2 against the San Diego Chargers, Lewis made the game-saving tackle on running back Darren Sproles on a fourth-down play. After the game, Lewis said it was one of the best tackles he has made in his career.
In 2010, Lewis was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press for the third time (10th All-Pro selection overall) and named to his 12th Pro Bowl. He totaled 139 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, four pass deflections, and one touchdown. Lewis added 13 tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble in two playoff games. On Sunday, November 21, 2010, Lewis became only the second player in NFL history to record at least 30 interceptions and 30 sacks for their career. He was the fastest player (204 games) to achieve that feat.
In 2011, Lewis was named to his 13th and what proved to be his final Pro Bowl, and led the Ravens with 95 tackles despite missing four games with an injury. Lewis also collected two sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles, and seven pass deflections. Lewis totaled 20 tackles and one pass deflection in two playoff games. On Sunday, October 16, 2011, against the Houston Texans, Lewis became the first player in NFL history with at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career.
2012: Final year and second Super Bowl
Lewis suffered torn triceps on October 14, 2012 during a game against the Dallas Cowboys, and had them surgically repaired three days later. Several sources had reported he was expected to return to action December 16 in the game against the Denver Broncos, much earlier than his expected return in January, but he was inactive for the game. On January 2, 2013, Lewis announced he would retire after his team finished the 2012–13 NFL playoffs.
He returned to action for Baltimore's January 6, 2013 game against the Colts and led the defense to a 24–9 win. On the game's last play, Lewis lined up on offense at fullback. The Ravens were not slated to play another home playoff game (since they were the number-four seed, and the day before, the Houston Texans beat the number-six seed Cincinnati Bengals), so they wanted Lewis to be on the field for the final play. Next, the Ravens defeated the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round, 38–35 in double overtime, and then defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, 28–13. Lewis's final career NFL game was Super Bowl XLVII, where the Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 34–31. Lewis finished the regular season with 57 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass deflection in 6 games. In the postseason, Lewis led the NFL with 51 tackles. He also contributed 2 tackles for loss and 1 pass deflection in the Super Bowl XLVII run.
Following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, a fight broke out between Lewis and his companions and another group of people, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were questioned by Atlanta police, and 11 days later the three men were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges. The fight occurred about 200 yards (180 m) from the Cobalt Lounge at 265 East Paces Ferry Road in the Buckhead Village neighborhood about two miles north of downtown Atlanta where Lewis had been celebrating. The white suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard alleged the blood-stained suit was dumped in a garbage bin outside a fast food restaurant. A knife found at the scene did not have any fingerprints or DNA. Lewis subsequently testified that Oakley and Sweeting had bought knives earlier in Super Bowl week from a Sports Authority where Lewis had been signing autographs. Baker's blood was found inside of Lewis's limousine.
Two weeks into the trial Lewis's attorneys, Don Samuel and Ed Garland, negotiated a plea agreement with the District Attorney where the murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting, and his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. Lewis admitted he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings (initially telling them that he was not at the scene). Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Lewis to 12 months' probation. One year in prison is the maximum sentence for a first-time offender, and the immediate probation was the judge's decision. He was also fined $250,000 by the NFL, which was believed to be the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse. Under the terms of the sentence, Lewis could not use drugs or alcohol during the duration of the probation.
Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges in June 2000. No other suspects have ever been arrested for the incident.
The following year, Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP. However, the signature phrase "I'm going to Disney World!" was given instead to quarterback Trent Dilfer.
On April 29, 2004, Lewis reached a out-of-court settlement with four-year-old India Lollar, born months after the death of her father Richard, pre-empting a scheduled civil proceeding. Lewis also reached an undisclosed settlement with Baker's family.
During a taped pre-game interview with Shannon Sharpe that aired on CBS before Super Bowl XLVII, Sharpe told Lewis that the families of the slain men find it difficult to see Lewis idolized by millions of fans, believing he knows more about the killings than he shared, and asked what he had to say to those families. Lewis responded, "God has never made a mistake. That's just who He is, you see.... To the family, if you knew, if you really knew the way God works, He don't use people who commits anything like that for His glory."
The Ravens' crisis management around Lewis's murder trial was revisited by Brian Billick, by then a media analyst, after the 2013 arrest of Aaron Hernandez and his swift release by the New England Patriots.
Throughout his career, Lewis built a reputation as a leader and intimidating force at middle linebacker. He has led his team in tackles in 12 of his 14 seasons. The Ravens did not allow a single 100-yard rusher in 51 consecutive games from the 1998 through 2001 seasons. In addition to his run defense, Lewis has also gained a reputation as a complete defender. His 31 interceptions rank him 5th all-time among NFL linebackers, and just 6 short of the #1 spot. Since the murder allegations, Lewis's image has recovered, and today he is considered one of the most dominant linebackers in the history of the NFL. Lewis was also selected as the third-best linebacker of all time on the show The Sports List. A poll of NFL coaches selected him as the most dominant player in the NFL before the 2003 season by being mentioned on 10 ballots, while no other player was mentioned more than twice. Team owner Steve Bisciotti stated his intention to erect a statue of Lewis outside M&T Bank Stadium. On September 4, 2014, days before the Ravens season opener, a statue of Lewis was unveiled in front of M&T Bank Stadium.
Lewis has been referenced in television shows such as The Wire, films such as The Rundown, and in music videos, such as in Mario's "Just a Friend 2002" and Nelly's "Heart of a Champion". Lewis has appeared in television ads for NFL Network, Reebok, Under Armour, Old Spice, and Eastern Motors. He was the featured athlete on the cover of Madden NFL 2005. That season, he missed a number of games to an injury, adding to the "Madden Curse". He was documented in NFL Network's documentary series A Football Life.
Lewis opened the Ray Lewis Full Moon Bar-B-Que, which operated in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood from February 2005 until 2008. He has also gained several national corporate endorsements, some of which draw upon his tough image. In 2004, Lewis was placed on the cover of the highly popular Madden NFL 2005 video game published by EA Sports, and is also a very avid player of the same series. In 2006, it was announced that Lewis, Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, and entrepreneur Mark Bloomquist would form S&L Racing, intending to race both cars and trucks from a North Carolina headquarters. Lewis's attempt to join NASCAR racing failed.
On March 13, 2013, it was announced that Lewis would join ESPN as a contributor for their NFL coverage. Lewis was let go by ESPN in 2016. On June 20, 2017 it was announced Lewis had been hired by cable sports network Fox Sports 1.
Lewis competed against tight end Tony Gonzalez in an episode of Spike's Lip Sync Battle, which aired on February 2, 2017. He emerged victorious with performances of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" and "Hot in Herre" by Nelly, who joined him for the performance.
In August 2019, Lewis was announced as one of the celebrities to compete on season 28 of Dancing with the Stars. He later withdrew from the competition due to a tendon injury in his foot, requiring surgery.
Lewis has been heavily involved in charitable activities throughout his professional career. He started the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation which is a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to provide personal and economic assistance to disadvantaged youth. The foundation has funded such events as adopting 10 families in the Baltimore City community for the holidays, an annual celebrity auction and bowling tournament, the Great Maryland Duck Derby, Thanksgiving food drives on North Avenue in Baltimore, and Ray's Summer Days. All proceeds have helped fund the Ray Lewis Foundation.
Lewis has since been involved in pressing political, business, and philanthropic leaders for a stronger commitment to disability sports both here and in the developing world. Lewis was also honored with a JB award (named in honor of CBS broadcaster James Brown) during the 2006 off-season and received the "Act of Kindness" Award for his work in the community.
Awards and accolades
Since his rookie year in 1996, Lewis has won numerous NFL awards, including being named Defensive Player of the Year twice (2000 and 2003), as well as Super Bowl MVP after winning Super Bowl XXXV after the 2000 season. He is also a 13-time Pro Bowler and seven-time AP First Team All-Pro player, a three-time AP Second Team All-Pro Selection, and was also a two-time All-American in college (1994 and 1995).
On May 11, 2010, a portion of Baltimore's North Avenue was renamed "Ray Lewis Way" in honor of the linebacker and his charitable work.
Lewis had career totals of 2,061 total tackles (1,567 solo), 19 forced fumbles, 117 passes defended, 102.5 stuffs for a loss, 41.5 sacks, 20 fumble recoveries, 31 interceptions for 503 yards, one safety, and three touchdowns in 228 games. He has been selected to 13 NFL Pro Bowl games, a record for an inside/middle linebacker, in his 17 seasons, and led the NFL in tackles five times (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2004). In 2003, Lewis led all linebackers with six interceptions, a total matching the post-merger all-time record for a middle linebacker in a single season. Lewis was named first-team Associated Press All-Pro in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009 and second-team All-Pro in 1997, 1998, and 2010. His 10 total All-Pro selections is a record for an inside/middle linebacker and ties the record for a linebacker (Lawrence Taylor also has 10 selections). In 21 career playoff games, Lewis has totaled 214 tackles (135 solo), two sacks, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions for 54 yards, 15 pass deflections, 10.5 stuffs for a loss, and one touchdown.
Lewis was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, his first year of eligibility. Lewis joined teammate Jonathan Ogden in Canton; the two were the Ravens' first two picks in Baltimore.
Lewis is a Christian, and his commitment to his faith was featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story in 2006. He has a total of six children, four boys, and two girls. His son, Ray Lewis III, played college football at the University of Miami and later Coastal Carolina. He was dismissed from Coastal Carolina's football team and the university in 2016 upon being indicted by a South Carolina grand jury on a charge of third-degree criminal sexual assault.Those charges were dropped after a lengthy and more thorough investigation by law enforcement officials in South Carolina. His other son, Rayshad Lewis, committed to Utah State out of high school. His freshman year was successful. After his freshman year, Rayshad decided to transfer to the University of Maryland.
Michael Phelps, a Baltimore native and Ravens fan, stated that he found his life purpose and desire to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics after seeking Lewis's advice.
In 2015, Lewis' autobiography, I Feel Like Going On: Life, Game, and Glory, was published.