Days before he is set to return from a triceps injury that shelved him for half the season, Ray Lewis announced Wednesday that he will officially retire after the Baltimore Ravens' season is over. The former Miami Hurricanes great has spent 17 seasons in the NFL (all with the Ravens), and will go down as one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game.
"Everything that starts has an end," the 37-year-old Lewis said. "For me, today, I told my team that this will be my last ride."
Lewis said he wants to spend more time with his family, speaking of how he got a chance to watch two of his sons play high school football during the recovery of a torn triceps sustained on Oct. 14.
"God is calling," Lewis said. "My children have made the ultimate sacrifice for their father for 17 years. I don't want to see them do that no more. I've done what I wanted to do in this business, and now it's my turn to give them something back."
One of those sons, running back Ray Lewis III, has orally committed to play at the University of Miami, just like his father did nearly two decades ago. "I knew I couldn't split my time anymore. When God calls, he calls. And he's calling. More importantly, he calls me to be a father. It's OK to be Daddy. Yes, this chapter is closing, but the chapter that's opening is overwhelming. That's what excites me the most."
At UM from 1993-1995, Lewis was a two time All-America selection and was the runner-up for the Butkus Award in 1995 (given to the nation's best linebacker). He skipped his senior season, and was taken by the Ravens with the 26th pick in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft.
His tenure with the Ravens is one of the most decorated in NFL history. Lewis has been selected to 13 Pro Bowls, and was named first-team All-Pro by the AP seven times (with three second-team selections).
Lewis is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner (2000 and 2003), and he was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXV when the Ravens beat the New York Giants.
While Lewis remains a beloved figure in Baltimore, his profile took a major hit when he was indicted for a double murder in Atlanta before Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. Later that year, he avoided jail time through a plea bargain, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and testifying against two co-defendants.
Known for his rousing pep talks with the Ravens, Lewis has made a hobby of speaking to other teams before big games. A video of a talk he gave the Stanford University men's basketball team before an NIT game went viral in 2012 (see below).
The Ravens will host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, in what could be Lewis' final game. If he has his way, it will be the first of four en route to another Super Bowl victory for Baltimore.
"I'll make this last run with this team, and I'll give them everything I've got," he said. "When it ends, it ends. But I didn't come back for it to end in the first round."