In our ongoing Best of the Best series, Bo Smolka makes a case for each semifinalist.
When you have a statue out in front of the stadium, how much more of a case needs to be made?
All the accolades -- 13 Pro Bowl invitations (tied for the most ever by a defensive player), two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl MVP -- point to Ray Lewis as the premier defensive player of his generation and one of the greatest in league history.
In his prime, no one covered the field better or hit any harder than No. 52. Ask Eddie George or Darren Sproles. And no one could fire up the M&T Stadium crowd more.
Early in his career, Lewis was at the center of the Ravens' remarkable 2000 defense, which set a record for the fewest points allowed in a 16-game season (165) and recorded four shutouts. He capped that season with the first Super Bowl title in franchise history, the Super Bowl MVP award and the first of his NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Then, late in the 2012 season, after he announced he was on his "last ride," the Ravens found another gear and rode all the way to another Super Bowl title in New Orleans.
Lewis, the Ravens' second-ever draft pick, retired after 17 seasons, all in purple and black. His total of 228 regular-season games is a franchise record, as is his total of 2,643 tackles. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions.
And as Lewis showed this spring, he remains active in the Baltimore community, returning to speak to students at Douglass High School in the wake of the unrest that rocked the city.