Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 1/23/13

With 22 gold medals and countless world records, Michael Phelps has become the most decorated and accomplished Olympian of all time.

However, things might have turned out differently if not for an unlikely -- yet unsurprising -- source of inspiration: Ray Lewis.

The Washington Post on Tuesday ran a column, detailing how the Ravens' future Hall of Famer lent a hand in Phelps' journey back to superstardom.

“What he did for me is the best thing in the world,” Phelps said. “He helped me come back.”

A Baltimore native, Phelps grew up rooting for the Ravens, and was 11-years-old in 1996, when Lewis was drafted. He instantly became a fan of the voracious linebacker.

Seventeen years later, the fan has morphed into a friend.

“We’ve talked about so much the last couple years of my career,” Phelps said. “He just helped me get through a lot of hard times, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him. He’s been telling me, ‘One more shot. We’re gonna have one more shot.’ And he did it.”

After capturing eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, Phelps hit a bit of a rough patch. Lewis, like he's done for so many of his fellow players, aided Phelps in bettering himself.

“He’s probably the only person who could really help me do that,” Phelps said. “He’s been through everything — the ups and downs — and he’s helped me literally overcome a lot of things that I’ve had in my life that have been tough, and he’s been there for me.”

Phelps is often seen on the Ravens sideline, watching Lewis go to work with his trademark tenacity and passion. Last Sunday, the Ravens secured a trip to Super Bowl XLVII, which marks the final game of Lewis' prestigious career.

It's only fitting that Phelps has been -- and will be -- there to see it unfold.

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