Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/11/11

HATTIESBURG, MS - JULY 11: Baltimore Ravens player Ray Lewis (C) arrives for a funeral service for former NFL quarterback Steve McNair on July 11, 2009 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)

There are only a few things in this world that get better with time: wine, trees, cheese, and Ray Lewis. For 16 years Ray Lewis has been a dominant force in the NFL and unlike most players in the league Ray isn’t regressing, he is progressing.

Ray Lewis, 36, has revolutionized the linebacker position since coming into the league in 1996. From hard-hitting tackles to clutch defensive stops, Ray has done it all. He is the only player in NFL history with at least 35 sacks and 30 interceptions, and with 2,491 career tackles he has the most amongst active players. Aside from all of the accolades that he has racked-up throughout his career, Ray has been one of the most vocal leaders in the history of the NFL. In my lifetime, insert joke here, one could argue that there has never been a player in sports that plays with the dedication and enthusiasm that Ray Lewis possesses. Whenever you watch the man play he is constantly ready to go.. If the defense doesn’t play well he takes full responsibility and makes sure that they never make the same mistake twice. Ray Lewis could retire right now and solidify himself as one of the best football players of all-time, but his passion for the game and his hunger to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again is the reason that he is still the backbone of the scariest defense in the NFL.

Heart of a Champion

Even though Ray Lewis has been the most dominant defensive player in the past decade in the NFL, his numbers still seem to go under the radar. With 12 Pro Bowls under his belt, most recent coming in 2010, Ray has been consistent every year. In 2010, Ray Lewis recorded 139 tackles which was his most in a season since 2004. With 134 tackles, Ray Lewis was 5thin the NFL in 2009. Lewis recorded triple digit tackles in every season of his career except in 2002 and 2005, which were cut short because of injury. Ray Lewis is one of the most dependable players in league history,  and his impact to the linebacker position will never be matched.

Ray is still continuing to disprove all the naysayers that say his time is coming to an end, by leading the Baltimore Ravens in tackles with 30. Also, Ray is tied for second in the NFL with 2 forced fumbles. Vocally, Lewis is continuing to run his mouth, positively, and is as big as an influence as he has ever been because he knows that this year is the Ravens year.  Don’t be surprised if you see Ray Lewis in Honolulu for the 13th time in 16 season this off season, and don’t be shocked either if you see him with his 2nd Super Bowl MVP award and Super Bowl ring when February arrives. The man won’t stop until he gets another ring and probably another one after that. Determination and passion is what has drove Ray Lewis throughout his lengthy career and they are the same traits that are making him look better than ever.

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