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Ray Lewis Will Retire As The Baddest Man Of His Generation

He will be missed.

By Michael Tillery January 02, 2013, 10:09 AM EST

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He’s been the two-decade, Baltimore Ravens constant. The flavor energetic in his dance. The only active player from the first ever Ravens contingent. Thirteen Pro Bowls. Ten time All-Pro. Super Bowl MVP. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Is he the GOAT? This generation thinks so. Maybe he is...maybe he's not. That's not important for this moment, because Ray Lewis still has something left for the shield; a shield that would be most likely honored to emblazon his image.  He's a soul-pumping heart with a helmet smashed on but only because he has to wear one. The push up should be renamed the Ray Lewis. Life means something to Ray Lewis. Time is another reason to inspire, to connect with someone, to live and die in a moment with someone. Foxholes welcome his courage and so would you if he was next to you – with a weapon or not. He was a football soldier and that's no diss to the military. His retirement after these NFL playoffs will leave a hole the size of his hometown, Bartow, Florida, and B-More in the game.

Ray Lewis was the consummate Miami Hurricane. He loved all children as if they were his blood. He was a former wrestler. Could you imagine looking across the mat and seeing that look in his eyes? He will $*#@ you up on the field if you dare come across the middle. He is a ferocious hitter…for any era. I call his hits “super speed knocks.”

A leader for any profession, a father for every family and a brother to every man – that was/is Ray. "What are you willing to sacrifice to win?" is something he challenges us all to ask of ourselves. Corporations will line up to contract him as a speaker. He could be a preacher, one of the best football analysts, a coach or a number of other great things post retirement. When you think of a gladiator, how can you not see his soul defying any odds and becoming victorious? Apropos, the Colts -- formerly of Baltimore -- will be the opponent in his last taste of  NFL playoffs. He and the recently retired Brian Dawkins are the last of their kind – passionate, god-fearing and not afraid to show their emotions to other men. Baltimore had the most consistent defense over the span of his career. It's time. The great ones know when it's time to go and despite his super durability, watching the game from the sideline is simply not his thing.

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Michael Tillery has contributed to the New York Times, The Nation, SLAM, Sacramento Magazine and hosts a radio show on Chuck D's RAPstation.com. Find him on twitter at @michaeltillery.

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