52 vs 52
Ray Lewis vs Patrick Willis
A fairy tale match up, almost movie like, both teams come into New Orleans for the Super Bowl knowing one thing, this is Ray Lewis’s final game in his NFL career. The Legend in Ray Lewis, The Future in Patrick Willis. Both share the same number, same size, same passion, different paths. Ray Lewis, 37 years old, is coming to a close in a storied career in the National Football League. Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, Ray Lewis was already focused and determined to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Baltimore. Twenty-Five other teams passed on Ray Lewis, mainly cause of his lack of size. Boy what a mistake that was. Lewis has racked up 13 Pro Bowls, 7 All Pro First Team(s), 3 All Pro Second Team(s) honors, Super Bowl MVP, Multiple NFL and AFC Defensive Player of the Year awards. The love this man has for this game is unbelievable. He hit a major set- back in his life early in his career but remained focused and continued to set his name in stone.
Ray Lewis once said, ‘The game will fade one day. I realize that success is one thing; impact is another. I live to impact people.’ Being a man of faith, Ray has reached out to people in need and has touched many lives over the years. It seemed like when you entered his life, you stay in his life. Not only do you become a part of it, but you also become his family. Coming into Sunday with 2,050 tackles, 41.5 sacks and 31 career Interceptions, Lewis is back on the big stage. The main event, the one for all the marbles. Being guided by Ray has given the Ravens more confidence than they have had in years. Starting off at home, up against a rookie who has shown he will give defensive coordinators trouble, defeated the Colts 24-9 in an emotional final home game for THE Raven. What happened during that game were signs to come. A team with a leader who was ready to hang it up and walk away from the game, wanted to make sure their next game wasn’t his last. Fast forward a couple games later and here they are, set to go head to head against Patrick Willis and a well -balanced San Francisco 49ers team who finally reached the Super Bowl after losing to the New York Giants a year ago, which leads us to our next subject.
Patrick Willis, a 28 year old linebacker was drafted by the 49ers in 2007, 11th overall. Growing up, Willis was working in cotton fields at the age of 10 years old. A little boy who was helping support his family, had no choice but to mature at a young age. Later in his life, Patrick and his siblings moved in with his high school basketball coach due to a violent father. Willis went on to become a two-time All –State and Regional Most Valuable Player where he earned four letters in Football/Basketball and three more in Baseball. In his Junior year in college, he lead the SEC in tackles with a total of 128, which was sixth in the nation. In 2006 he lead the conference in tackles once again, collecting 137, 11.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles. Going into the combine, he ran one of the fastest 40-yard dashes for linebackers. Finally getting that call by the San Francisco 49ers, all of Patrick’s struggles and hard work paid off. Finishing his rookie season Willis topped the NFL with 174 total tackles, winning himself the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honor. Mike Singletary, a former linebacker himself, saw a lot of Ray Lewis in Patrick Willis, saying ‘I’ve coached two of the greatest linebackers- one that has already proven to be one of the greatest and the one who will prove to be one.’
This upcoming Super Bowl promises to be one of the best championship games in history. Brother versus brother; The Harbowl. A game in which legends are made and legends fade. Both teams who missed out on their opportunity last year to hoist that glorious trophy over their heads, finally get their chance to do so. Both have explosive receivers, running backs that can move the ball no matter where they are on the field. Quarterbacks who have been proving to their peers and fans that they belong. For fans who love smash mouth defense, disconnect your phones, ignore all distractions and keep your eyes and ears glued to the game because this is exactly what it is going to be. Two teams motivated to bring championships to their beloved city and fans. Leading the way, two linebackers who are exactly the same, 52 on one end, 52 on the other. To me this is going to be a Clash of the Titans like game. Will Ray Lewis walk off into the sunset a Super Bowl champion in his final season, or will Patrick Willis close the door on one man’s legacy and open up his own. Super Bowl XLVII ladies and gentlemen, Ray Lewis the legend versus Patrick Willis the future. Let’s get ready to rumble.