When fans head through the main entrance at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday for the Ravens' regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, they'll be greeted by a familiar sight.
Ray Lewis starred for 17 seasons with the Ravens. Now he'll be immortalized next to another Baltimore sporting icon.
The Ravens announced Wednesday that the statue of the middle linebacker will be unveiled Thursday at a ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m. in Unitas Plaza. Sculpted by Frederick Kail, the statue will be erected to the right of one depicting legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas outside the north entrance of the stadium.
The statue will depict Lewis in a pose of exultation.
Lewis, who retired after the Ravens won their second Super Bowl in February 2013, will be joined at the ceremony by family, friends and former teammates. Owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and team president Dick Cass will also be in attendance.
Fans are welcomed to attend and Lewis will speak at the event, which is expected to last about 15 minutes. Lewis has said that the statue will be one of the greatest honors that he's ever experienced.
"Most times I'm never at a loss for words, but that's a very humbling thing," Lewis said during the Ravens' open practice at M&T Bank Stadium in late July. "This is my home. I gave everything I had to city. To have a statue in this city means everything."
Lewis was invited to the Pro Bowl 13 times, was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was the Super Bowl XXXV Most Valuable Player. He was beloved in Baltimore despite pleading guilty in 2000 to obstruction of justice in a case where two men were stabbed to death outside an Atlanta nightclub.
Bisciotti announced plans for the statue following the 2012 season and the team hired Kail, who also sculpted the Unitas statue, to do the project. Lewis and the Ravens met with Kail and provided their input.
"To be immortalized like that, it is an honor and well deserved obviously," former Ravens head coach Brian Billick said recently. "He is the original face and probably always will be for that franchise for forever and a day in terms of the mentality and the passion that he brought to the game, and the way the fans respond to him. That's pretty substantial to have something like that put up."