Schmuck: Hall of Fame-bound Ravens great Ray Lewis truly reps Baltimore, warts and all

Ray Lewis isn’t a perfect human. He got mixed up in a terrible situation many years ago that could have defined the rest of his life, but his pending induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame will highlight a story of redemption that has long resonated in Baltimore.

There was little doubt that he would be going to Canton in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility. He might be the greatest linebacker ever to grace the NFL. Some contend he’s the greatest defensive player in football history, regardless of position.

I’ll leave that to the fans and historians. What is harder to dispute is the impact he has had on this city, which can identify with his fall from grace nearly two decades ago and revel in his rise to the pinnacle of professional sport.

Lewis has a statue outside M&T Bank Stadium because he helped lead the Ravens to two Super Bowl titles and was the face of the franchise for much of the team’s history in Baltimore. Everybody knows that.

He also has been a mentor to countless fellow athletes, and though he isn’t a Baltimore native, has been a major contributor to a troubled community that has welcomed his influence and support.

His reward is a place in Ohio he calls “football heaven” and — perfect human or not — no one can deny that he belongs there.

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