Jan. 28, 2001 - Ray Lewis traveled a long way in a year: From a jail cell to Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. From being indicted for murder in a double-homicide case in Atlanta (and having the charges dropped) to a starring role in the Baltimore Ravens' NFL title run that led to one final game against the New York Giants.
The middle linebacker established an early tone when he broke up quarterback Kerry Collins' first pass. The Ravens grabbed a 10-0 halftime lead, their defense suffocating Collins and choking off New York's running game.
"They took everything away," said Giants running back Tiki Barber.
The Ravens ran away to a 34-7 victory, with the Giants' only touchdown coming on Ron Dixon's 97-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
Lewis finished with five tackles, four passes defensed and the game's MVP award. He proclaimed Baltimore's defense the best ever and said, "I just won a world championship. I might never stop smiling."
Odds 'n' EndsWith his dad leaving the family when he was young, Lewis became a father figure in the household. He made sure his four siblings were dressed in time for school and got them to bed at night.
Lewis' grandfather said the youngster loved football so much he'd walk three miles to practice if he didn't have a ride.
He was the MVP of Kathleen (Fla.) High School's football team in his junior and senior years. He had 207 tackles, 10 sacks and six field-goal blocks over that span.
He arrived at the University of Miami weighing 200 pounds, and some thought he wasn't big enough to play linebacker. He weighed 235 by his junior season.
His 160 tackles in 1995 ranked second in Miami history, behind Ed Weisacosky's 164 in 1965.
He went to the NFL after his junior year largely because he wanted to provide for his mother and infant son.
Lewis has many T-shirts bearing the face of Marlin Barnes, his slain teammate at Miami. He often wears a T-shirt with Barnes' picture on it under his shoulder pads or uniform.
He bought a house for his mother outside Baltimore and took care of her financially so that she could retire.
He had two 17-tackle games in 1997, his second NFL season.
In the summer of 2000, Lewis spoke at the NFL's mandatory rookie orientation, telling the audience "that saying 'no' to a lot of people is very important."
At Media Day before the Super Bowl, Lewis shed little light on the double homicides in Atlanta a year earlier. He refused to offer sympathy publicly to the victims' families, saying he had already done so.
Lewis led the Ravens in tackles for the fifth consecutive season in 2000 with 137.
He has been one of the most popular athletes in Baltimore, active in the Ravens' annual food drive and someone who has devoted time to a local hospital for children.
After winning the Super Bowl, Lewis said: "I'm 25 years old and a world champion. This is it. This is what you work your whole life for, from childhood dreaming of whatever you want to be. But now, what else could I ever dream of?"