Jersey Monday: Ray Lewis

During his time with the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Lewis has become one of my least favorite professional athletes, mostly because of a certain "incident" in 2000, and the insane deification of him in Baltimore the following season, as the Ravens marched to the Super Bowl. Still, there was a time when I thought Ray Lewis was awesome, and that time was when he was in college, playing for the University of Miami.

Lewis played for the Hurricanes during what turned out to be the beginning of their decline period in the early-to-mid-'90s. His freshman year was 1993, when the team went 9-3 and was shut out in the Fiesta Bowl. The following season, the 'Canes went 10-2, but blew a fourth-quarter lead in the Orange Bowl, losing to eventual national champion Nebraska.

Though Lewis continued to shine, things got worse in 1995, when the 'Canes were put on probation and banned from postseason play. Lewis left after the season, making himself eligible for the 1996 NFL Draft, where he was drafted by the Ravens, where the rest is Festivus history.

I had no real attachment to any Division I football team growing up, so like many young fans nationwide, I ended up latching on to the 'Canes, who were brash, outlandish and damn good. Lewis was part of the last wave of that style of Miami player, as the team went in drastic decline following his departure, and had an entirely different public image during their resurgence in the early '00s. Those post-Lewis teams also had a different look, with Nike regularly tinkering with the jerseys. Personally, I'll always prefer this simpler style, with the solid color, basic sleeve striping and block numbers. The one embellishment that you can't really see in this picture is that Miami's "U" logo is sublimated into the shoulder area. It's actually a pretty cool effect, though it was probably too subtle for Nike, which really went all out with the bells and whistles on the Miami jerseys in subsequent years.

Jersey Monday will continue every Monday until I run out of jerseys to spotlight. And since I’ve got more than 150 of them, that could be awhile.