As a Miami Hurricanes fan, Ray Lewis’ retirement got me thinking. Who are the best pro football players ever to come out of the U. I thought long and hard about this, and came up with a list of five former Hurricanes.
5. Jim Kelly
During his Hall of Fame career, quarterback Jim Kelly led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs eight times and the Super Bowl four consecutive years. However, when most people think of Kelly, they usually think of his disappointing play in the biggest game. Four straight Super Bowl losses from 1990 to 1993. Granted, Kelly did not play his best when it mattered most, but he did help revolutionize the game with his “no huddle offense” in the early 90’s. In 11 seasons in Buffalo, Kelly racked up 35,467 passing yards, 2,874 completions, and 237 touchdowns. He eclipsed 3,000 yards passing in eight of those 11 years, was named to the Pro Bowl five times, and threw 21 touchdown passes in 17 playoff games.
4. Michael Irvin
Personally, Michael Irvin is my favorite Hurricanes ever, because he also played for the Cowboys. After leading the Canes to a National Championship in 1987, he led Dallas to three Super Bowls in four years. Irvin, who spent 12 years with the Cowboys, was as successful on the gridiron as he was flamboyant off of it. And unfortunately, some of his greatest accomplishments will always be tainted by his numerous brushes with the law, including multiple drug arrests. Michael Irvin finished his career with 750 receptions for 11,904 yards, and 65 touchdowns.
3. Jim Otto
Some people say that playing on the offensive line has no glory. But it’s difficult to imagine any one player dominating the honors at one position more completely than Jim Otto did both in the American Football League and in the National Football League from 1960 through 1974. During his 15-year career, he participated in each of the nine AFL All-Star games that were played and in the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl the first three seasons that postseason classic was scheduled. Jim never missed a game. When he retired following the 1974 season, he had started in 210 straight games in regular season but had played in 308 games as a Raider. He was a 12 time Pro Bowler and a Hall of Fame inductee in 1980.
2. Ted Hendricks
A three-time All-American as a linebacker and defensive end at the U, Ted Hendricks began his 15-season pro football career as the second-round pick of the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 AFL-NFL Draft. He signed with the Raiders in 1974 and played nine seasons with Oakland until his retirement in 1983. In his career, he intercepted 26 passes, which he returned for 332 yards and a touchdown. He also recovered 16 opponents’ fumbles and scored a record-tying four safeties. Hendricks scored touchdowns on an interception, a fumble return, and a blocked punt. Hendricks, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990, was a four time All-Pro and won a Super Bowl in his final game.
1. Ray Lewis
Whenever the Baltimore Ravens’ NFL playoff run ends this season, it also will mark the end of a remarkable career. A first-round draft pick of the Ravens in 1995, he has played 17 NFL seasons. Selected to 13 Pro Bowls, a seven-time All-Pro pick and a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Lewis is the definition of playmaker. He has recorded 41 1/2 sacks, 31 interceptions, 19 forced fumbles and 19 fumble recoveries. He was also the leader of perhaps the greatest defense of all time, the 2000 Ravens, who defeated the Giants in the Super Bowl 34-7. Without a doubt, the ex-Hurricanes star is a Hall of Famer the first year he becomes eligible, as is his current Baltimore and ex-Miami teammate, Ed Reed. Lewis’ on-field performance, combined with his larger-than-life personality and passion for the Miami Hurricanes program, have made Lewis the gold standard for UM linebackers. For ‘Canes fans, and indeed for football fans everywhere, regardless of your rooting interest, Ray Lewis is, in a word, unforgettable, and the greatest pro to ever come out of the U.