The journey from that January night in 2000, when Lewis got caught up in an altercation outside a club in Atlanta that left two young men dead and was arraigned (and publicly convicted) on murder charges that were later dropped, to this moment of league-wide respect and reverence defies logic in so many ways.
Aside from the leadership role so often attributed to him, Lewis is praised by younger players because he can tell them, first-hand, what can happen when young men make bad decisions. It’s no accident that you rarely hear about off-the-field incidents with Ravens players. Chances are that Lewis has scared them straight.
Those long-ago moments, both good and bad, will echo when the Ravens and 49ers run out of that Superdome tunnel on Sunday, the hype over and the contest at hand. Great stories, beyond those coaches named John and Jim, abound, and one way or another, they will find completion on the biggest stage in American sports.