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As NFL free agency grabs headlines this week, ESPN made official the news that Super Bowl-winning linebacker Ray Lewis is joining its team as a pro football analyst.
The move had been rumored for months, ever since Lewis announced that the 2012 NFL season would be his last as a player. Lewis, 37, is a 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker who spent his entire NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens, joining the team in 1996.
The Ravens also won Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, and Lewis was named the game’s most valuable player. But ESPN’s parent company, Disney, didn’t hire him that year for its iconic postgame “I’m going to Disney World” TV commercial, likely because he had been linked to a double murder the year earlier. Lewis pleaded guilty in that case to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and received 12 months’ probation.
The flamboyant player since has earned legions of fans with his signature pregame dancing and his ability to inspire teammates. Lewis also is known for being one of the more outwardly religious players, consistently invoking God during interviews with the press. Off the field, he is a motivational speaker and raises money for charity.
“I’m ready to bring the same level of passion to this next phase of my life as I brought to the field during my years as a player,” Lewis said.
Lewis made a guest appearance on ESPN’s NFL Live last season and had guest roles in 2007 as well.
With his new gig, Lewis is expected to appear on Monday Night Countdown, Sunday Night Countdown and SportsCenter, and he’ll contribute to the network’s Super Bowl coverage. He’ll travel to the site of each Monday Night Football game and offer analysis alongside Steve Young, Stuart Scott and former teammate Trent Dilfer, who delivered the “I’m going to Disney World” line after the 2001 Super Bowl.
Lewis will start with ESPN on Aug. 1. He also is expected to make weekly appearances on the ESPN Radio show Mike and Mike in the Morning and will host TV specials.
Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.
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