Of all jersey numbers worn by each player, many numbers have been worn by Ravens’ greats. Even current players are living up to the play of past players who wore the same number.
For some numbers, it’s tough to decide which player wore which number best. I needed some help, so I gave the Baltimore Beatdown team a series of numbers worn by accomplished Ravens players and asked them to think about which player pops into their head when they see a certain number. Here’s what they gave me:
No. 95 is Jarret Johnson. In so many ways, he fits the profile of a quintessential Raven, even from the start of his career: (1) Drafted by Ozzie Newsome out of Alabama, (2) selected in the 4th round at great value, (3) developed into an excellent linebacker, like so many others at that position here, (4) went on to play an integral part to a defense between 2003-2011 that helped define the identity of the Baltimore Ravens franchise, (5) his coming back to the organization as a broadcaster is reflective of the family tradition the Ravens are known for around the league, (6) by no means at any Ripken-type level, but Baltimore appreciates a consistent competitor — Johnson was a record setter at an extremely physical position, and played in 129 straight regular season games, including 80 straight starts. I only wish he could’ve been with the team for 2012’s Super Bowl run.
Every time I see No. 52 my brain says “Ray Lewis.” Growing up 40 minutes outside of M&T Bank Stadoum, I played PeeWee for the Hampstead Ravens and refused to play any other position besides linebacker. If No. 52 wasn’t available, I got the closest number. Growing up without a father figure in my life, I saw many interviews of Ray Lewis speaking about how he grew up the same way. His attitude and way of finding strength from the situation gave me strength. I was fortunate enough to see Ray’s last ride, going to the Wild Card game against Indy, then seeing the Super Bowl in New Orleans. When I see No. 52, I see Ray Lewis.
I associate No. 21 with Chris McAlister. Deion Sanders popularized the number for defensive backs and several Ravens have worn No. 21, including Lardarius Webb. Nonetheless, C-Mac is the best cornerback in Ravens team history. A two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler with 26 interceptions and seven touchdowns on his resume, McAlister was one of the top cover men of his generation. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were the leaders of the Ravens during McAlister’s 10-year tenure in Baltimore, but those defenses would not have been as effective without No. 21 locking down number one wideouts on a weekly basis.
No. 44 is a number worn by many great players. Though only for one season so far, Marlon Humphrey is already one of the best players in Ravens history to wear No. 44. Before Humphrey, arguably one of the best fullbacks in the NFL at the moment in Kyle Juszczyk also wore No. 44. However, the one player that comes to mind when I see No. 44 is Vonta Leach. Leach recently retired as a Raven after a 10-year career in the NFL, three of which with the Ravens.
There aren't many players that impacted the Ravens offense as like Leach. He was a tremendous run blocker and always paved the way for big gains by Ray Rice. Leach was an instrumental piece to the Ravens Super Bowl run in 2012 and will forever be remembered as the nasty run blocker whose play led to chunk yardage, played with a mean streak, and always willingly bucked heads in all facets of the game. In my opinion, Vonta Leach is No. 44.
The No. 90 has been a hotbed for the emergence of star pass-rushers for the Ravens. Notable players to wear No. 90 include Trevor Pryce and Pernell McPhee (who was recently re-signed). Both players were dominant presences during their time as Ravens, but the one player who stands out when I see No. 90 is Za’Darius Smith. The current Green Bay Packers pass-rusher was one of the main contributors to a dominant defense during Lamar Jackson’s first playoff run. Smith piled up 8.5 sacks, 10 TFL and 25 QB hits. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Smith ventured elsewhere, signing a lucrative deal with the Packers where he had a career year in 2019. Although Smith’s tenure as a Raven failed to last beyond his rookie contract, he was a contributor year after year up to the point where he'd take over games in his final season as a Raven.
Mark Andrews is the current holder of No. 89 and will be for the foreseeable future. Steve Smith Sr. was the last Ravens great to wear No. 89. When the Ravens signed Smith, not only was I ecstatic, but he became the immediate favorite target of Joe Flacco. However, No. 89 was Smith’s number during his whole career, so I can’t put him as the owner of the jersey.
The player that comes to mind when I hear No. 89 is Mark Clayton. I’m sure it irks some of you to see this but hear me out. Before the emergence of Joe Flacco as the team's franchise QB, 2005-2007 were rough years for the Ravens. Mark Clayton, a first-round draft pick, was a speedy receiver from Oklahoma that the Ravens thought would be an impact player for a long time. Clayton never lived up to the expectations and never even cracked 1,000 receiving yards In a season. Clayton played out all five years of his rookie contract was out of the league three years later. I feel that during Clayton’s tenure as a Raven, he was given every opportunity to succeed, but he never could. Let’s just say Clayton owns No. 89 for the wrong reasons.
Todd Heap immediately comes to mind with this number. Heap came into the league as a first-round draft pick and lived up to the bill and then some. Heap quickly became the Ravens’ franchise tight end starting in 2001. He was instrumental for the early development of Flacco and was relied upon to be a veteran leader of the offense. Heap solidified himself as a Ravens legend by being inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2014.
Another player that could be considered for No. 86 is current Raven Nick Boyle. Boyle is essential to the Ravens’ offense by being a chain mover and a dominant blocker. Although Heap was more of a complete tight end at this point in Boyle’s career, Eric DeCosta understands Boyle’s value to the offense. His recent extension points towards him being a Raven for a long time. No. 86 is Heap’s number as of now, but if Boyle continues his stellar play, the true owner of No. 86 may be subject to debate years down the road.