Jamal Lewis (born August 26, 1979) is a former American football running back in the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens fifth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. He played college football at Tennessee. After spending his first seven seasons with the Ravens, Lewis signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2007 season and retired after the 2009 season.
Lewis is best known for his career as a Raven, where he contributed to the team winning Super Bowl XXXV as a rookie. Lewis is also known for his outstanding 2003 season, where he rushed for 2,066 yards (third-most all-time, behind Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson) and was named AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year. That same year, Lewis also rushed for 295 yards in one game, which was the single-game record until Adrian Peterson rushed for 296 yards in 2007 against the San Diego Chargers. Lewis was inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor on September 27, 2012.
Lewis attended Douglass High School in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a letterman in football and track. Lewis was rated as the top running back prospect in the nation by Super Prep. Prep Star rated him as the No. 2 southern RB. Lewis rushed for 25 touchdowns as a senior and earned AAAA All-State and All-City honors. He was named MVP of the Georgia-Florida All-Star Game, with 137 yards on 11 carries, for a 12.4 average, and two touchdowns. Lewis gained 1,923 yards and scored 28 touchdowns as a junior and 1,240 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore. In his three years as a starter, he rushed for a school-record 4,879 yards and 68 touchdowns, plus had a 9.7-yard average per carry. While at Douglass, Lewis converted from a fullback to the starting running back.
In track & field, Lewis was a standout sprinter. He got personal-best times of 10.84 seconds in the 100 meters and 22.04 seconds in the 200 meters. He was also a member of the 4 × 100 m (42.14s) relay squad.
As a freshman at Tennessee in 1997, Lewis rushed for 1,364 yards and seven touchdowns. For his efforts, he was named first team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News and second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press. In the 1997 season, quarterback Peyton Manning caught a 10-yard pass from Lewis in against Arkansas. In 1998, Lewis suffered a torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee and missed the rest of the season. In his three-year career at the University of Tennessee, Lewis rushed for 2,677 yards and accounted for 3,161 all-purpose. Lewis ranks fifth on the university's list of all-time rushers and fourth in all-purpose yards. He was an arts and science major while at the University of Tennessee.
Regarded as the best available tailback alongside Thomas Jones, Lewis was drafted in the first round with the fifth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. In his rookie season, he rushed for over 1,300 yards, supplanting Priest Holmes as the team's starting running back. On November 19, Lewis became the youngest player since 1960 to record 200 yards from scrimmage (21 years, 82 days). The Ravens' running game and punishing defense earned them their first World Championship when they defeated the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Lewis rushed for 103 yards and scored a touchdown in the game, becoming only the second rookie ever to rush for over 100 yards in a Super Bowl and the youngest player to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl (21).
Lewis missed his sophomore year due to a knee injury he sustained in training camp. Lewis's injury weakened the Ravens running game for much of the season.
In the 2003 season, Lewis led the NFL in rushing with 2,066 yards, falling just 40 yards short of officially breaking the all-time single season rushing record, which remains Eric Dickerson's 2,105 record-breaking yards in 1984. Lewis joined Dickerson, Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, and O. J. Simpson as the only backs in the 2,000 rushing yards club. In 2009, Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, would also surpass the 2,000-yard mark by rushing for 2,006 yards. In 2012, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings finished with 2,097 rushing yards, the second-most ever for a running back in a single season.
On September 14, 2003, Lewis broke Corey Dillon's single-game rushing record of 278 yards by running for 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Lewis was rewarded by being named NFL Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Lewis's single-game rushing record was later broken by Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings on November 4, 2007, when he ran for 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers.
After the 2005 season, the Ravens declined to place the franchise tag on Lewis, making him an unrestricted free agent after the end of the season. This move was seen by many as a formality in letting Lewis move to another team. Popular speculation blamed Lewis' steadily declining performance since the 2003 season. Lewis had also voiced displeasure during the 2005 season over the team's failure to sign him to a long term deal. Despite these events, the Ravens re-signed Lewis on Monday, March 13, 2006 with a three-year deal, despite having signed former Denver Broncos running back Mike Anderson, who was widely thought to be Lewis' replacement. On November 19, 2006, Lewis rushed for a season-high three touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons. He ended the season rushing for 1,132 yards and nine touchdowns. On February 28, 2007, the Ravens announced that they released Lewis. However, general manager Ozzie Newsome pointed out that they hoped to re-sign him but that changed on March 7, 2007, when Lewis signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns.
After joining the Browns, Lewis became the team's starting running back. Lewis had his first career 1,300+ yard season since 2003 in his first season with the Browns, rushing for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns.
On November 8, 2008, The Plain Dealer reported that Lewis was dissatisfied with the performance of his teammates in the Browns' recent loss to the Denver Broncos. Lewis stated, "This is the NFL, you can't call it quits until the game is over." Lewis went on to say "it looks to me like some people called it quits before that. Denver was down, but they didn't call it quits. They kept their heads up and they finished. We didn't do that two weeks in a row - at home." Without naming names, Lewis said: "Some people need to check their egos at the door and find some heart to come out here and play hard. This is a man's game. The way we went out there and played two weeks in a row, finishing the same kind of way, it's not there. I think there are some men around here that need to check theirselves, straight up. That's it." On November 2, 2009, Lewis announced he would retire after the 2009 season. Late in the 2009 season, Lewis was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. On February 17, 2010, the Browns released Lewis.
Lewis would not sign with another NFL team after his release from the Browns.
In February 2004, it surfaced that Lewis had been involved in talks about a drug deal. Lewis was charged with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine and using a cell phone in the commission of the first count. Lewis reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in October 2004 and ultimately, Lewis was sentenced in January 2005 to four months in federal prison. He was released on August 2, 2005.
In January 2015, Lewis began working as the Vice President of Business and Development for Metro Exhibits, a trade show exhibits company.
On February 8, 2015, a championship ring from Super Bowl XLVII that Lewis had owned was sold at auction for more than $50,000. Lewis had received the ring from Baltimore Ravens owner Stephen Bisciotti in honor of his status as one of the all-time great Ravens players. According to the Ravens organization, Lewis sold the ring due to financial difficulties.
A 2018 Bleacher Report profile detailed Lewis' post-NFL life, noting that he suffers from the post-traumatic effects of concussions. He is currently the President of Southeast Exhibits and Metro Retail Solutions for Metro Exhibits.