Is there any better ending to a Hall of Fame career than winning the Super Bowl in your last game?
The long and short of it is a resounding “no.”
For nearly every football player in the history of the NFL, the end of their career came not at the time of their choosing, no, fate decided their days of battle on the gridiron were done.
But, a select few were able to reach the NFL championship game, and even fewer were able to end their careers as champions.
According the ESPN Stats and Information, only eight of the game's greats have done so. Here's a quick look at each:
Graham is the only one on the list that competed before the Super Bowl era, but he earns the recognition for winning back-to-back NFL Championships before retiring in 1955. In fact, he retired originally in 1954, but was persuaded to come back, winning not only the championship but the NFL MVP in 1955 as well.
Renfro won Super Bowl XII with the Dallas Cowboys over the Denver Broncos in 1977 after playing all 14 seasons with Dallas.
The year after Renfro's win, Smith ended his career with a Super Bowl loss in 1978 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. His wide open touchdown drop in the game is one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history.
Grimm played his entire 11-year career with the Washington Redskins, winning four Super Bowls, including his final one in 1991 over the Buffalo Bills.
Zimmerman is a Hall-of-Famer that played for both the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos. He was a five-time All-Pro tackle, and after 12 years in the NFL, won his first and last Super Bowl in 1997 when Denver defeated Green Bay 31-24.
John Elway was on that 1997 team with Zimmerman, but the Duke of Denver hung around for one more season and was the winner of back-to-back Super Bowls (XXXII, XXXIII) before retiring in May of 1999. Elway is the only quarterback in NFL history to start five Super Bowls, and the only player to retire immediately after two straight victories.
“The Bus” was a big, beastly back that ran over would-be tacklers with ease for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, he always seemed to have fun while on the football field, and after hanging around for 13 seasons, he was finally a champion following 2005's Super Bowl XL.
Strahan was a special pass-rusher for the New York Giants, and he was a big reason why they were Super Bowl winners in 2007. He racked up an amazing 14.5 sacks in his 14th season, and had one on Tom Brady in SB XLIII.
How can you top riding off into the sunset following an NFL championship?
You can't, and that's exactly the opportunity Lewis has in 11 days from now.
Super Bowl XLVII kicks off at 4:30 p.m. MT on Sunday, February 3. The game can be seen on CBS.