By Childs Walker and Mike Klingaman,
The Baltimore Sun
10:56 PM EDT, July 31, 2013
When Ozzie Newsome reflects on the remarkable exploits of Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens general manager thinks first of silence.
You have to be awfully good at your job to avoid the barbed scrutiny of NFL fans and analysts. You have to be an awfully decent citizen to avoid off-field headlines if you're the 6-foot-9, 345-pound star of an NFL franchise.
So for Newsome, the greatest testament to Ogden is the lack of noise the Ravens tackle generated while playing so brilliantly.
Ogden, the first player drafted by the Ravens after the team moved to Baltimore from Cleveland and the pre-eminent offensive lineman of his generation, will spend a rare moment in the spotlight Saturday when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mellow as he was massive, Ogden paired with linebacker Ray Lewis to form the foundation of the Ravens' first Super Bowl winner in 2001. Though he won't be the first former Raven to enter the Hall in Canton, Ohio, Ogden will be the first who played his whole career in Baltimore.
"The foundation of this franchise stands on the shoulders of Jonathan as well as Ray," said Newsome, who drafted both. "But Jonathan was first."
Ogden offered a cool contrast to the fiery Lewis, often perceived by the public as the face of the Ravens' franchise. The great lineman was more apt to bury his head in a novel than bark an inspirational speech at teammates. Unlike Lewis, Ogden was never a polarizing figure nationally. If fans in other cities thought of him at all, it was about his string of 11 Pro Bowl appearances.
Though he was as smart and charming as any Raven, Ogden did not entirely fit with an NFL generation defined by bling and braggadocio. He was happy to wear the same T-shirt for three days and to steer far from the latest debate on ESPN.
Ogden recently summed up his career in typical ho-hum fashion: "I just want to be remembered as the guy who was dependable, who was a good teammate, who didn't go out there and make silly mistakes, you knew he was going to be there game-in game-out, day-in day-out, had his teammates back out there."
He was a little more than that.
On the field, Ogden was as great and confident as any player in franchise history. He mastered left tackle, a position that steadily gained importance as passing became the NFL's dominant form of attack. As the chief protector of his quarterback's blind side, Ogden was almost offended if he allowed even one sack in a given season.
"It would be an understatement to say playing behind him was a good feeling," said Trent Dilfer, quarterback of the 2000 championship team. "He wanted all the big runs to go in his direction. He wanted the responsibility of going one-on-one with the best defensive ends."
Ogden was so good for so long that despite his modest star power, many Hall of Fame voters described him as a "lock" for induction when his name hit the ballot. That was exactly how it played out when the selectors gathered to pick this year's class, the day before the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
Though debate raged over players such as Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan, no one blinked when Ogden's name was announced.
On Friday evening in Canton, Ogden will receive the gold jacket reserved for Hall of Famers. The next night, he will be introduced by Newsome and will give his valedictory address on a 12-year career.
Ogden isn't much of a speechmaker and said he's been "dreading" the experience. But the induction has prompted a period of reflection — on his late father who helped him develop personal standards, on his bond with the Ravens franchise and its fans, on the coaches who taught him football.
"When I do step outside of myself and look at it," he said, "it's like, 'Wow, that guy — he had it pretty good.'"
'Nobody could handle him'
Ogden was born in Washington, D.C., to distinguished parents. His father, Shirrel, was an investment banker who'd played football as a 300-pound tackle at Howard University. His mother, Cassandra, a Georgetown-trained attorney, runs a nonprofit that prepares low-income students for law school.
Though hardly a giant at birth (8 pounds, 14 ounces), Ogden grew quickly. Denied a spot in rec football because of his size, Ogden settled for karate lessons and pickup games with friends in the back yard.
His parents pegged their oldest son for medical school.
"Our focus with Jonathan was always academic," his mother said. "The odds of becoming a professional athlete are so low that we thought the odds of him becoming a renowned surgeon were much better."
Disappointed, she is not.
"Based on what he was given — determination, focus, and a belief in himself — he ended up being what he needed to be," Cassandra Ogden said.
Ogden first suited up at St. Albans, an Episcopal boys school where he enrolled in seventh grade. There, among affluent kids named (Charles) Rockefeller and (David) Marriott, the one dubbed "Oggie Doggie" fit right in.
"Even then, he was a gentle giant, always smiling to put people at ease about his size," said teammate Jeremy Akers, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound lineman and longtime friend. "We hung out together because it was good for both of us to have someone whom you could look right in the eye."
Ogden seldom disobeyed his father, with whom he and his brother Marques lived following their parents' divorce when Jonathan was 13.
"If we went to the mall, JO always had to find a pay phone to check in," Akers said. "His dad loved him unconditionally, but he was a stern guy and I don't think JO ever tested him."
Ogden said he modeled himself after Shirrel. "He wasn't one of those parents who made me do it," he recalled. "But he kind of always had that encouraging word for me about just trying to stick in there, just keep your chin up. Times get tough, especially when you're young. You're a young man starting in the game, and you don't know if you really love it. He kind of kept me going on that path."
He said his father, who died in 2006 from complications related to heart surgery, would have cherished the Hall of Fame induction.
At St. Albans, Ogden played offensive tackle and anchored a football team not known for its prowess. In fact, the school had to scramble to find headgear his size.
"He missed a couple of days of practice waiting for the special helmet they'd ordered," Akers said.
It worked out. As a senior in 1991, the Washington Post named Ogden All-Met Offensive Player of the Year.
"Nobody could handle him," said his coach, Dick Allanson. "The first time I saw him, I knew he'd be a Hall of Famer. A lot of kids that size have big butts and bellies, but Jonathan was such an athlete."
Ogden moved his size-16 feet like a player half his weight and stifled defenders with quick hands, developed under the eye of his grandfather, a boxing trainer.
Ogden's intelligence — he scored 1,180 on his college boards — paid off on the field, said Scott Allanson, a guard who played beside him.
"He was smart about stuff like leverage and angles, and good at studying opponents and knowing what they'd do," said Allanson, the coach's son.
Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue remembers walking into the Ogden home for a recruiting visit. He had been briefed by an assistant on Ogden's size. "But I was just struck by how massive he really was," Donahue recalled. "He was very imposing. Then as a person, how reserved and gentle he was, how serious he was about school and football."
Wooed by many, Ogden chose UCLA for track and field, football and the lovely Southern California climate. There, he became the first athlete to win both the Outland Trophy, as college's top interior lineman, and an NCAA shot put title.
"After his freshman year, football people suggested he give up track and focus on becoming a legend in football," said Art Venegas, then UCLA's track and field coach. "Jonathan tore into them and said he'd never bail out because he'd given me his word.
"He had to work harder [at shot put] than football to be a champion, and he welcomed that. I urged him to drop 75 pounds as a freshman and called him a slob and a giant oaf. He did it. He loves challenges; there's no speed bump too big."
Ogden was peerless as a college lineman — "It was just hard to imagine anyone had anybody better," Donahue said — and that reflected in NFL draft projections.
'What it took to be a Raven'
The Ravens, picking fourth in the 1996 draft, did not expect Ogden to be available. But when the Arizona Cardinals surprised everyone by selecting defensive end Simeon Rice at No. 3, the Ravens' braintrust faced a moment of truth.
Owner Art Modell wanted to rebuild around a star playmaker, namely troubled Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips. Newsome, running his first draft, had Ogden ranked higher.
Newsome stuck to his guns and not only got the better player but set a precedent for the intelligent drafting that would define the franchise.
"When I got that call, I was a little bit in shock," Ogden remembered. "Because one, I wasn't expecting to go to Baltimore and two, I didn't really know what to expect with Baltimore. After I talked to Ozzie and I talked to Mr. Modell, and I got an idea of what their plans were for Baltimore, I got excited after that."
Ogden wasted little time making the Ravens feel good about their choice. From the way he glided across the turf at well beyond 300 pounds to the meticulous notebook he kept on opposing pass rushers, he exceeded every expectation.
"When he got to camp as a rookie, he might have made a handful of mistakes," said Ogden's first line coach, Kirk Ferentz. "But he pretty quickly got to the point where if you asked him anything, he had the answer and more. I can't take any credit. My sister could have coached him."
Ogden was an uncommon personality in the locker room, said former Ravens center Mike Flynn, who became one of his closest friends in football. An avid reader, he could turn any argument on its head, whether the subject was football, current events or last night's television lineup.
On the field, Ogden seemed to flip a switch and become every bit as ornery as the more demonstrative Lewis, who was also selected by the Ravens in the first round of the 1996 NFL draft. Flynn remembers an epic tantrum during which Ogden threw his helmet from the bench almost to midfield. Dilfer remembers the 6-foot-9 tackle peering down and berating him as television cameras rolled during the AFC championship.
In all of these stories there is a note of awe, a sense that these very large, very gifted men saw in Ogden a level of talent remote even from them.
"It took me about 10 minutes to recognize that he was a different animal," Flynn said. "Everything came more easily to him."
And so it remained throughout Ogden's career, which ended after the 2007 season because he no longer wanted to play through a debilitating toe injury.
He lives a quiet life now, chasing his 8-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter around his home in Las Vegas, coming to Baltimore regularly to do radio work and nurse his foundation, which supports several city schools and recreation centers.
Few current Ravens know him well, but he remains an important symbol for the franchise.
"To be able to have someone like that, and then if you combine that with Ray, anytime a player walked into that locker room for the first 12 years, they saw what it took to be a Raven," Newsome said. "Jonathan was a big part of that because of the way he practiced, the way he prepared and the way he carried himself off the field."
Hall of Fame schedule
All events located in Canton, Ohio
Friday: Enshrinees' Gold Jacket Dinner, 5:15 p.m., Memorial Civic Center and Cultural Center
Saturday: Enshrinement, 7 p.m., Fawcett Stadium (ESPN2)
Sunday: Hall of Fame Game — Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins, 8 p.m., Fawcett Stadium (NBC)
Jonathan Ogden bio
Born: July 31, 1974, in Washington, D.C.
High school: St. Albans
Drafted: By Ravens, fourth overall in 1996
Career highlights: An 11-time Pro Bowler (1997-2007) who ranks third in games played by a Raven (177) and second in games started (176). ... 10-time All-Pro (1996-2004, 2006). ... Super Bowl XXXV champion (2000). ... Helped Jamal Lewis set a franchise record with 2,066 rushing yards in 2003, the third-most single-season rushing yards in NFL history.
Other Ravens Hall of Famers
Jonathan Ogden will become the first player who spent his entire career with the Ravens to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Here's a list of other Hall of Famers who suited up for the Ravens (years in Baltimore included).
Deion Sanders (2004-05)
Shannon Sharpe (2000-01)
Rod Woodson (1998-2001)
Ogden career timeline
April 20, 1996 — Instead of addressing the need for a running back, the Ravens draft UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden over troubled Lawrence Phillips. Ogden, the first pick in franchise history, wears a black-and-white Ravens cap because the team didn't have official colors or a logo.
Sept. 1, 1996 — Because the Ravens start Tony Jones at left tackle, Ogden plays his entire rookie season at left guard. In his first NFL game, Ogden battles the Oakland Raiders' 300-pounders Chester McGlockton, Nolan Harrison and Jerry Ball. "I probably didn't perform as high as my expectations," Ogden says. "But I'll take a win without giving up any sacks."
Aug. 31, 1997 — After the Ravens trade Jones, Ogden returns to his natural position at left tackle. He makes his first start there in a 28-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Dec. 11, 1997 — Ogden receives his first Pro Bowl invitation after his first season as a starting left tackle.
Aug. 28, 2000 — The Ravens make Ogden the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history, signing him to a six-year, $44 million extension that includes a $12 million signing bonus.
Jan. 28, 2001 — Ogden wins the only Super Bowl of his career, as the Ravens rout the New York Giants, 34-7.
Sept. 14, 2003 — Ogden helps pave the way for Jamal Lewis to rush for a then-NFL record 295 yards against the Cleveland Browns. "That really was kind of like a college day," Ogden says. "Just to be part of it was spectacular. This is as close as we linemen get to the record books."
Dec. 19, 2004 — In perhaps his worst NFL game, Ogden allows Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney to beat him off the edge in a 20-10 loss. Freeney records two sacks and other pressures.
Dec. 17, 2006 — During the Ravens' stretch run for the AFC North title, Ogden hyperextends the big toe on his left foot in a 27-17 win against the Browns. He would miss the final two regular-season games.
Jan. 13, 2007 — Even though Ogden isn't at full strength because of turf toe, he limits Freeney to no tackles and one quarterback hit in a 15-6 playoff loss to Indianapolis. It is vindication for Ogden, who has had trouble with Freeney.
Jan. 14, 2007 — Ogden reveals for the first time there is a "possibility" he might retire. He hobbles out of the locker room because of the toe injury.
April 26, 2007 — Ogden decides to return for another season.
Sept. 10, 2007 — Ogden aggravates the toe injury early in the second quarter of the season-opening loss in Cincinnati. He is inactive for the next five games.
Dec. 28, 2007 — Ogden is elected to his 11th and final Pro Bowl. "Even though I was hurt ... I gave it everything I had," Ogden says. "Even after all these years, the validation this honor carries means a lot to me."
Dec. 30, 2007 — His final game - a 27-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.
June 11, 2008 — Ogden tells the Ravens he is retiring after 12 seasons.
Feb. 2, 2013 — Ogden is voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Saturday — The induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
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