"What a gentleman he was!" said Donna Allanson, whose husband, Dick, was the school's football coach. "I can still see Jonathan helping to make cucumber sandwiches for a tea I was giving. There he was [at 6-8], standing in a kitchen with a 7-foot ceiling, trimming the crusts off those little sandwiches and cutting them into rounds.

"He was so sweet."

Ogden's dexterity was remarkable for someone his size, said Tom Soles, who taught art at St. Albans.

"He could be so precise and delicate with his hands, which were the biggest I've ever seen," Soles said. "A lot of big guys have problems with their motor skills. Not Jonathan.

"He loved making pottery, spinning a lump of clay on a potter's wheel and manipulating it into form. Most kids would use 10 pounds of clay, but Jonathan is the only guy I know who had the sheer strength to center 50 pounds of clay on that wheel and spin it into a symmetrical pot."

One of Ogden's pots still sits in the headmaster's office at St. Albans. Likewise, the white art smock he wore - specially made for his 60-inch chest - hung for years on a wall in Soles' classroom.

"Kids would look at it with their mouths open and say, `Is that Jonathan Ogden's smock?'" said Soles. "It was bigger than those worn by guys working in meat lockers."

Big in sports, school

Football came easily to Ogden once he found his niche. In eighth grade, he tried out for place-kicker. That experiment failed, said teammate Scott Allanson, his holder.

"His big foot hit the ball. It also broke my hand," said Allanson, the coach's son.

Ogden remained a lineman.

"He was a gentle giant," Dick Allanson said. All three of the Ogden menfolk weighed 300 pounds or more. On rainy game days, the coach said, it was amusing to see Ogden's father, Shirrel, and brother, Marques, huddled under a massive, patio-sized umbrella, rooting St. Albans on.

Ogden thrived on the field and in class. As a senior in 1991, he was named All-Met Offensive Player of the Year by The Washington Post. He earned a 3.0 grade point average and a respectable 1,180 (of 1,600) on his SAT.

In the high school yearbook, The Albanian, Ogden listed his likes and dislikes. The good: free periods, friends, family and food. The bad: loud rock music, losing, college recruiters and being "pompous."

"Jonathan has always surrounded himself with good people," said Jeremy Akers, who has known him for 20 years. "He doesn't keep fake friends just to feed his ego."

"Oggie" was not above a few hijinks at school. During track workouts, he and Akers routinely went off behind an old equipment shed to practice the shot and discus.

"Nobody could see us there," Akers said, "so Jonathan and I decided to sneak in a barbecue grill so we could eat hamburgers while the other guys practiced."

Ogden developed a playful streak in high school, Soles said:

"He would come up behind you, put his big hand on your head and wrap those fingers around your eyes and ears like you were a football. And if he was really rambunctious, he'd give you a bear hug from behind and lift you like a feather."

Ogden hasn't changed, Soles said. Several years ago, the teacher was ambushed at a St. Albans homecoming game by the Ravens offensive tackle.