By Gary Lambrecht
The Baltimore Sun
April 15, 1996
Jonathan Ogden was overly shy as a kid -- he once won a spelling bee while keeping his back to the audience -- and sometimes sensed others were gawking at his large physique. He has come a long way, although he still has trouble speaking in front of large groups.
On the football field, though, Ogden talks a little trash in the trenches, where he has done things that have left opponents demoralized and have rendered NFL scouts speechless.
"You have to turn yourself into a different person out there," said the normally mild-mannered Ogden. "You have to want to abuse the person you're playing against."
After heaping three seasons of abuse upon pass rushers and would-be tacklers at UCLA, Ogden is looking for another level to conquer. On Saturday, this year's Outland Trophy winner will be the first offensive lineman selected in the NFL draft.
The Arizona Cardinals, who own the third pick and had one of the worst lines in the league last year, are expected to take Ogden. The Ravens, who pick fourth, have more pressing needs -- running back and linebacker. But if Ogden unexpectedly became available, the Ravens would not necessarily pass on the draft's premier left tackle.
The Ogden package is too compelling. At 6 feet 8, 315 pounds, with an uncommonly strong upper body, long arms and quick feet, Ogden looks like a power forward. Sporting a 42-inch waist and wearing a size 16 shoe, he actually appears trim.
The Ogden blocking clinics draw rave reviews. As a run blocker, he regularly cleared paths for tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar -- also projected as a first-round pick -- and was outstanding at sprinting downfield to pick off a linebacker or defensive back. As a pass blocker, consider this: over his last two seasons, he did not allow a sack in UCLA's pro-style offense. Not one.
"All he did was substantiate everything I've heard about him," said Kirk Ferentz, the Ravens' assistant head coach who has studied Ogden on tape and spent an afternoon with him at the team's Owings Mills training complex last week.
Ferentz said if the Ravens were to land Ogden, they would move him to left guard, since the tackle positions are ably manned by veterans Tony Jones (left) and Orlando Brown (right). Ogden would become Baltimore's left tackle of the future.
"You have to remind yourself that this guy is 6-8 and weighs 315, while you're watching him do things with such ease, such fluid technique. He's got that rare combination of great athleticism and great size," Ferentz said.
"And the mental package? He's extremely intelligent. There's real substance there. There aren't a lot of question marks about him. We'd have to think long and hard before we passed on him."
Ogden, 21, said he would love to play for Baltimore. He knows the area well, having grown up in Washington, where he attended St. Albans, a private school.
His father is an investment banker who played football at Howard University. The two of them share a similar build -- Dad measures 6-6, 360 -- and a passion for food in general, crabmeat and shrimp in particular.
"I used to come up here to go fishing and crabbing all the time. That's where I got my love for seafood," said Ogden, who added he is not a voracious eater. "For my size, I eat an average three meals a day. A regular person might have two pieces of chicken. I'll have four."
Ogden was already an irregular 6-2, 270 by the ninth grade. At St. Albans, he quickly developed into a dominating right tackle. His football coach, also the school's track coach, introduced Ogden to a new interest -- the shot put.
By the time Ogden chose UCLA over about 100 other schools, he was trying to master both sports. As a junior, he placed fourth at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships with a toss of 61 feet, 1 inch. Earlier this year, he won the indoor title with a career-high effort of 63-8. He dreams about competing in the 2000 Olympics.
Before collecting football accolades as a Bruin, Ogden learned a little more about discipline by shedding 30 pounds from the flabby, 345-pound frame he carried as a true freshman. He still remembers being inspired to lose weight after Arizona State's Shante Carver (now with Dallas) beat him badly while collecting a sack.
"It was real intimidating," he said of his freshman year. "I wasn't questioning myself, but I was kind of in awe. Those big defensive linemen were so quick. By my sophomore year, I knew I could play in the pros."
By his junior year, Ogden was being mentioned as a first-round pick. He decided to stay for his senior season, a decision that soon figures to make him a multimillionaire because the NFL puts quite a premium on pass protection.
"Some linemen who are overly aggressive don't understand how to use their feet when they pass block. It's just one of those things I do well," he said. "I've driven guys backward [run blocking] for 10 yards and put them on their back. That's fun, too.
"People have said I don't look aggressive out there, but my primary goal isn't to put my man on the ground. That doesn't happen much in the NFL. I've seen pass rushers like Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas beat the best. My primary goal is to make my block and protect my quarterback."
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