Jonathan Ogden didn’t have to think hard to decide who would introduce him next weekend at his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Ozzie,” the former Ravens left tackle said Friday, referring to the team’s longtime general manager, Ozzie Newsome. “I chose Ozzie because he brought me into Baltimore. I respect him, and we worked well together. … It just made sense to me.”
The two mens’ legacies are deeply intertwined. Newsome, himself a Hall of Fame player, was still wet behind the ears as an executive when he ran the Ravens’ first draft in 1996. But he set the tone for a brilliant front office career by resisting pressure to take Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips with the No. 4 overall pick.
Instead, Newsome took Ogden, who rewarded his faith by becoming the signature left tackle of his generation. It didn’t hurt that Newsome also snagged linebacker Ray Lewis with the 26th pick that year.
The story came full circle in February, when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in Lewis’ last game, the day after Ogden learned he had made the Hall of Fame on his first try.
Ogden chuckled, reflecting on that weekend in New Orleans during a conference call with media members. “That was really just one of those things where you look at it and say, ‘This can’t really be happening,’” he said. “It could not have been a better weekend. … You get every few chances in life to say that.”
Ogden said he only wished that former Ravens owner Art Modell had been selected to the Hall of Fame with him.
He said he’s been working hard on his speech for the Aug. 3 induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio. “I’ve never really been a guy to stand up there and give a speech,” he said.
He never felt such dread on the field, where a combination of overwhelming talent and careful study led him to 11 Pro Bowls in 12 seasons with the Ravens.
“The smarter you are, the less hesitation you have,” he said. “And I always prided myself on never having hesitation.”
Ogden will be the first player drafted by the Ravens to enter the Hall of Fame. He said he didn’t think much about that prospect when he played but has come to enjoy his place in the team’s history.
“If I step outside,” he said of assessing his football life, “I say, ‘Wow man, that guy had it pretty good.’”