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Jonathan Ogden, 'The Poster Child,' Goes Into HOF

Posted Aug 2, 2013

The first draft pick in franchise history becomes the first home-grown Raven to be enshrined.

Ozzie Newsome still remembers the first time he saw Jonathan Ogden on tape.

Newsome was watching some college film on another UCLA prospect, but his eyes kept shifting to the massive left tackle dominating his opponents.

“Who is that guy?” Newsome asked back in 1995.

 “That guy was Jonathan Ogden.”

Newsome eventually made Ogden the first draft pick in Ravens history, taking him No. 4 overall in the 1996 draft. Ogden went on to become a pillar in the success of the Ravens franchise, and arguably the best left tackle to ever play the game.

Ogden will be honored this weekend in Canton, Ohio as he becomes the first home-grown Raven to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"It's going to be a surreal feeling,” Ogden said. “It will be one of the best moments of my life."

Ogden’s enshrinement represents an iconic milestone in the 17-year history of the franchise. The Ravens have seen former players enter the hall – Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe – but Ogden is the Ravens’ first draft pick to get a bust in Canton.

“The foundation of this franchise stands on the shoulders of Jonathan as well as Ray [Lewis],” Newsome said. “But, Jonathan was first.”

During Ogden’s 12-year career with the Ravens, he established the kind of dominance rarely seen on the football field. He earned 11 Pro Bowl selections and was the cornerstone of the offensive line for more than a decade.

He played one of the most important positions in sports, and when Ogden was in Baltimore, the Ravens never worried about the quarterback’s blindside.

“There are a lot of great offensive linemen, and there are a lot of great players who are in the Hall of Fame that are very deserving,” Newsome said. “But I don’t know if there’s anybody who played the position any better than Jonathan Ogden did.”

Ogden was a natural.

At 6-foot-9, 345 pounds, Ogden had the rare blend of size and speed that NFL scouts dream about. He could punish defensive ends as a run blocker, stand them up in pass coverage and run with linebackers as a lead blocker down the field.

“That’s the poster child,” Newsome said.

“Jonathan made it look so easy. I don’t know if he even had to sweat half the time when he was out there playing. He played against some very competitive people. He made the game look so easy with the way he played it.”

Ogden’s physical gifts are the easiest and most-glaring attributes to credit for his success.

But he was an incredibly intelligent player, and his coaches and teammates marveled at the understanding Ogden had for the game. His preparation was well-known, and he had a knack for watching film and studying his opponents.

Throughout his career, he carried a notebook with him that had notes on opponents, and their strengths or weaknesses. He had pages for pass rushers like Jevon Kearse and Simeon Rice, and he would refer to that notebook whenever the Ravens would face a player he’d seen previously.

“The smarter you are, the less hesitation you have in what you’re going to do, the better football player you’re going to be,” Ogden said. “I always prided myself on never hesitating, because I always knew my assignment.”

Ogden retired from football in 2007. A toe injury hindered him during his final season, and he decided that he had nothing left to prove.

“If it wasn’t for the toe, Jonathan could have probably played another four or five years,” Newsome said. “But he decided to walk away from the game.”

Ogden left the game quietly, just like the way he played it.

That is part of Ogden’s nature.

He was never one to make himself the center of attention and prefers to stay in the background. Ogden would rather his teammates take center stage, and despite his massive presence, Ogden had an uncanny ability to keep himself out of the spotlight. 

“Jonathan did his job so well you didn’t even know he was on the field,” Newsome said. “The way he carried himself as a player, you didn’t even know he was on the team. I just think of Jonathan as someone who was just silence – nothing. When he was playing, when he was living in this community, you never heard anything about it. You just got a chance to see how effective he was.” 

Even in reflecting on his Hall of Fame career, Ogden is humble in his assessment.

“My career was really solid,” Ogden said. “The one thing that I can say about my career was how I played really consistent football.”

Newsome will present Ogden during Saturday night’s enshrinement ceremony. It will be one Hall of Famer welcoming in another, and Ogden said that the decision to have Newsome present him “just kind of made sense.”

“He brought me to Baltimore,” Ogden said.

The ceremony will be a culmination of that very first Ravens draft, where picking Ogden proved to be a watershed decision in shaping the course of the franchise. Ogden has not revealed many of the details that he plans to use in his speech, but said that this moment is one he wants to celebrate with the fans of Baltimore.

“This moment isn’t really – it’s for me, yes, but it’s for the fans,” Ogden said. “I played the game because we have such tremendous fans, and that’s why we play so hard out there. And just to get the opportunity to be amongst them, and just to thank them for the years of support, I’m really looking forward to it.”

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