Graduating the "20/20" Club

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 They're called the "20/20" club. 20-something members of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome's staff with roughly $20,000 salaries, working as assistants and growing into more substantial roles like evaluators and scouts.

And in Joe Hortiz's case, into scouting directors.

Hortiz, a long-time assistant with the Ravens, was promoted to director of college scouting this past January after the departure of former director of pro personnel George Kokinis. The opening allowed some members of the Ravens organization to shift job titles, as Vincent Newsome took over Kokinis' position, and Hortiz's predecessor Eric DeCosta became director of player personnel.

That left an opportunity for Hortiz, one he was eager to take.

"It's been exciting, first and foremost." Hortiz said. "I've gotten a little more involved in the actual draft meetings, some of the day-today stuff and organization things. Just little tasks have changed [from last year]."

Hortiz has played an active role in helping the team prepare for the Draft since he joined the team in 1998 as a personnel assistant. He scouted the Northeast from 2001 to 2002 and Southeast from 2003 to 2005 before being promoted to national scout in 2006.

Hortiz's impact has been significant. In 2007, the Ravens' first round-selection Ben Grubbs (29th overall, Auburn) was taken out of Hortiz's focus area, and in 2008, 7 of the 10 players the Ravens selected where from the eastern half of the country, also Hortiz's primary focus.

This year, Hortiz's responsibilities have been more involving, however, as he has overseen all prospects.

"Last year I was just watching film on guys, just grading players. I didn't have to worry about answering my phone," Hortiz commented. "I think the biggest thing that's changed is now I'm getting e-mail and phone calls. That's probably been the biggest change for me."

The expectations will be high, not only given the Ravens' history of Draft success, but of successful personnel types making the big decisions.

"I do have big does to fill," noted Hortiz. "Phil [Savage, former director of player personnel] was very good at what he did, and Eric followed that up with even greater success. So there's a lot of pressure from that regard."

Hortiz credits his relationships with the coaches, as well as his long-standing friendship with DeCosta as a huge plus in helping him move up the ladder.

"It's been great to have him two offices down, where I can go in and ask him, bounce things off of him," he said.

Hortiz also credits Ozzie Newsome with helping him prepare for where he is today.

"He gave me the chance when I was 22 years old," Hortiz said. "The one thing Ozzie has always done since I've been here is allowed me to be me, to speak my mind. "He's there to correct us and guide us and give us his vision and his wisdom from his years in the league."

With the draft less than three weeks away, 12 months of work is coming to a head for Hortiz and the rest of the Ravens' personnel department. Hortiz has leaned on the current "20/20" club, consisting of Mark Azevedo, Ian Cunningham and David Blackburn, as much as he was leaned on early in his career. Hortiz recognizes more than ever how multiple voices ensure every decision is covered from all angles.

"It really helps you grow,"* *Hortiz said, referring to have DeCosta and Ozzie Newsome there to bring fresh takes on an issue. "I think it's helped me grow from a personnel system that Mark is in, and Ian and David, into where I am now. They give you the opportunities when they think you're ready, and then when they give you the opportunity, they show you they're confident in your ability.

"So I think that's where it helped me develop into where I am today."

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