OZZIE NEWSOME's legacy is unlike any the game of football has produced. Simply put, "The Wizard" will forever remain in a class of his own.
Flourishing at every point of his football career, Newsome has not just followed a successful path, he has blazed the trail. Known throughout all of sports as a premier leader, Newsome is a Hall of Fame player, the architect of Baltimore's Super Bowl XXXV and Super Bowl XLVII championship teams and an elite personnel evaluator who became the NFL's first African American general manager in 2002.
(In 2019, Newsome's longtime top lieutenant, Eric DeCosta, took over as the Ravens' EVP & GM. However, Newsome maintains a significant role within the organization as its executive vice president.)
"If Ozzie wasn't already in the Hall of Fame as a tight end, they would be putting him in as a general manager," Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian stated.
"Ozzie is special as a person," head coach John Harbaugh states. "Obviously, he's great at what he does – that's proven. He's been great at everything that he's done. If you look at his history, he's a Hall of Famer; he's in every Hall of Fame there is and still counting. For me, it goes beyond that; it goes to who he is as a person – the type of husband he is, the type of father he is, the type of friend he is, confidant, advisor, just all-around good person with a great heart and a strong faith."
Newsome's remarkable football journey began in Leighton, AL, where he first stepped onto the gridiron with the hope of playing college football. That dream turned into a reality when he became a standout at Alabama under Bear Bryant from 1974-77. "Coach Bryant helped me grow up," states Newsome, who has a sideline portrait of the legendary coach and mentor on his office wall. "He pushed me further than I thought I could go, both on and off the field."
In 1978, Cleveland selected Newsome in the first round (23rd overall) of the NFL Draft. Playing 13 years for the Browns, he authored the most productive career for a tight end in the game's history. A three-time Pro Bowler, his 662 receptions for 7,980 yards and 47 TDs stood as NFL records by a TE until Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe surpassed those marks in 2001 (HOFer Tony Gonzalez now owns the catches and receiving yards marks, while Antonio Gates holds the TDs record).
Following his storied playing days, Ozzie joined Cleveland's front office. His initial non-player position came as an assignment scout in 1991. Two years later, he was promoted to a comprehensive role – assistant to the head coach/offense/pro personnel. "I had to find out which direction my career would go," Newsome explains. "Art [Modell] gave me the opportunity to work with the coaches, and I enjoyed that. At the same time, I increased my experience with the personnel department and decided that's where I wanted my career to head."
In 1994, Newsome was named the Browns' director of pro personnel. Although he continued to help on the field, Ozzie provided detailed studies on other NFL players and recommended which players the Browns should try to acquire. When the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996, Mr. Modell invited Newsome and promoted him to vice president of player personnel. From that point, Ozzie's reputation as a supreme talent assessor grew quickly.
In the Ravens' first-ever draft, Newsome tabbed T Jonathan Ogden and LB Ray Lewis (fourth and 26th selections, respectively). Combining to produce an amazing 24 Pro Bowl honors, Ogden became the first Ravens' draft choice elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2013), while Lewis was enshrined in 2018. Fittingly, the duo joined Newsome, who was inducted into the Hall as a Brown in 1999.
Another top Newsome draft pick, S Ed Reed (2002), received a gold jacket in 2019, giving the Ravens three first-ballot Hall of Famers – all selected by "The Wizard."
Starting with Ogden and Lewis, Newsome consistently compiled impressive draft classes for the Ravens. In the team's first 23 drafts (1996-2018) – all led by Newsome – Baltimore tabbed 24 first-rounders who have earned a total of 66 Pro Bowl honors. And when the Ravens had a high pick, they didn't miss. Of the eight players chosen in the Top 10 by Baltimore, five (Ogden, OLB Peter Boulware, CB Chris McAlister, RB Jamal Lewis, the 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and OLB Terrell Suggs, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year) earned Pro Bowl accolades. Additionally, Baltimore picked in the bottom half of the first round with uncanny success: Lewis was twice named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year; TE Todd Heap (31st) went to two Pro Bowls as a Raven; Reed (24th) was chosen an All-Star nine times and earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004; QB Joe Flacco (18th) was named Super Bowl XLVII MVP, leading the Ravens to their second World Championship in 2012; LB C.J. Mosley (17th) became the first Ravens rookie to garner Pro Bowl honors following an exceptional 2014 season (and again in 2016-18); and QB Lamar Jackson (32nd) was named just the second-ever unanimous NFL MVP in 2019.
Amazingly, in the Ravens' brief history with Newsome at the helm, he drafted 25 players who earned Pro Bowl honors. When including 2006 Pro Bowl LB Bart Scott, Pro Bowl K Justin Tucker (2013, 2016 & 2019-21), Pro Bowl LS Morgan Cox (2015-16 & 2019-20) and Pro Bowl FB Patrick Ricard (2019-21), who signed as rookie free agents in 2002, 2012, 2010 and 2017, respectively, Baltimore produced 29 homegrown Pro Bowlers under Newsome's leadership.
In addition to his knack for evaluating talent on the field, Ozzie has also mastered the ability to develop and share insight with scouts who work under him. Over time, Newsome developed the Ravens' methodical and disciplined draft process, one that's foundation is laid years in advance. Now led by DeCosta, the "process" includes 31 members of the scouting department, but also has feedback from Ravens coaches. Much of Baltimore's staff has been with the team since the franchise started in 1996 or has graduated from the "20/20 Club," a group that consists of members who began with the Ravens as young assistants and grew into evaluators with more input. (The term "20/20" refers to hiring "20-year-olds for $20,000." "Actually, the guys started when they were a little older than 20 and for more than $20,000, but that's what we call them," Newsome adds.)
DeCosta and Newsome, who is on the NFL's Competition Committee and the NFL Player Care Foundation Board, encourage all scouts and coaches to have strong opinions, noting specifically that they want to hear what everyone in the room has to say. Because of this philosophy, one of the biggest strengths of the Ravens' personnel team is that "we respect and listen to each other."
"We've been fortunate to have guys who cut their teeth right here in Baltimore, and our methods and philosophies have become engrained," Newsome affirms. "We have had great guys with Phil Savage, 'Shack' [James Harris], George Kokinis, Eric DeCosta and other people who were helping these young scouts along the way. I think that's the secret. It's the way we do things, and the way these guys gravitate to the process of the Baltimore Ravens."
With leadership from Newsome, Baltimore also fosters an environment that breeds standout coaches. By bringing in individuals who embrace the "Raven Way," Baltimore creates a synergy that manufactures success among scouts, coaches and players. As a result, the Ravens have had many assistants move on to become or return as head coaches, both on the collegiate and NFL level: Jim Caldwell (Lions), David Culley (Texans), Jack Del Rio (Jaguars/Raiders), Vic Fangio (Broncos), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Thomas Hammock (Northern Illinois), Pat Hill (Fresno State), Hue Jackson (Raiders/Browns), Gary Kubiak (Broncos), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Eric Mangini (Browns/Jets), Rick Neuheisel (UCLA), Mike Nolan (49ers), Chuck Pagano (Colts), Mike Pettine (Browns), Rex Ryan (Jets/Bills), Jim Schwartz (Lions), David Shaw (Stanford), Mike Singletary (49ers), Mike Smith (Falcons) and Ken Whisenhunt (Cardinals/Titans).
"[Ravens] guys love to play the game, and those are the guys you surround yourself with," states Ryan, who worked with Newsome from 1999-2008. "That's why you have a chance to be successful [in Baltimore]."
NFL PLAYER: 1978-90: (with Cleveland) Newsome retired after 13 years as a premier NFL tight end…Entering 2022, his 662 receptions rank eighth most and his 7,980 receiving yards rank ninth most all time by a TE (each mark also stands as the most ever by any player in Browns history)…Newsome also caught 47 career TD passes, fourth most in Browns annals…Ended his career as the fourth-leading NFL receiver of all time…Earned three Pro Bowls (1981, 1984-85) and was a four-time winner of the Cleveland Touchdown Club's Offensive Player of the Year award (1978, 1981 and 1983-84)…His streak of 150-consecutive games played with a catch by a TE is the second longest in NFL history (Tony Gonzalez, 211)…Winner of the 1990 Byron "Whizzer" White Award as the NFL's top community volunteer…Newsome, who was named to the All-NFL team of the 1980's (second team), consistently received All-AFC and All-NFL honors throughout his career…He was a 1978 No. 1 draft choice (23rd overall), along with LB Clay Matthews (12th), and the two are among an elite group of Browns to play for three decades…The others are Gene Hickerson (1958-60, 62-73), Dick Schafrath (1959-71) and Don Cockroft (1968-80)…Until former Ravens TE Shannon Sharpe broke his records in 2001, Newsome's pro career was the most productive of any TE in NFL history…Was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999…Calvin Hill (Dal., Was. & Cle.), a close friend, introduced Newsome at the ceremony.
COLLEGE: Newsome graduated from Alabama with a degree in recreation administration…During his four-year career with the Crimson Tide, he posted 102 receptions for 2,070 yards and 16 TDs…Newsome also helped Alabama capture three SEC Championships…As a senior in 1977, he was named team captain and the Southeastern Conference's Lineman of the Year…Newsome also earned All-American honors at WR…He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (South Bend, IN) in 1994.
PERSONAL: Attended Colbert County (Leighton, AL) HS…Winner of the 1990 Byron "Whizzer" White Award as the NFL's top community volunteer, he is widely known for his willingness to help those in need…In 2021, in partnership with the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the NFL created the annual Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum...Also in 2021, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and his wife, Renee, honored Newsome by making a $4 million gift in his name to Maryland's four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)…Through The Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation, the $4 million donation created the Ozzie Newsome Scholars Program, which funds scholarships for Baltimore City Public Schools graduates who attend an HBCU in Maryland...In 2017, Newsome was honored with the Achievement in Professional & Educational Excellence (APEX) Award from the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management Honors Program at Morgan State University...In 2014, Newsome received the Leadership Award for career achievement at the John Mackey Awards banquet…In 2012, was honored with the Maxwell Football Club's Francis J. "Reds" Bagnell Award for outstanding contribution to the game of football…In 2007, along with Tony Dungy, Herm Edwards and Lovie Smith, Newsome received the Fritz Pollard Alliance's Johnnie Cochran Salute to Excellence Award, which honors African Americans in the NFL who make the biggest impact on the field and in the front office…Newsome was also honored with the award in 2009, 2011 and 2012…Additionally, in 2007, he received the FPA's Paul "Tank" Younger Award, acknowledging his dedication and achievement in building a successful organization…Newsome has gained induction into eight Halls of Fame: Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH (1999), National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame (1994), NCAA Hall of Fame (1994), State of Alabama Hall of Fame (1995), National High School Hall of Fame (2014), National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame (2014), Colbert County High School (Leighton, AL) Hometown Hall of Fame (2012) and Little League Baseball Hall of Fame (2008)…An avid golfer, Ozzie's dream foursome would include Bear Bryant, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and himself…Newsome and his wife, Gloria, live in Cockeysville, MD…Their son, Michael Ryan, graduated from Alabama.