Standing 6’9″ tall and weighing more than 350 pounds, Jonathan Ogden was a man big enough and talented enough for a franchise to build a foundation upon. Ogden is the first Raven who played his entire career in the familiar purple and has gone on to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
For 12 seasons, all with the Ravens, Ogden protected quarterbacks from oncoming pass-rushers and cleared the way for running backs. Fierce but no frills, just hard work. Jonathan Ogden is a mountain of a man, a mountain representing both his stature and his achievements.
Ogden was born in Washington DC. He received his education at St. Albans School in Washington, excelling not only in football, but also in track and field, achieving All-American in both sports. He decided to attend UCLA rather than the University of Florida because UCLA would allow him to play at both sports. He won the 1996 NCAA indoor track title in the shot put. Ogden had an outstanding career with the UCLA Bruins football team as well, starting as left tackle for four years. In 23 games during his junior and senior years, he allowed just two sacks. In 1995, Ogden received the Outland Trophy and the Morris Trophy, was the UPI Lineman of the Year, and was a unanimous first-team All-American. Ogden’s father, an investment banker, told his son to accept UCLA’s decision to move him from right to left tackle. The decision was a wise one, as he would be the premier offensive tackle going into the NFL draft.
“I can probably say it this way: If we don’t pick Jonathan Ogden with that first pick I probably wouldn’t have this job,” said Ravens General Manger Ozzie Newsome.
GM Ozzie Newsome still has his job, and the Ravens won their first Super Bowl with Jon Ogden anchoring the left side of the offensive line, as one of the best the game has ever seen.
It’s a fitting reward for the original Raven. Jonathan Ogden was the first player drafted by the team–now he’s the first full-time Raven elected to the Hall of Fame. He was the Baltimore Raven’s first ever drafted player, the fourth pick of the first round of the NFL 1996 draft. He went on to play for 12 seasons as an NFL offensive tackle.
He was named a nine-time All-Pro and an eleven-time Pro Bowler at left tackle, earning trips to Hawaii in every season except his rookie year. During his career, Ogden caught two passes — both for one yard and both for touchdowns. He also recovered 7 fumbles, and recorded 10 tackles. And he was a happy man, he was always captured in photos with that recognizable smile. “He’s a laugher,” joked former New York Giants DE Michael Strahan. “You see him, you think to yourself this guy is not mean enough to handle the mean guys out there in the NFL. Jonathan would rip your limbs off, and he’d smile…and wave your arm in front of you.” Ogden also threw his helmet in frustration several times.
Perhaps the most important fact of Ogden’s career, and certainly the one that most endears him to Ravens fans, is that he played his entire All-Pro career in Baltimore. In his 12 years in the league, Ogden played for only one team. In an age where a player is rarely lucky enough or loyal enough to stick in one place for more than five seasons, Ogden’s time in Baltimore seems like eons. The big tackle helped his team to four postseason berths during that span, including a Super Bowl XXXV title in 2000.
He’s the cornerstone of the Ravens franchise. And Saturday night in Canton, Ohio, Jonathan Ogden received football’s highest honor.
“I never really looked back and said, ‘man, if I had done this better or the other,’” Ogden said. “I always felt like I gave it my all and I was always consistent out there. I think that’s what led me to be a great player. I mean, this game’s about consistency.”
“I just want to be remembered as the guy who was dependable, who was a good teammate, who didn’t go out there and make silly mistakes,” Ogden said. “Who you just knew was going to be there game in, game out. Day in, day out.”
“There is a lot of great offensive linemen, and there is a lot of great players that are in the Hall of Fame that are very deserving,” Newsome said. “I don’t know if there’s anybody who played the position better than Jonathan Ogden did.”
Sitting in the on deck waiting to give the first acceptance speech , Jonathan Ogden is easy to pick out. He’s the man with the obvious smile, the grin from from ear to ear. And with that smile, he represents the city of Baltimore, proud owners of the Lombardi Trophy. Perhaps more fitting than during the year when Ray Lewis retired, the Lombardi sits in this hands of the city in the year she sees her first native son, her first Raven, Jonathon Ogden, accept his seat in the NFL Hall of Fame. His introduction was appropriate: “At 6′ 9″, how appropriate is it that the first Raven ever drafted is the first Raven inducted into the Hall of Fame. And in the year when the Baltimore Ravens are defending Super Bowl Champions.”
In his introduction, Ozzie Newsome said it best: “If you take a journey, the first step is the most important. Jonathan Ogden was our first step.”
And then, he took the podium. Jonathan Ogden, and that patented smile and laugh, began to speak: “I want to thank you Ozzie. Drafting me instead of lawrence phillip, I think that worked out well for everyone. As I thought about what I wanted to say, I never thought my story was that interesting. I looked back at my career, this was how this was supposed to end for me. It’s always been about trying to maximize every little bit of talent you have. “
Jonathan began the stream of thank yous “My father was the most influential person in my life, the guy I wanted to make proud. the reason I wanted to play football. I know he is looking down on me.”
“Now onto Baltimore. First I would like to thank Art Modell, one of the kindest and most generous men of my life. Now let’s get Art Modell inducted!” He went onto thank Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
“And for the most important people, My wife Kema. You have always been there for all of my up and downs. To my son, you are my best friend, Layden. To Maya, you are too young, but thank you.”
And then, the most heartfelt part of his speech: “Now to thank Baltimore, we didn’t have a team,no colors, no design, no name. Ozzie told me we want to make a winner here, and I wanted to be a part of that. I watched us grow from infancy to one of the best towns in football history. I knew that you appreciated everything that we did. i am so proud to be the baltimore ravens first drafted, and so humbled to be the Baltimore ravens first inducted. “
It’s said that first impression is the best impression. Jonathan Ogden makes one heckuva first impression.