BALTIMORE — Jonathan Ogden spent his entire 12-year career with the Baltimore Ravens, played in 11 Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl ring and earned a berth in the Hall of Fame.
And Ozzie Newsome saw it all coming — long before Ogden made his debut as one of the finest offensive linemen in NFL history.
Newsome was in charge of the Ravens draft in 1996, the team’s first season in Baltimore after moving from Cleveland. The Ravens desperately needed an impact player with the fourth overall selection, someone who could steer the transplanted franchise on a course to greatness.
“That was not a pick we wanted to end up three years later going, ‘Good God Almighty, what the heck did we do?’” recalled David Modell, the son of then-owner Art Modell and a key front-office component. “That pick had to be good.”
Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips, a troubled but talented star, was an option. So was Ogden, a 6-foot-9 offensive tackle out of UCLA.
The day before the draft, Newsome made it clear: Ogden was the choice.
“Ozzie said, ‘Jonathan Ogden will be a perennial Pro Bowl player, will play for this franchise for his career and will have a decent shot at going into the Hall of Fame,’” Modell said. “What a Babe Ruth call that was.”
Ogden was the first player drafted by the Ravens, and Saturday he will formally become the team’s first entrant into the Hall of Fame.
“He’s going to be the Ravens’ golden child forever,” said Edwin Mulitalo, who played guard alongside Ogden for eight years.
How appropriate that Newsome will serve as Ogden’s presenter at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
“He brought me in to Baltimore,” Ogden said. “I could always go talk to him, be honest with him. He’s just one of the people that I really respect in the business. It just kind of made sense to me.”
Newsome, in turn, owes a debt of gratitude to Ogden for justifying his decision in the Ravens’ inaugural draft. Although the team was in dire need of a running back and already had two solid offensive tackles, Newsome chose Ogden because he was the highest-ranked player on Baltimore’s board. That philosophy remains in place today and has enabled the Ravens’ general manager to produce two Super Bowl champions.
Newsome often considers what might have happened if he picked Phillips, who totaled 35 games for three different teams over a dismal three-year span.
“I could say 17 years later, I probably wouldn’t have this job. It’s as simple as that,” Newsome said. “Lawrence had some productive years, but he didn’t pan out. And I don’t know if we would have been able to provide the structure he needed. We felt like we could have, but I don’t know if we’d have been able to do it.”
As a rookie, Ogden played left guard between veteran tackles Orlando Brown and Tony Jones. In his second season, Ogden became an immovable force at left tackle and remained there the rest of his career.
Ogden was a star on the field and a leader within the locker room and on the sideline. He didn’t have the bluster of the Ravens’ other first-round pick in 1996, linebacker Ray Lewis, but the big man showed enough emotion to be noticed by his teammates — especially after being asked to repeatedly drop back to protect the passer.
“He was a great pass blocker, and he was a very technical player,” Mulitalo said. “But man, he loved to run block. There were times he got frustrated on the sideline, and most of the time it was because we were getting a little pass-happy. Whenever we switched to the run, he was like a little kid. Maybe the most fun playing next to him was when we actually run-blocked. He took pride in doing that.”