NEW ORLEANS -- After being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said he couldn't wait to go to to the Superdome to watch Ray Lewis play his final game in the Super Bowl. Both were selected by the Ravens in the franchise's first draft in 1996.
"It's kind of a full circle weekend," Ogden said. "With me and Ray, you couldn't have written a better script over these two days because no one would've believed it."
While Lewis has been the face of the franchise, Ogden was the one who set the set the course for the Ravens. In the 1996 draft, the Ravens needed a running back but decided to pick Ogden over troubled Lawrence Phillips with the first pick in franchise history. Phillips was out of the league in three years, and Ogden became the best lineman of his generation.
There wouldn't have been a Super Bowl championship in 2000 without Ogden. There wouldn't have been a 2,000-yard rushing season for Jamal Lewis without Ogden. He was the Ravens' best offensive player and the one around whom the team built the offense.
The 6-foot-9, 345-pound Ogden's impact extended beyond the Ravens. He redefined the tackle position. He was the ultimate protector of the Blind Side long before the movie made that term popular. Teams have since been in search of their own Ogden, from Orlando Pace to Walter Jones to Joe Thomas. Still, there has never been an offensive tackle with his combination of speed, power, size and athleticism. No one even came close.
Ogden single-handedly took out the opposition's best pass-rusher every week. It didn't matter whether it was Greg Lloyd, Simeon Rice or Joey Porter. On running plays, Ogden was so dominant that he took out two or three defenders at times and was so agile that he could leap sweeps on the outside.
The Ravens never had a franchise quarterback during Ogden's time there. He blocked for 15 different starting quarterbacks. The Ravens never had a game-changing wide receiver. But they had Ogden and he ruled the left side of the offensive line for 177 games -- and he did it in a way that made it look effortless.
Ogden's place in NFL history is now secured. He became the first pure offensive tackle to get into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility since Jackie Slater did it in 2001.
"It means so much," Ogden said. "You don't play to get in the Hall of Fame. You play to gain the respect of your peers. Playing offensive line, you don't look for individual glory. But for the writers to say you're among the best players in the history of football, that's just breathtaking. It really hasn't hit me."