Saturday, August 3, 2013
Ogden reflects on growing with Baltimore
By Jamison Hensley
Jonathan Ogden's speech at his Hall of Fame induction Saturday night drew some laughs, a few boos at one point but no tears, although the mammoth 6-foot-9 offensive tackle was close a few times.
His 13-minute, 35-second speech was a sentimental journey on how he grew as a person and how he and a new generation of Baltimore football fans grew up together in the NFL. By the time Ogden delivered his final thank you, it was official: A Ravens team that had no history when it drafted Ogden in 1996 officially celebrated their first drafted player to reach the Hall of Fame.
After general manager Ozzie Newsome presented him for induction, Ogden went to the podium and turned to Newsome, saying, "I've often thought about that day back in 1996 when you drafted me instead of Lawrence Phillips. You know what buddy, I think that worked out well for everybody."
In April 1996, the Ravens were three months removed from relocating from Cleveland. Before they even had a logo, the Ravens wisely chose someone who would help emblemize the fledgling franchise, picking Ogden with the No. 4 overall pick instead of the troubled Phillips.
What would end up as a Hall of Fame career began with a humble introduction to the league.
Former Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden went to the Pro Bowl for 11 straight years.
"When I came to Baltimore in 1996, we had no team, we had no history," Ogden said. "We didn't even had team colors. We just had a name. I can remember at the draft, I had that black jacket with the white letters that said Baltimore Ravens and the white hat with the black letters that said Baltimore Ravens. And in the back of my mind, I was saying, 'I don't really know where we're going with this right now.' But Ozzie assured me: 'Our goal is to make a winner here.' I told him: 'I want to be a part of that.'"
Ogden was more than just a part of the Ravens. He became the best offensive player in team history, and the most dominant offensive tackle of his era. He went to the Pro Bowl for 11 straight years (every season except his rookie one when he played left guard).
Dressed in his gold Hall of Fame jacket and wearing two Super Bowl rings on his right hand (he was given one for the Ravens' championship last season), Ogden thanked the important coaches who helped his career, from high school to UCLA to the Ravens. He spoke about his father Shirrel, who passed away seven years ago, and called him "the absolute biggest influence on my life, as far as the way I try to be a man and the way I try to raise my son, and the primary reason why I decided to play football." It was at this point, when Ogden successfully fought back tears.
Ogden drew a mixed reaction when he honored former Ravens owner Art Modell. The Hall of Fame ceremony is in Canton, Ohio, which is 60 miles away from Cleveland, where Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore.
"Without a doubt one of the most generous and kindest individuals that I ever met," Ogden said. "I wish he could be here with me today. Someone once said to me, 'if you can't tell the history of the game of football without mentioning this person, then they are without a doubt, a Hall of Famer.' Well, there is no way that you can tell the history of pro football without mentioning Art Modell. So hopefully, one day we can get him here, because what he's meant to the league has been tremendous."
Ogden concluded by drawing a parallel with his career and a football town that had been without a team for 12 years until the Ravens arrived.
"We were all rookies together," Ogden said. "I watched us grow, myself as a player and our fans as an NFL city from infancy to one of, if not the best, football towns in the National Football League. I am so very proud to have been the Baltmore Ravens' draft choice, and I am so humbled to be the Baltimore Ravens' first-ever Hall of Fame inductee."