Jonathan Ogden struck me as friendly and down-to-earth, as humbling as you would expect from his playing style with Baltimore. We discussed family, football and shotput, among other things. Full interview below:
John Goodell: It’s been a busy past couple months for you. In August you were inducted into the hall of fame and just today you received a plaque ceremony at your alma mater, St. Albans, as part of Allstate’s "Hometown Hall of Famers" program. How did it feel to join the likes of Larry Allen, Bill Parcells, and Warren Sapp in Canton, Ohio?
Jonathan Ogden: It was really a great experience, very enjoyable. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Those guys are legends and it is an honor to be recognized among them.
JG: What emotions were running through your head when you gave that speech? I was impressed at your ability to hold back the tears, i.e. Michael Irvin
JO: Don’t mess up. I had the speech written and practiced it repeatedly. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t forget anybody either. I had to convey the message to the people I was thanking. It was their day too because I didn’t make it there on my own, I had a lot of help along the way.
JG: In your hall of fame speech you cite your father as being one of your greatest influences in life. Could you speak more on that and the relationship you had with him?
JO: Growing up as a kid all you know is what your parents do. I strive to do what they do. My father played football in college and so I wanted to do what my dad did. He got hurt, had injuries, and had to stop playing. Fortunately, I wasn’t and was able to take those skills to the next level. Those skills my father taught me were instilled in me from a very young age, and I carried them with me the rest of my life.
JG: I understand you played shotput during your college years at UCLA. What was that like?
JO: I loved shotput, it was a passion of mine. It’s kind of why I love golf now. When you throw the shotput you throw it as far as possible. It was just me competing against myself but I could send that thing flying. In golf I may not always get the ball in the hole but I can hit that thing far. If I could have made a living playing shotput I would have played it over football.
JG: You had been in Baltimore since the beginning, in 1996. Can you tell me what those first few years were like playing for a team in a new city with new fans?
JO: The veterans and coaches were all getting into Baltimore at the same time, and since it wasn’t technically an expansion team there was a level of understanding among the organization. The first two years were a little mean, the town was figuring out: who are the Ravens? What are they about it? We grew fast, expanded, and within 4 years were a part of the community
JG: Did you feel pressure being the first ever draft pick for a new franchise? Pressure to live up to the 4th overall pick in the draft?
JO: No. It didn’t really matter where I got drafted. I went in with the mindset to go out and perform, just play football. I knew what I was capable of doing and made sure I did it and gave a performance that was worthy of what I could do. No one could put more pressure on me than me.
JG: The Ravens gave you an honorary 2013 Super Bowl ring which is pretty awesome. Clearly you have managed to stay close with Steve Bisciotti and the whole organization since you retired.
JO: Yes, I’m at all the home games, I go in and see the guys regularly. I’ve been doing some work with the Ravens and their radio as well. We stay active together in the community and that a means a lot to me. I try to give back to the city and the fans however I can.
JG: Throughout your accomplished career: 11 pro bowls, 1 super bowl, 10 all pro selections, and 177 games, what was or were your greatest memories?
JO: Most of the best memories come from that Super Bowl year (2000-2001). We struggled to score for a while and had a quarterback change and that whole playoff run was special. Denver to Oakland to Tennessee to the Super Bowl. The pro bowls were all very nice but it doesn’t compare to winning the Super Bowl.
JG: Your position as offensive tackle is one of the hardest positions to play in football. Offensive linemen don’t get enough credit for what they do game in and game out. Did you ever feel underappreciated as an offensive tackle; that your contribution to the team was being taken for granted?
JO: No I never did, I always felt I was one of the few offensive linemen who was appreciated for what they did. The guys up front have to give the quarterback time and open holes for running backs. Nationally it doesn’t get quite the attention it deserves. But in my case I felt there was a certain level of respect for what I was doing out there.
JG: Offensive tackle is a humbling position. You’ve been called the ‘gentle giant’ by fans and players alike for your ability to smile and laugh while playing one of the most physical positions on the field. How did you manage to keep your cool and not let it all get to your head?
JO: On the field I had controlled aggression, controlled rage. I would go out there and try to knock you down, pancake you and then help you up. Sometimes it required a little bit of rage, maybe anger. Anybody saying I’m a gentle giant is right but it’s also true that I was as physical as I could be when I was on the field.
JG: If you could block for any quarterback ever who would it be?
JO: I don’t know…Peyton in Denver. He’s really one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever seen. Give him enough time in the pocket and he’s unstoppable. I think Peyton could actually play without a line (laughs). But he just plays in such an amazing way and is able to do so much with the football. He makes everyone around him better.
JG: What’s your two cents on the Ravens’ season so far?
JO: It’s still up in the air. The Denver game was Peyton running all over us. I think we’ll get a better read this week against Houston. They have a more balanced team: J.J. Watt, Ed Reed, and Ben Tate. It's too early to tell but this week should be a good indicator for how the season's going to go. The team is still coming together.
JG: What’s next on your agenda?
JO: I want to continue to do some work with my foundation in Baltimore and be a good dad with my kids. I’m going to spend more time with my wife and my family. I’m also trying to improve my golf game.