In the previous installments of this series, I covered the defensive greats of the Ravens. However, we now go to the other side of the ball; offense. The franchise may not be known for its offensive superstars, but Baltimore has surely produced some very good players on offense.
Imagine being Ozzie Newsome in the 1996 Draft. A first time GM, tasked with making the first pick in the history of a franchise that had just moved only a month ago. This pick would define not only Ozzie's career, but the fate of a franchise. Thankfully, Ozzie chose the right man, and his name? Jonathan Ogden.
When he was drafted, the Ravens didn't have a nickname, mascot or even any colors. So Jonathan Ogden was quite literally, the face of the Ravens' franchise. For 12 seasons, he anchored the O-Line. Players staying their whole career in one city is a rarity for sure, so it's quite amazing that the Ravens' first two picks ever (Ogden and Ray) stayed in the Charm City their whole career. The '96 Draft couldn't have possibly been better for the Ravens, and Ozzie said it best, "The Ravens stand on the shoulders of Jon and Ray. It was our good fortune to make these gentlemen the first two players we ever drafted. For 12 years, any player we brought into our franchise we could point to Jon and Ray and say, ‘Do what they do, and you’ll know what it means to be a Raven.’"
Play Like a Raven. That was something Jon certainly did, and set the bar for everything that a Ravens player should stand for.
For 12 years, you could always count on Jon. He didn't just rely on his abilities, but studied relentlessly and trained nonstop. "Talent isn't enough," Ogden said. "A lot of people have talent, they don't always live up to it. For me it is about maximizing, striving for perfection."
Ogden was known for always seeming 'happy', as former New York Giants DE Michael Strahan said, "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." However, this wasn't exactly the truth, as Ogden also had the reputation of being a fierce competitor too, Kevin Byrne, Senior Vice President of Public & Community Relations for the Ravens, remembers this exchange between Ogden and then Head Coach Brian Billick.
One of my striking memories of Jon came after a series late in a game in 2002 when we were clinging to a two-point lead. Ogden literally stomped off the field, yanking off his helmet to reveal an angry face under his big Afro. (We had just finished a "three-and-out" with one run for two yards and two incomplete passes.) "Run the ball," J.O. screamed. "Run the freakin’ ball!" Staring at Head Coach Brian Billick: "Brian, run the damn ball! Pound it!"Billick didn’t back down. "We ran the ball," Brian yelled, "and we got two yards." Ogden stared, and with force, yelled: "Run it behind me!"
"I want to show you something," Ted said. "I’ve coached a long time and haven’t seen a play like this. Watch."The video showed quarterback Vinny Testaverde faking a pitch to the left and then, wheeling his body, throwing a short screen pass to running back Earnest Byner on the right. The play was good for about 45 yards. "Pretty good," I said, not noticing anything too spectacular about it. "Watch Jonathan this time," the head coach directed.Ogden was at left guard. When the play started, Jon sprinted left to invite the defense to follow Vinny’s fake pitch. Big No. 75 then changed directions when Testaverde whirled and threw the short pass. At that time, Ogden was behind the line of scrimmage, 15 yards to the left of Byner, who was three or four yards ahead of Jon on the right side. By the time Byner, in full speed, reached the deep safety on that side of the field, Jon stepped in front of Earnest and knocked the safety away. "No big man has ever run like that," Ted said. It was a marvel and said so much about Ogden: great talent and relentless competitor. A true Raven and our first draft-selected Hall of Famer.
I remember years ago Ogden was blocking two bullrushing linemen on one play, one on each arm without moving backwards. The announcers couldn't believe it.