Jonathan Ogden: Remembering the Career of Legendary NFL Offensive Tackle

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVAugust 2, 2013

This weekend, Ravens legndary offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This weekend, Ravens legndary offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, former Baltimore Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The franchise's first-ever draft pick—taken fourth overall in 1996—played for 12 seasons, racking up numerous awards and accolades before retiring in the summer of 2008.

So how did Ogden go from the first rookie to join the fledgling Ravens to being enshrined in Canton?

Here's his story.

Round 1, Pick No. 4

Ogden came to the NFL after a stellar college career at UCLA. A four-year starter at left tackle, he gave up just two sacks in his final two seasons. In his final season in 1995, he won both the Outland Trophy (given to the best collegiate interior lineman as awarded by the Football Writers Association of America) and the Morris Trophy (an offensive award given to Pac-12 players), and he was also named as United Press International's Lineman of the Year and a first-team All-American.

After such an astounding collegiate career, there was little doubt that he would be taken early on in the 1996 NFL draft.

The Ravens had just become Baltimore's team after then-owner of the Cleveland Browns, Art Modell, chose to move the team to the East Coast. The franchise retained many of the players that were on the Browns roster, and though they already possessed a left tackle in Tony Jones, they were not going to let an opportunity to draft Ogden pass them by.

With the fourth-overall pick in the first round, general manager Ozzie Newsome vetoed Modell's wishes that the Ravens instead take running back Lawrence Phillips, and he instead selected Ogden. Newsome said recently to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun and Ravens Insider that he owed his job to the Ogden selection:

In his rookie season, Ogden played left guard while Jones played left tackle, and the former also scored his first of two career touchdowns, on a one-yard reception. After Jones was traded the following year, Ogden moved to his natural tackle position and held down the fort there for the rest of his career, more than proving that Newsome was right in selecting him with the Ravens' first draft pick in franchise history.

Path to a Super Bowl

After moving to left tackle, Ogden made the Pro Bowl in 1997 and was also named as an All-Pro. He proved to be quite the personality contrast to Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, with Lewis being the outspoken one and Ogden being the one who preferred to let his play to do the talking. Nevertheless, Ogden couldn't be eclipsed by Lewis' personality and the accolades piled up during his time in Baltimore.

As Ogden continued to keep his quarterbacks—Vinny Testaverde, Jim Harbaugh, Tony Banks—protected and helped his running backs by providing them with running lanes, he continued to be selected both to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro teams. 

His performance was rewarded with a contract extension in 2000, worth $44 million over six years, including a $12 million signing bonus. It was the most money ever paid to an offensive lineman up to that point.

In 2001, with both Banks and then Trent Dilfer under center, the Ravens went on to win the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl, defeating the New York Giants, 34-7. Of Ogden, Dilfer says: "It would be an understatement to say playing behind him was a good feeling. He wanted all the big runs to go in his direction. He wanted the responsibility of going one-on-one with the best defensive ends." 

Ogden handled his fair share of top pass-rushing talent during his tenure in Baltimore and consistently won his matchups. It's hard to imagine the Ravens' first Super Bowl-winning season without Ogden keeping the offense moving. 

The Awards Pile Up

Season after season, Ogden found himself voted onto the Pro Bowl roster and was a perennial fixture in the All-Pro lineup. In fact, Ogden was selected to the Pro Bowl in every single year that he played after his rookie season, and he was selected as an All-Pro a total of nine times in his 12 pro seasons. He was also named the NFL Alumni's Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2002.

Ogden was also instrumental in helping Jamal Lewis rush for 2,066 yards in 2003, the third-best single-season total in NFL history, which included a 295-yard performance against the Cleveland Browns that September.

As ESPN's Jon Clayton noted after Ogden's retirement in 2008, Ogden's success at left tackle marked the evolution of the position toward the highly-paid, highly-regarded one that it is today. In turn, Ogden changed the quarterback position as well. Ogden proved the value of having a truly talented left tackle, and other teams quickly followed the Ravens' lead by searching for ways to improve the protection of their quarterbacks, which was a position in trouble when Ogden entered the league.

At 6'9", Ogden could handle pass-rushers without the aid of his other linemen, all while exhibiting quickness and athleticism that were extremely uncommon in players of his size. Also according to Clayton, Ogden helped revolutionize the idea of pass protection by being able to take on so many defenders, allowing tight ends to be free to roam as receivers rather than helping out with blocking. 

Though offensive linemen are often the forgotten heroes of the football field, what Ogden did to change the game cannot be understated. Every NFL Sunday, there is evidence of what Ogden's presence did for quarterbacks, running backs and offensive philosophies present in the game today.

Ogden's Final Season

As the Ravens worked to gain the AFC North crown in 2006, Ogden hyperextended the big toe of his left foot in a December win over the Cleveland Browns. Though he missed the final two games of the regular season, he returned for the playoffs, notably controlling Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeneya nemesis of Ogden's after Ogden gave up two sacks and multiple pressures to Freeney in 2004in what ultimately became a Ravens loss.

Because of the turf toe injury—which is both painful and hard to rehabilitate—Ogden considered retiring in 2007 but later decided to return to the Ravens in what would become his final season. He didn't make it long into the 2007 season, though, re-aggravating the toe in the season opener, which resulted in him missing the following five games.

Though Ogden missed a chunk of the season and wasn't ever 100 percent healthy in his final year, he still received both Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. On June 11, 2008, Ogden announced his retirement after playing his entire NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens. 

Hall of Fame

After his retirement, Ogden was named to the Baltimore Ravens Hall of Fame and was a member of NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Though the Ravens didn't always post winning records or appear in the playoffs during every year of Ogden's career, his impact on the team was undeniable. An anchor, both figuratively and literally, Ogden helped the Ravens go from an expansion team built from the Browns' ashes to the consistent playoff contenders that they are today. 

Looking at the quarterbacks the Ravens fielded during Ogden's time with the team, it is easy to see how things could have been far worse for the franchise. He made these quarterbacks' jobs easier and, ultimately, paved the way for other quarterbacks around the league to have an easier time completing passes after he became the prototype for the left tackle position.

There's no question as to why Ogden made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his first ballot. His on-field performance, his off-field persona and his all-around leadership makes him a perfect example of what a Hall of Fame player should look like. 

Modestly, Ogden described his career recently: "I just want to be remembered as the guy who was dependable, who was a good teammate, who didn't go out there and make silly mistakes, you knew he was going to be there game-in game-out, day-in day-out, had his teammates back out there."

Of course, Ogden is even more than that—he's a legend, not just in Baltimore but in the NFL as a whole. The Hall of Fame honor and the bronze bust ensconced in Canton cements his rightful place among the very best who ever played the game.  


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