CANTON, OHIO — — As he delivered his induction speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night, Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was as cool and humble as he was on the field during his 12 seasons in Baltimore.
He showed signs of nervousness the day before but on Saturday night he praised and thanked an endless amount of supporters, talked about being the first draft pick in Ravens' history, showed off two Super Bowl rings and drew a huge applause from the large number of Ravens fans in attendance.
Ogden never earned a nickname while in Baltimore, but he might have come away with one Saturday. During his presentation speech of Ogden, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome referred to Ogden as part of “The Foundation.”
Nothing is more appropriate.
“He is part of the foundation for this franchise, part of the reason we have won two Super Bowls here,” Newsome said. “If you take on a journey, the first steps are the most important steps you have to take and taking Jonathan was our first step.”
Ogden cast an imposing shadow over the Ravens like he does all 38 modern-day offensive linemen enshrined here. There has never been a lineman who had such a combination of size, speed and technical skill as the former UCLA All-American.
The modern era had great technicians like Anthony Munoz, John Hannah, Tom Mack and some brutes like Willie Roaf and Art Shell, and there were other great “giants” from previous times like Jim Parker and Roosevelt Brown, but only Ogden was this total package.
During his time in Baltimore, Ogden never liked to talk about himself, but he had too last night. Of course, he was modest as usual. Everyone knew he had talent, but he also had discipline and desire.
“As I examine my career, I look back and kind of say this is where it was supposed to end for me, not because of arrogance or cockiness, but it's because I was taught lessons,” Ogden said. “Yes, I was blessed with tremendous God given talent, yes, but talent isn't enough. A lot of people have talent, but they don't always live up to it.
“For me, it's about trying to maximize every bit you have. It's about trying to give it your all. If you strive for perfection, maybe just maybe, you can become great.”
Ogden was great and is now in the same company with other Baltimore football icons John Unitas, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan and Raymond Berry.
I've always watched line play because that is where most games are won or lost. I watched Hall of Fame offensive tackles Jackie Slater, Dan Dierdorf, Gary Zimmerman and Ron Yary when they played and studied film of the Bob Browns and Jim Parkers, but Ogden was simply stronger and faster.
And oh, just so much bigger.
Did I think it would end this way? No. Few can predict such stardom.
But I can remember Ogden's first practice. He was like a baby giraffe stumbling over his legs. With a long, lean body that resembled more of an NBA power forward than a tackle, he was easy to pick out among the bulkier bodies that belonged to Tony Jones, Wally Williams, Orlando Brown and Steve Everitt.
The Ravens started him at left guard as a rookie because they still had Jones at tackle, and Ogden struggled initially. But the athleticism took over and Ogden showed the ability to bend and root out much bigger players.
The next year Ogden started at left tackle, and the rest is history. Ask Ray Lewis, Ogden's longtime teammate.
“His skill set was not matched by any player I've seen in 17 years,” Lewis said.
Ogden was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times in 12 years. He wasn't just a brute. He was graceful. His pass pro set was perfect and with that long wing span, running around Ogden was like running around the world. Once he got a giant paw on a defender, the battle was over. Ogden was so fast that he could outrun some of the team's running backs downfield on screens, and it was nightmare for cornerbacks and safeties when the 345 pound Ogden pulled around a corner followed by 225 pound running back Jamal Lewis.
Ogden was a silent assassin. He stayed away from the TV cameras as much as possible, even though he was one of the first offensive tackles to be drafted which later led to lucrative deals for other college tackles.
He wasn't a fancy dresser. Even on a golf course, he would wear blue jean shorts, a T-shirt and sport high-top tennis shoes. Course managers would scoff at the attire, but who was going to toss J.O.?
On Saturday, it was fun watching Ogden in the yellow sports coat, black pants and red tie. Unlike the J.O. that we often saw at the training facility, he was well-groomed. The hair was tightly cropped, the beard and mustache manicured.
Ogden displayed the warm smile, the one we grew accustomed to after he retired. He had invited former teammates and his old coaches at UCLA and St. Albans High in Washington, D.C.