Ozzie Newsome has been the primary football decision-maker for the Baltimore Ravens since 1996. Most fans of the National Football League know about his 13-year Hall of Fame playing career with the Cleveland Browns and his two Super Bowl titles as the General Manager of the Ravens. What many do not realize are the individual qualities that have led to his unprecedented success on and off the field.
This weekend’s 2018 NFL Draft will mark his last as the GM of the Ravens and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Ozzie and reveal some of those characteristics that in my view can serve as an example to all of us.
Let me start by giving a quick background review. Ozzie’s first year of retirement as a player in 1991 was my initial season in professional football with the “original” Browns under then-head coach Bill Belichick. As a former player with a distinguished pedigree, most would not have been willing to work essentially as an entry-level coach and scout, but “Wiz” wanted to learn from the ground up and none of us could have been in a better environment than being taught by Bill and so many other exceptional coaches and scouts.
I had been assigned to the defense, so the two of us would play catch to warm up in pre-practice and then run the scout teams during team drills. We advance scouted upcoming opponents during the preseason, tried to develop young players throughout the year and then evaluated college prospects in the spring for the draft. We had a shared experience in those early days and that’s why in 1996, when he was named Vice President of Player Personnel for the “new” Baltimore Ravens, he in turn tabbed me as the Director of College Scouting.
For nine years (1996-2004), our staff enjoyed an amazing amount of success in the draft that included 12 Pro Bowl players, two Hall of Famers (Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis) and likely two more headed to Canton in the future (Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs).
Much of this was achieved because of Ozzie Newsome’s work ethic, his patience and, ultimately, his instincts for the game.
Ozzie played four years of high school football, four seasons at the University of Alabama and then 13 more with the Browns and NEVER missed a game! That’s 21 straight SEASONS of never missing a contest, a remarkable feat in and of itself. His dedication as the leader of the Ravens has been the same for the past 22 years, he simply shows up every day and does his job.
Wiz rarely gets upset, and while I’m sure there are things that bother him, he has an amazing capacity to keep his patience, let situations play out and then respond in an appropriate manner. He has always been able to stay above the fray, allowing for all of the information to be gathered, and then diffusing a situation by making a decision one way or the other.
Finally, the Ravens have enjoyed two decades of being a competitive organization because they have always followed the common-sense leadership of Ozzie Newsome. No one in the league combines football knowledge with his natural instinct for this sport better than Wiz.
Usually during the afternoon before the draft started, Ozzie and I would share a simple prayer that God would give us the wisdom to make the right choice and that our decisions would impact our team and each individual player and his family in a tremendous way. Those were, indeed, special days!
Thanks, Ozzie, for the freedom to work, the ability to have some creativity and your belief in me and so many others that have come through the Ravens’ franchise over the years. I pray that this will be a blessed weekend for you.