When Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, fans will be clamoring into the Superdome wearing Ray Lewis or Joe Flacco jerseys, raving about the impressive collection of players put together on the Ravens roster. Of course the stars on the field for Baltimore will receive endless accolades if they are able to pull off a victory over the San Francisco 49ers. One man fans should be thanking, though, may not be showered with the praise he deserves. That man responsible for the impressive product the Ravens put on display is Ozzie Newsome.
Some of you may recall Newsome as a Hall of Fame tight end. The former first-round pick out of Alabama played 13 years in the NFL, all with the Cleveland Browns. He was named to three Pro Bowls and the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. Needless to say, he fared rather well in his playing days.
But the success didn't end when he hung up his cleats in 1990. Newsome spent five years with the Browns front office before the team relocated, and from that point on we've come to recognize the Ravens as one of the most successful franchises in the league today.
Art Modell named Newsome the vice president of player personnel in 1996, the Ravens' first year of operation. Newsome assisted in selecting future Pro Bowl selections Jonathan Ogden and the aforementioned Lewis in the NFL Draft that year. Not a bad way to start off in a new city.
Since 1996, the Ravens have drafted 15 Pro Bowlers, the third-most in the league in that time span. Newsome played a part in drafting players like Peter Boulware, Duane Starks and Jamal Lewis. Every pick brought a special piece of the puzzle to the Ravens, and after the hiring of Brian Billick, it all came together for a Super Bowl victory in 2000, just the franchise's fifth year in Baltimore.
That same year Newsome was named the NFL's Executive of the Year, just a decade after retiring from playing the game he loves. How many people can you say have seen this level of success on the field AND in the front office?
Now, 13 years after the Ravens' dominating Super Bowl performance against the Giants, they find themselves set to take the biggest stage in football once again, with Newsome still leading the way at the top of it all.
There were certainly a few low points. An injury-ridden 2007 campaign resulted in a 5-11 record, but that kind of disappointment wouldn't linger. Newsome headed a search committee the following offseason for a new head coach, resulting in the hiring of John Harbaugh. With a 54-26 record since that point, it's safe to say Newsome made the right decision.
Flacco, Ray Rice, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs. The endless list of stars continues to line the Ravens depth chart today, and all of these names have found their way to Baltimore under the direction of Newsome.
Newsome became the Ravens general manager in 2002, making him the first African-American to hold that position in the NFL. Today he holds the same role as well as serving as the executive vice president.
While he has no intention of retiring, he will witness Ray Lewis' career come full-circle on Feb. 3. After bringing Lewis into the NFL 17 years ago, Newsome and Lewis have a chance to go out hoisting the Lombardi Trophy one last time together. Regardless of the outcome of their matchup against the 49ers, Ravens fans are forever indebted to the incredible organization Newsome put together over his illustrious tenure. From player to executive, the man's done it all, and he's still adding to his resume.
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