LOMBARDI’S WAY: Goodbye J.O.

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: Goodbye J.O.

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He sat there on the stage in the Ravens’ auditorium looking uncharacteristically debonair with neatly cropped hair, sporting his Super Bowl ring, tanned, relaxed and at peace with his decision. As he awaited the start of the press conference, he seemingly stared into nowhere as the edges of his lips curled upward and the gleam in his eye suggested the smile of a man who was keenly aware of something everyone else was not.
 
Jonathan Ogden was about to make it official – he is retiring from the National Football League and happily venturing into the next chapter of his life.
 
I looked around the room and saw many of his current and former teammates to go along with close members of J.O.’s family and a large contingent of media folk.  For a moment the press conference stood still as I soaked in the relevance of the forthcoming official announcement.
 
Sitting before us was the franchise’s inaugural draft pick, one that admittedly I initially disagreed with.  Yet there he was waiting to say good bye after 12 stellar seasons.
 
It isn’t often that you get a chance to watch a franchise’s very first pick throughout his career much less witness him reach the pinnacle of his profession.  It isn’t often that a player gets to play his entire career with one team, particularly in this age of the salary cap – not to mention one who played in the Pro Bowl eleven times.
 
Johnny Unitas didn’t do it.  Joe Montana didn’t do it.  Jerry Rice didn’t do it.  Even Brett Favre didn’t do it.
 
Yet J.O. did it.  The very first true pure bred Raven would end his career as a Raven.
 
The mood wasn’t sad or distressful.  The press conference felt more like a celebration of J.O.’s career. 
 
Ozzie Newsome has never been totally at ease in front of a microphone.  Yet during the press conference it seemed like he would rather be nowhere else as he eloquently explained with heartfelt words the significance of Ogden’s accomplishments and his importance within the organization.  Ozzie was like a proud father watching his son graduate and in a way, that’s exactly what he was doing as he exclaimed, “[It’s] a great day!”
 
Newsome and Ogden – together they made history, a history that will be memorialized in five years when J.O. becomes the very first Raven inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Not long thereafter the Ravens other first-round pick from 1996 will follow his mate into The Hall. 
 
How many franchises can boast that? 
 
The franchise’s first two picks in their history are locks to become first ballot Hall of Famers.
 
But yesterday was a day for J.O…
 
I will remember J.O. for his excellence; his commitment to his teammates the organization and his family; for his contributions to the community and for recognizing how important it is for a man of his stature to consistently remain an upstanding member of that community.
 
But most of all, I’ll remember J.O. for his reliability.  You could always count on J.O. so much so that you took him for granted.  He was like the surf of the ocean – always there, always strong and as unassuming as nature.
 
When asked how he wanted to be remembered Ogden replied, “I want to be remembered as a guy who was respected by everybody.”
 
There may be other Offensive Tackles who come along and approach, perhaps even surpass the athletic accomplishments of Jonathan Ogden.  Yet I doubt that any of them will ever be their team’s first draft pick and the first player of their organization to be inducted into Canton.  And I’m quite sure that Ogden will be at the very least remembered as he hopes.
 
"I know I gave everything I had in 12 years," Ogden said. "I left it out there every Sunday on the field for this town, myself and this organization. I can look back and say I have no regrets. I’m at peace with that."
 
He dictated the terms at the line of scrimmage for twelve seasons as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.  He did it with style and grace, professionalism and class, excellence and efficiency while always remaining grounded.  Yesterday he said goodbye the very same way.
 
Yes I suppose it’s possible for another player like J.O. to approach his on field excellence.
 
But for all of us here in Baltimore there will never be another J.O.
 
Never!

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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