A fond farewell to Jon Ogden

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It feels like it was just days ago that I was on the floor of the Paramount Theatre in New York City at the NFL Draft of 1996. The team colors were black and white and it was a miracle that the Arizona Cardinals ever passed on Jonathan Ogden.

I’m glad they did.

From that first day, when our company was actually the “flagship” for the first-ever Ravens radio broadcast from the Sheraton when Ogden was drafted, it was an almost perfect marriage – Baltimore and Jon Ogden.

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J.O.’s family made short trips to the games from Washington, D.C. He loved Baltimore despite his “other life” in Las Vegas on the golf course. He was one helluva Raven and his contributions will certainly be most remembered once he’s gone and someone finally blindsides the quarterback (whoever it happens to be) from left side.

Ask yourself this question: “Other than that one night against Dwight Freeney (which we all remember for a few plays), name a game when you ever remember Ogden having an off game?”

I can save you the work. He didn’t have any.

Starting as a weird, oversized guard in 1996 in deference to Tony Jones, Ogden’s career has been almost flawless.

He went to Pro Bowls every year. He matched up against the best players and rush ends in the history of the league – from Reggie White to Michael Strahan to Freeney, who was the best he ever saw, Ogden saw them all and conquered them all. Name the defensive end or linebacker of your choice and I can show you tape of Ogden slapping him around.

I treasure that first black and white hat from the stage at the Paramount. I was going through old photos last night and remembering all of the laughs. Ogden has always been our coolest guest because we really appreciated that a player who could be that rich, that great and yet that quiet and unassuming would actually come out with the fans, loosen up and have some fun.

Ogden really “grew into” his large stature as a player, a person and a World Champion and soon-to-be Hall of Famer.

Ogden came to my Monday Night Live shows every year, just like clockwork. He always kept his word and he was almost painfully honest over the years. He pulled up rookie lineman and told them that WNST was a “real” place and encouraged them to meet the fans at our shows. Several offensive linemen have approached me over the years and said: “J.O. said I need to do your show.”

We’ve built a relationship that’s a little more personal than “media” and “friendly giant.”

I’ve seen Ogden around town on many occasions over the year, mostly inadvertently. My favorite was the night two years ago when I was a row behind him at a Lionel Richie concert at the Lyric Theatre. I didn’t see much of Lionel, but I did see a 6-foot-9 giant doing full 360’s during “Dancing On The Ceiling.”

He wasn’t much of a dancer.

And he probably won’t be much of a whiner or an emotional wreck today. My guess is that he won’t choke up today because he’s known for a long time this day was coming. And I don’t really sense that’s he’s tremendously “sad” about this.

It’s almost a relief and it’s certainly on his terms.

And, the Ravens current front office and staff will tell you that this is absolutely a “choice” on his part because they believe he’s still one of the three best left tackles in the game even on nine toes.

Alas, as much as I treasure my first hello with Jon Ogden from that day in April 1996, I will miss his final act today. I have a flight to Chicago for a work conference and his press conference is at 11:30. I will watch the video but I have plenty of memories and it might be a little more sad for me today, honestly, than it will be for him.

I will miss Jonathan Ogden. The first act of the Ravens history has closed its doors a little more fully now, with the parting of Ogden, Mike Flynn and Brian Billick. When Matt Stover and Ray Lewis go, the curtain will fall for good on this era of Baltimore’s re-emergence into the mainstream of pro football and the NFL.

So long, Jon!

Baltimore loves you and is surely going to vote you quite far into the King of Baltimore Sports contest.

And don’t be a stranger!

And by all means, make some room for us in Canton in July 2013.

The purple army is coming…

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