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Ozzie Newsome: A talented tight end and general manager

Many former NFL players become businessmen, yet only few are successful at it. Former Alabama wide receiver/tight end Ozzie Newsome is one of the few. A native of Muscle Shoals, Ala., Newsome played for head coach Paul Bryant, and would be called the greatest end in Alabama history. He was a team player with solid hands, speed, concentration and blocking techniques. Newsome was a marquee name at Alabama from 1974-77.

Newsome saw action in 11 games as a freshman in 1974. He brought in 20 passes for 374 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 18.7 yards per catch. Alabama captured a Southeastern Conference title in 1974, but Newsome wasn’t put on national display until 1976.

He proved to be dominant as a junior, totaling 25 catches for 524 yards and six touchdowns. Newsome averaged 21.2 yards per catch, and helped Alabama record a 9-3 season in 1976. The Crimson Tide would go on to defeat No.7-ranked UCLA 36-6 in the Liberty Bowl.

Newsome’s gained respect from his teammates and coaches. He was voted a team captain, prior to the 1977 season. Newsome toyed with defenders in his senior year, as he accounted for 804 yards and four touchdowns on 36 catches.

He appeared in 44 games, and tallied 2,070 yards with 16 touchdowns on 102 catches. Newsome’s average of 20.3 yards per game (1977) was an SEC record for over 20 years.

He was a three-time SEC champion (1974-75, 1977) and a two-time Sugar Bowl champion in 1975 and 1977. Newsome saw action in four bowl games, and compiled a 42-6 record in four years at Alabama. He was named a consensus All-American in 1977 and was voted twice as an All-SEC player (1976, 1977). Newsome was named to the Alabama Player of the Decade for the 1970s.

He was potent as a wide receiver, but Newsome blossomed in the National Football League as an athletic tight end. The Cleveland Browns selected Newsome in the first round (23rd pick) of the 1978 NFL Draft. He would spend all 13 seasons (1978-90) of his pro career in Cleveland.

To Browns’ fans, Newsome was the second coming of former Cleveland great Jim Brown. Newsome shredded defenses for 7,980 yards and 47 touchdowns on 662 receptions in his career. His 662 catches and 7,980 yards are both franchise record for the Browns.

Newsome’s 47 touchdowns are good for fourth all-time in franchise history. He set a franchise record for most receiving yards in a game (191) in 1984. The mark stood for 29 years, until wide receiver Josh Gordon broke it in 2013. Missing games was a not an option for Newsome.

He played in 198 games, scratching out 191 starts. Newsome won the Ed Block Courage Award in 1986 for playing with injuries. He was the recipient of the Byron “Whizzer” White Man of the Year Award in 1990 for his efforts in community service. Newsome was a three-time Pro Bowl selection (1981, 1984-85), and was voted first-team All-Pro in 1984 with the Browns.

Newsome served as a general manager for the Browns for five seasons (1991-95), until he landed a spot with the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. The hunger inside from not winning a national title or a Super Bowl championship as a player, fueled Newsome as a GM.

He drafted players that embodied the same characteristics he had at Alabama. In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens crafted a fierce defense. It was anchored by middle linebacker Ray Lewis and strong safety Edward Reed.

Baltimore notched a wildcard spot in the 2000 NFL Playoffs with a 12-4 record. The Ravens made it to Super Bowl XXXV (35), and defeated the New York Giants 34-7. It was the first Super Bowl title for Baltimore in 30 years. 12 years of building through the draft paid off, and in 2012 success came again for Newsome and the Ravens. Ray Lewis was still the alpha dog, but Baltimore’s defense had Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and two former Alabama players, Courtney Upshaw and Terrence Cody. The confidence of quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ defense navigated the team to a 10-6 record and a berth in the 2012 NFL Playoffs.

Super Bowl XLVII (47) set up a matchup between two brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh. Baltimore faced San Francisco on Feb. 3, 2013, inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La. The Ravens defeated San Francisco 34-31 in an entertaining Super Bowl. Joe Flacco shined on the biggest stage, as he threw for 287 passing yards with three touchdowns.

What Newsome didn’t win as a player, he accomplished as a general manager. He enters his 20th season with Baltimore this fall, and continues to scout players from his Alma mater.

Baltimore has five former Alabama players on its roster: C.J. Mosley, Courtney Upshaw, Nick Perry, Trey DePriest and Leon Brown. Upshaw a Super Bowl, but Mosley had a dazzling rookie season. He totaled 133 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 2014. Mosley won the AFC North Rookie of the Year Award and was named to the Pro Bowl.

College football and the NFL both placed Newsome among its elite. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Newsome is a member of the Cleveland Browns Ring of Honor. He was inducted on Sept. 19, 2010.

 

Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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