Thom Loverro: For Ravens' Ozzie Newsome, an unprecedented second act in the NFL

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Sports,NFL,Ravens,Thom Loverro

Jerry West is considered by many to be the gold standard for the star athlete moving into the front office.

A 14-time All-Star for the Lakers who won one NBA championship, West engineered six more titles as Los Angeles' general manager, becoming a two-time NBA executive of the year.

Well, if West is the gold standard, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is the Jerry West of the NFL.

The Ravens will play in their third AFC championship game under Newsome's watch Sunday when they face the New England Patriots.

He wasn't given the title of general manager until 2002. But he was the one who laid the foundation for the Ravens' consistent success since the franchise moved from Cleveland in 1996.

Newsome was named vice president of player personnel that year, and for his opening act he drafted Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden -- two future NFL Hall of Famers.

Newsome was instrumental in hiring Brian Billick, who led the Ravens to the 2000 Super Bowl title, and as GM he fully put his stamp on the organization by boldly hiring Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach John Harbaugh to succeed Billick.

Harbaugh is 54-26 in the regular season since going to Baltimore in 2008, with a playoff appearance in each of his five seasons.

That would be a career for most. For Newsome, it's his second act.

The first one put him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Newsome was a four-year starter at the University of Alabama, where he played for Paul "Bear" Bryant, who called Newsome "the greatest end in Alabama history."

He was drafted by the Browns with the 23rd pick of the 1978 draft and made an immediate impact. He was named the team's offensive player of the year, the first time in 25 years a rookie won that honor. He would go on to catch 662 passes for 7,980 yards (he had 191 yards receiving in one game, a franchise record), both Browns records, and 47 touchdowns.

He was named a first- or second-team All-Pro -- a far more impressive selection than Pro Bowl -- seven times. He also was named as the tight end for the NFL's 1980s All-Decade team.

In 1999, Newsome was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Five years earlier, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame.

He has gone on to become one of the greatest general managers of his era, and there may be no player-turned executive in the modern NFL who has compiled a record like Newsome's.

Yet he receives little fanfare or notice.

Ray Lewis may fire up the Ravens with his pregame dance ritual. But the man who stokes the furnace for this organization is Ozzie Newsome.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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