Hall-of-Famer, NFL executive talks to North students

Ozzie Newsome was one of the best tight ends ever to play football, but he admitted being an NFL executive isn’t as easy.

The former Cleveland Browns star player and executive and former Baltimore Ravens general manager and current executive vice president was speaking to a group of about 200 students Wednesday at Columbus North High School, as well as other classrooms around the country who tuned into the livestream on YouTube.

“As a player, you can control how you play by your preparation, whether it’s in the weight room, whether it’s on the treadmill running, studying film,” Newsome said. “You have some control over what you do any given Sunday, Monday or Thursday or whenever you play. When you become the GM, you have no control. Yeah, I had a chance to pick Lamar (Jackson) or Ray Lewis or Jonathan Ogden or Ed Reed, but I have no control over how they play on Sundays or Mondays. So as a GM, you hopefully put together some characteristics of what you think a player should be able to live to.”

The 62-year-old Newsome is spending time this week interviewing draft prospects about those characteristics at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

“As we were talking today with these young players that we were interviewing, we look for someone when they come into Baltimore, ‘Are they going to be committed to the values that we have, to the work that they need to do in order to help us to achieve what we need to achieve?’” Newsome said. “Commitment is very important.”

Growing up in Alabama, Newsome was weighing college offers from in-state powers Alabama and Auburn. He originally committed to Auburn, but later changed his mind and signed with the Crimson Tide because he thought their pitch to him was more about team success than individual success.

Newsome said legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s message was consistent from the time he was a freshman to the time he was a senior.

“No. 1 was, ‘The team, the team, the team.’ No one was bigger than the team,” Newsome said. “The other thing that he talked about was, ‘Always show your class.’ So those things resonated with me and my other teammates while we were at the university, and those are some of the same things that I utilize or have utilized in my playing career and my post-playing career with the Ravens and the Browns.”

Newsome played for the Browns from 1978-90 before becoming a front office executive with the team from 1991-96. He was at the combine in Indianapolis as a scout and executive VP/player personnel in 1996 when the Browns annonced they were relocating to Baltimore.

“I got a call from Jim Bailey, who was the executive vice president, for me to leave the combine and come to Baltimore,” Newsome said. “That’s how I found out.”

Although he had GM responsibilities immediately after the move, Newsome did not officially get the GM title until 2002, when he became the first Black GM in NFL history. He won two Super Bowls with the Ravens after the 2000 and 2012 seasons. Newsome remained in the GM role until 2018, when he returned to a role as executive VP/player personnel.

Newsome was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. He remembers the day in 1999 that he found out he was selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I went to work that Saturday, and I did it as a distraction. I think my son was 5 years old, and I asked him to go with me. I was watching tape, but I wasn’t really watching tape because I was so nervous about it. You’re sitting there, and the announcer came over the TV, and he’s doing his best not to be a distraction to me, but I wanted him to be a distraction. So they go through the names, and they’re doing it aphabetical, and Eric Dickerson goes. Then, they got to the ends, and they called my name, and I can’t describe that feeling.

“My son looked at me, and he saw something that was different about me,” he added. “He said, ‘What’s wrong, Dad?’ and I said, ‘I was just selected into the Football Hall of Fame.’ I’m thankful there were some other scouts that were working there that weekend that came in and said, ‘Hey Mike, come go with me.’ So they took Michael out to an area where he could go shoot some hoops, and the phone just started ringing and for the next two or three hours, and I was saying, ‘Thank you for your call,’ and trying to set up different interviews with newspapers from my hometown and college and Cleveland. So that next three hours was busy, but it was the best three hours of my life.”

If there were a couple of things that Newsome wanted the students to take from his message, it was, “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” He also stressed the importance of education.

“There’s a lot of things that you want to aspire to do in your life,” Newsome said. “You’re going to have some success, and you’re going to have some failures, but you have to have the education. That’s the most important thing.”

Newsome’s question-and-answer session with Hall of Fame youth and education manager Jacob Ray and students from North and from remote classrooms around the country was part of the Heart of a Hall of Famer series, connected by Extreme Networks. Various Hall of Famers participate at different locations.

Wednesday’s session was Newsome’s first.

“It just worked out because I was here for the combine, and it’s only a 50-minute ride or so,” Newsome said. “So it’s just a combination of being here and the invitation from the Hall and me being able to deliver the Hall’s message. It was an unbelievable turnout. Hopefully, they’re not missing any classes or anything, but maybe I gave them some things that they can chew on that will make them better in their life.”