(BBR) - At a time when the NFL has been under increased scrutiny and pressure to increase the number of minorities in the head coaching ranks and at the upper levels of team front offices, Ozzie Newsome was named general manager of the Baltimore Ravens yesterday, becoming the first African American in NFL history to occupy that position.
Newsome, a Hall of Fame player and architect of the Ravens' Super Bowl champions two years ago, already occupied a position of high authority as the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations. The titles of executive vice president and general manager were added to his name yesterday, with a five-year contract, mostly as a formality, because that's exactly the role he has filled for the team in recent years.
"From a historic standpoint, this is very significant, I'm the only black general manager in the NFL. Growing up in the South, there were a lot of times when I was one of the first. I was one of the first blacks to play Little League baseball. Sometimes, it's all about the right timing."
Ozzie Newsome Jr. (born March 16, 1956) is a former American football tight end for the Cleveland Browns, and the current general manager of the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL). Newsome was inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame (1994) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1999).
Newsome played for the University of Alabama, where he started for all 4 years of his college career. Nicknamed "The Wizard of Oz," Newsome made the College Football All-America Team in 1977 and assisted the Crimson Tide to a 42 and 6 overall record during his four seasons. In total, Newsome amassed 102 receptions for 2,070 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. His 20.3 average yards per catch was a Southeastern Conference record for over 20 years. Newsome was named the Alabama Player of the Decade for the 1970s. He was a two-time All-SEC player (in 1976 and 1977), and named him SEC Lineman of the Year in 1977 by the Birmingham Quarterback Club and the Atlanta Touchdown Club. In 1994, Newsome was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant called him "the greatest end in Alabama history and that includes Don Hutson. A total team player, fine blocker, outstanding leader, great receiver with concentration, speed, hands."
Newsome was drafted in the first round with the 23rd pick in the 1978 NFL Draft for the Cleveland Browns. He was named the Browns' Offensive Player of the Year his rookie year, the first time in 25 years that a rookie had received that honor. Newsome went to the Pro Bowl in 1981, 1984 and 1985. In 1984, Newsome set a franchise record for receiving yards in a game (191) that stood for 29 years until it was broken in 2013 by Josh Gordon (who recorded 237 and 261 yards in back-to-back games). In 1986, Newsome won the Ed Block Courage Award for playing with injuries, and in 1990 won the Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Award for his community service.
Newsome finished his career with 662 receptions and 7,980 yards, both Cleveland franchise records, and 47 touchdowns, fifth all-time. In 1999 Newsome was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.