MUSCL SHOALS, Ala. (WALA) - The Super Bowl champion, the Baltimore Ravens, has an Alabama and "Bear" Bryant connection. Muscle Shoals native and Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome was a receiver for the Crimson Tide in the 1970s.
Newsome recently shared about his life, success and how Coach Bryant impacted both.
"It comes from exposure, if you get a chance to get on the big stage a lot; you get a chance to leave an impression. I just played more than everybody else. I don't know if I'm that much better than everybody," Newsome shared.
Newsome has a humble spirit when he talks about his life successes. The Crimson Tide, college football and NFL Hall of Famer made a decision years ago that started his trail blazing journey.
"I grew up during the 1960s. I saw the way it was; but I also saw a change and so when I was 12 and in the sixth grade, you had freedom of choice to be able to go to whatever school. At that point, I made a decision that color was not going to define me. To achieve, you have to be willing to compete with any and everyone," Newsome said.
Bryant recruited him from Colbert County high school to Tuscaloosa.
"There were no black players or white players. There were Alabama football players, and he was Coach Bryant.
The other thing he taught was, the team is the most important thing," Newsome remembered.
Newsome earned all-SEC and college All-American honors. Bryant also taught his players life lessons.
"He impressed upon us is that if you want to be a success, it has to come from within. You know what you can't need for someone else to be pushing you and motivating. You have to bring it from within yourself. He always would talk about, can you give what your mom and daddy gave? Can you give what your grandmother and grandfather gave? He wanted you to always dig down real deep. He was way ahead of his times, and the lessons that he taught all of us are the lessons that we are living today," Newsome said.
Newsome, who was Bryant called Alabama's greatest end, played in the Senior Bowl and was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns.
"Cleveland is a great place to play football. It would be zero degrees and those fans, they were there with us. That city embraced us as players," Newsome reflected.
A five time all pro, Newsome never missed a game in 13- National Football League seasons. Experts have said his level of play at the tight-end position advanced the NFL game.
"You have to be around people that want to utilize your strengths. It allowed me to be able to use my assets for the team which opened up the whole offense. Coach Sam Rutigliano told me, ‘We're doing that because we're going to throw you the football, because that's what you do best.' I was fortunate enough to play for Art Modell, who had Ernie Accorsi, who was one of the top general managers in the league. They came to me in the last two or three years of my career and said, ‘If you want the opportunity to stay in the game, we would love to have you.' I enjoyed the game. I enjoyed the relationships. The game is only going to last for so long, and you're going to have to transition to something else," Newsome said.
Newsome retired after the 1990 season and moved into the Cleveland front office.
"I'm glad I decided to stay in Cleveland, because the year I retired is the year they brought Bill Belichick in to be the head coach. And learning from Accorsi and Belichick has propelled me and helped me to be the type of general manager I am today," Newsome stated.
Eleven years later and the franchise's move to Baltimore, Newsome's promotion to general manager of the Ravens in 2002 was historic.
"Every time I did something, I was like the first to do it. John Thompson the head coach from Georgetown University, said it to me this way, ‘Now a young African-American male can say I can become a General Manager because you became one.' That's when it shed a whole different light on it for me," Newsome shared.
Considered the architect of Baltimore's two Super Bowl winning teams, Newsome said relationships are important when impressing upon his players to give their best on and off the field.
"I'm becoming more of a life coach. I get an opportunity to be with these guys on a daily basis. I get a chance to have a impact in their lives. You just can't be a pro on the field. You have to be a pro off the field. I enjoy my job winning games but also see myself as a life coach," Newsome stated.
Newsome said he's had the opportunity to watch several Raven players like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs, grow from young guys into men and leaders. Ogden asked Newsome to present him next month at Ogden's induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. Newsome met his wife in Mobile when he played in the Senior Bowl, and the Gulf Coast is still a regular getaway spot for them. Newsome is gearing up for another run after a Super Bowl title. He said he hopes it won't take another 12-years to get back. To move forward, Newsome said somebody's
got to win that game up in New York. When Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh had his first meeting with the team at our mini-camp he showed a picture of the book closing that's over we're moving forward. We've got a big target on our backs and we're saying let's go.
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