- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Cynics once said owner Art Modell rewarded Ozzie Newsome with a front office position because Newsome had a brilliant playing career with the Cleveland Browns. These days it's Newsome who's rewarding Modell.

In the five years since Modell's franchise relocated from Cleveland, Newsome built the Baltimore Ravens, helping the 75-year-old Modell get to his first Super Bowl. The Ravens will face the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday.

After a 13-year playing career, the Hall of Fame tight end has displayed an eye for talent as the Ravens' vice president of player personnel.

In a report by the Dallas Morning News, the Ravens' draft over the past five years has produced more Pro Bowl players (four) and a higher percentage of starters (38.5) than any other NFL team. In the last five drafts Newsome picked 12 players who will start for the Ravens in the Super Bowl.

"We've been drafting in the top 10," Newsome said. "You normally can get a starter maybe not a Pro Bowler but you can get a starter in the top 10. I have a very good staff of people that feel that they can voice their opinion at any point to me. They're not afraid to tell me I'm wrong. I allow them to have that opportunity. But at some point, I have to make a decision, and I try to do it based on the information I get from my guys."

James Harris and Phil Savage are Newsome's main men.

Harris, the Ravens' pro personnel director and a former NFL quarterback, was instrumental in bringing unrestricted free agents tight end Shannon Sharpe, cornerback Robert Bailey, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams, quarterback Trent Dilfer, defensive end Michael McCrary, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and Pro Bowl safety Rod Woodson to the Ravens.

Savage, 35, the Ravens' director of college scouting, has six full-time scouts working different parts of the country, evaluating hundreds of college prospects.

But Newsome, perhaps the greatest tight end in NFL history, has the final say. Newsome truly enjoys front office work and calls the administrative part of his job challenging. It helps that he loves to watch tape.

"What I try to bring is my ability to evaluate talent," Newsome said. "I try to not let anything override what I think I do best for the organization and that is look at tape."

When Newsome retired after the 1990 season, Modell invited him to join the front office as a special assignment scout. Two years later, Newsome was promoted to assistant coach/offense-pro personnel, and in 1994 Newsome was named the team's director of pro personnel.

The Ravens' first draft under Newsome's leadership was in 1996 and produced two perennial Pro Bowl players left tackle Jonathan Ogden and middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the NFL's defensive player of the year this season. In the fifth round of that draft, Newsome selected Pro Bowl return specialist Jermaine Lewis out of Maryland.

Newsome's Midas touch continued in 1997. In his second draft, Newsome picked linebackers Jamie Sharper and Peter Boulware as well as strong safety Kim Herring and center Jeff Mitchell. All four are starters. Boulware was named 1997 NFL rookie of the year.

In 1998, Newsome tabbed cornerback Duane Starks and wide receiver Patrick Johnson with the team's first two picks. The good luck continued in 1999 as well. He picked cornerback Chris McAlister, a rising star, 10th overall and added starting guard Edwin Mulitalo and wide receiver Brandon Stokley.

And in April's draft, the Ravens benefited from two trades that Newsome made, landing them two first-round picks the fifth and 10th overall.

During the 1999 draft, Newsome traded the Ravens' second-round selection (42nd overall) to the Atlanta Falcons for the Falcons' first-round pick in the 2000 draft. That pick turned out to be Tennessee running back Jamal Lewis, the fifth overall choice and a 1,000-yard rusher this season.

And on draft day, Newsome traded the Ravens' 15th and 45th picks to Denver for the Broncos' first round pick (10th overall) and tabbed Florida wide receiver Travis Taylor.

"Ozzie has done a phenomenal job with base personnel," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We've augmented it well, we've filled in when we've had to with free agency when some things have popped up. Ozzie and his staff, and I've said it many times, have done a phenomenal job. That's one of the main reasons I came here. I had a sense Ozzie and myself could work well together, and it's been great."

At 44, Newsome still looks like he could play. He keeps himself in shape with daily runs on Owings Mills Boulevard the road that runs in front of the Ravens' training complex or laps around the team's practice fields.

Newsome's 662 receptions for 7,980 yards are the best of any tight end in NFL history. Newsome was a fearless receiver with soft hands who could punish defensive backs.

Newsome ended his career as the fourth-leading receiver in NFL history, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

"I know the type of job he did on the field, and with him applying those same principles to any job he takes on, I'm not surprised by his success," said former Washington Redskins running back Earnest Byner, who played five seasons with Newsome in Cleveland and is now the Ravens' director of player development. "The way Ozzie made this thing come together, gathering information from other people and pulling that trigger based on that information, is tremendous."

Newsome was groomed for front office work near the end of his career. Former Browns Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield and ex-Dallas Cowboys and Redskins running back Calvin Hill were the Browns' directors of player programs, and they instituted internships for Browns players in the offseason.

Newsome worked in the personnel department of East Ohio Gas and did on-campus recruiting for management trainees. Newsome dedicated three to four months each season looking for managerial talent. The ability to find talent, whether it be on the field or off it, manifested itself in front office success. Newsome is a candidate for NFL executive of the year.

Immediately following the Ravens' 16-3 win over the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game, Modell was asked about Newsome.

"Ozzie Newsome has been with me for 22 years," Modell said. "I drafted him out of Alabama. He started out as a personal assistant on the field, coaching in training camp. He's come a long way. He's the best man in football today. I said, 'Thank you.' "

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