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LVS: Unassuming Star Retiring


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http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/sports/2007/dec/08/566667318.html

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UNASSUMING STAR RETIRING

The Henderson resident will jump into community life, maybe even coach local players

By Rob Miech, Las Vegas Sun

Las Vegas Sun

Jonathan Ogden nearly retired over the summer, but he thought the Baltimore Ravens had a chance to make a run in the playoffs.

He thought wrong. Now 12 seasons of aches and pains in the National Football League have caught up to the star left tackle who has lived in Henderson since 1999.

Injuries to his big left toe and left foot have dogged him for months, and the Ravens keep losing.

"It's been tough, I ain't going to lie," Ogden says. "I just know that this is probably my last season."

In a game against New England on Monday night, a late series of blunders and penalties led to Baltimore (4-8) losing its sixth consecutive game, but Ogden was the first to shake the hand of Patriots coach Bill Belichick at midfield after the game.

Ogden advises any high school coach in the Las Vegas area who desires a future Pro Football Hall of Famer to coach his linemen to call him.

He has stood out for years at perhaps the game's most important position, protecting the blind side of quarterbacks, most of whom are right-handed.

As a lineman, he was the game's highest-paid player, at $18 million, for a stretch in 2002. Incredibly, as a pro, he's never needed surgery.

Ogden has always been simple and unassuming.

At St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., he once participated in a spelling bee with his back to the audience. That's where he befriended kids named Marriott and Rockefeller. Yes, those Marriotts and Rockefellers.

Nobody, he learned, is better than anybody else.

Ogden has made about $100 million in his career, but he visited the White House, after the Ravens won the Super Bowl, wearing bluejeans. He recently splurged on a luxury car - a used Mercedes-Benz. He must be coaxed into getting a haircut.

An ardent "Jeopardy!" fan, Ogden also tests his brain with crossword puzzles. His locker is filled with hardback books.

After practice last week, before he ducked into a meeting, Ogden talked about life in the violent National Football League, Las Vegas and his late father, Sherrill.

The killing of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was so terrible, so sad. Whether he was targeted or it was random, it's a shame that that would happen to anyone. That's been big around here. It's tough.

I always laughed at older players, when I was young, complaining about getting beat up and being tired. Now, that's me.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I'd go to Vegas every other week. I'd hop on Southwest and go. Then I thought, I'm there a lot, why not move to Las Vegas? Greatest move of my life.

My wife, Kema, opened a boxing gym in Las Vegas. I'll focus on reading and tutoring programs for kids. I want people to know that we're in the community.

I have a lot of football knowledge. They sometimes say the greatest players make the worst coaches. Arizona Cardinals assistant coach Russ Grimm has made a good coach, so it can be done.

I might be quiet, but I got a switch, so to speak. You have to be a little crazy to play offensive line. You have to want to hit people really hard. At the same time, you have to be controlled. Can't fly around like a maniac.

Bruce Smith was one of the best defensive ends I've faced. Dwight Freeney is tough. Simeon Rice, Jason Taylor, Derrick Thomas ... good guys. But I always felt if I play my game I'll be OK.

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