Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
"Football as a team game demands sacrifice and discipline. You’ve got to think of the guy playing next to you and try to help him. To do that, you have to sacrifice."
(Miami - Florida)...6'2'', 255...James Edwin Otto. . .Anchored Raiders' offensive line for 15 years. . . Noted for pride, dedication, leadership, intelligence . . .Sure-handed ball-snapper, superior blocker with wide range. . .Overcame numerous injuries to play 308 games, including six AFL/AFC title games, Super Bowl II, 12-all-star contests. . .Named all-league 12 consecutive years, 1960-1971, second-team All-NFL, 1972. . .AFL's only all-league center. . . Named to AFL All-Time Team, 1969. . .Also All-AFC in 1970, 1971, 1972. . .Born January 5, 1938, in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Some people say that playing on the offensive line has no glory. But it’s difficult to imagine any one player dominating the honors at one position more completely than Jim Otto did both in the American Football League and in the National Football League from 1960 through 1974.
The Wausau, Wis., native joined the newly founded Oakland Raiders in 1960 and for the next 15 seasons was the only starting center the Raiders ever had. He was one of only three players who saw action in each of his team’s 140 regular-season games over the AFL’s 10-year history, and he played with such skill that in its entire history, the AFL never had another all-league center.
Otto, who starred as a center and linebacker at the University of Miami in Florida, won All-AFL acclaim 10 consecutive seasons. He was All-NFL in 1970 and 1971, then earned second-team All-NFL honors in 1972. Not surprisingly, he was named to the AFL All-Time Team following the 1969 season.
During his 15-year career, he participated in each of the nine AFL All-Star Games that were played and in the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl the first three seasons that postseason classic was scheduled. Jim never missed a game. When he retired following the 1974 season, he had started in 210 consecutive games in the regular season and had played in 308 games as a Raider.
During that period, the Raiders, who had once been AFL doormats, rose to prominence. Oakland won seven divisional championships in an eight-year period from 1967 through 1974. The 1967 Raiders became AFL champions and played against the NFL’s Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. Throughout this time span, Otto was a tower of strength as the anchor of the Raiders' talented offensive line.
Jim Otto Enshrinement Speech 1980
Presenter: Al Davis
Thank you very much. For two memorable decades, the last 20 years, the Oakland Raiders have had the greatest players, the greatest coaches, the greatest plays and performed in the greatest games ever played in the annals of sports. During the period of 1960 to 1974, the Oakland Raiders had the best record in professional football. Among the greatest players, the quarterbacks during these years, where names like Flores, Lamonica, the legendary Blanda , Stabler, but there was one constant, one center, one captain, one original Raider who started in each of the 210 consecutive regular-season games during those 15 years. His name was Jim Otto; his number was Double-Zero. For 13 straight years from 1960 he was All-Pro, the only All-Pro center in American Football League history. Followed by three years as the All-Pro center of the American Football Conference following the merger with the NFL.
He played in every one of the nine American Football League All-Star Games and in the first AFC- NFC Pro Bowl games. He had played and started in 308 games as a Raider. This long reign included 73 preseason contests, 210 regular- season games, 13 postseason games and 12 All-Star contests. Commitment to excellence, pride and poise, the greatness of our football team were not only exemplified by Jim Otto, but for more than a decade he was the standard of excellence by which centers were judged in professional football. He was the most honored offense lineman in the history of professional football. But statistics are just a measure of accomplishment, not really the measure of a man. If it is true that great men inspire in others the will to be great, that alone qualifies Jim to be a great man. He had courage in spite of his first injuries. His loyalty, devotion and dedication still carry on in Oakland and reached the rewards of victory. While the word “company man” has a bad and good connotation, Jim Otto was an organization man. He played football for the organization; he wanted to win for the organization. Plain old-fashioned wholesomeness was not passed. He was an organizational dream.
The enshrinement here in Canton of Jim Otto is like a reaffirmation of the values and virtues of what is still the American way of life. Religion, family and country -- as he preferred them in that order -- and the virtues and the fires that burned brightest in him for the great love and enthusiasm he had and has for the game of football and for everyone and everything in life. He loved the AFL of which he was find original and some of the legendary heroes of that greatly, Lamar Hunt, John Madden, Ben Davidson to name a few are here today. He loved the Oakland Raiders, and he loved the game of football, but the important thing was he established all of them to a degree never surpassed. I love to come here to the Hall, I have done it many times, and walked through the exhibits to pay tribute to the great men whom we idolized as youngsters and we still idolize today, included in this great class Adderley, Jones, Lilly and Otto. I would sign them all today if I could. And we share in their glory. It brings a realization, and I have said this many times, of a debt we owe to them and a firm resolution that we will never forget that debt.
Jim Otto: The caisson has stopped rolling, the cannons are still, the playing field is quiet. The crowd no longer worries. The Silver-and-Black uniform is retired, but I can still faintly hear the national anthem and those of us who saw the rattles and the Raiders battle to the top during the last decades will never forget you. And now no one will forget you because the name of Jim Otto will rain down the corridors of remember times as long as this Hall of Fame immortalizes the greatest warriors of the greatest game. My friend, someone that I will always love, someone who has been a vital part in my life and I will always hope I have been a vital part of his, my friend, Jim Otto, Hall of Famer.
There is really one person I have to thank and that is the good Lord. I have praised him and blessed him. It started with a dream, and it wasn't an unconscious dream; it was a daydream. It started when I was about 11 years old, and part of that dream is coming to an end today, but the rest of the dream will go on. Daydreams are the best because you can always remember them, and you can work on a daydream to make it come true. My favorite daydream was that I was going to be a professional football player someday, and it was at the age of 11 while listening to a football game on the radio that I told my grandfather that someday I was going to be a professional football player. And it wasn't long until that day began.
Not all dreams come true. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of pride and above all a lot of faith and prayer. And I thank and praise God for the help he gave me for putting the right people in the right place before me.
For without these people my dream would not have come true. My four years in high school with tough. It was at this time that certain people became a big part in making my dream come true. My parents, who are here today, were a great part of that. They gave me a lot of support and help and we're always there when I needed them. My minister, Pastor Gredimen back in Warsaw Wis., was a big help in getting me going as a youngster. Back in those days, things were hard, but it wasn't too much money, and at one time I started getting cards from the YMCA giving me a membership. I never knew who paid that membership until I was 34 years old, when I went home to Warsaw for a visit to speak at the high school dinner and Pastor Gredimen was there to give the invocation. It was at that time, he told me, "James, when you went to school," he said, "there was a bit of shyness. And it had to come out, and I knew the only way to get it out was to send you to the YMCA." And he was the one who gave me the membership to the YMCA all those years, so I have to thank him.
So, you can see God put these people out there for me so I could be guided properly. There was another man who played an important role in my life, and that was Tom Yellish, who was a schoolteacher in Warsaw, Wis., and he was my first Little League coach at the age of 12. He later became my offensive line coach in high school and he was the best teacher of line fundamentals that I have ever seen. And also my high school coach, Win Brockmeyer, who sent Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch here a few years back. Win passed away just a few months ago as he would be here with us today and I really miss him. He was a great builder of character and had some super records second to none and very compatible with teams in the Massillon area.
There were all those great people available to me. In college there was Andy Guthason, Walt Chacheske, Stich Berry. And as the years passed, a little bit more of dream was to come true. I was passed up by the NFL in the draft in 1959 -- it was December 1959 -- but lucky for me, the AFL was being formed. People like Lamar Hunt, Wilson, Wayne Valley, people like that were forming a league, giving some of us scholars an opportunity to play, and it was at that time I got my shot. But the first three years in the AFL was more of a nightmare of a dream than my dream come true. For it was during that time, probably I know the best thing that could have happened to me happened, and that was when I married my beautiful wife, Sally, and I think she pulled me out of that nightmare, because without her I think my dream might have fizzled. And I love her for understanding and patience for all these years in football and all the problems I may have caused in our home. Not only was her patience and understanding great, but also those of our children. There are times when a father becomes impatient during the football season, but Jennifer arid Jimmy were always there and they always put up with their dad, and I am very proud of my daughter Jennifer. She is going to make me a grandfather soon. And her husband, Glenn Callihan. We are very proud of those people. And also my son, Jimmy. I am looking forward to him with a lot of pride because I can’t wait to watch him grow and achieve in sports. And he is just an outstanding person in school as well, and it just makes me very proud to have him here.
In 1963, things began to change, and my dream was alive again and I thank God for bringing the right people into my dream again. At that time, a young man was to become the head coach and general manager of the Oakland Raiders and guide me where I am standing today. And that man is Al Davis. He sold me on the Raiders. Not only that, he sold me on myself. He along with Ollie Spencer as my line coach, John Madden as my head coach kept me motivated to playing some of the most exciting football games ever played in the National Football League. The great come-from-behind wins. The fluke plays for us; some of the fluke plays for the other teams. Will you remember some of those games? I don't have to tell you about those. They were a great part in making my dreams come true.
The dream must go on now, but only to my other plans. And that is to help my fellow man in some way and to save my own soul. And I am going to do that with the help of God.
To all the many people I mentioned, the Selection Committee Pete Elliott, Don Smith, John Bankert, Mr. Schreiber and the Board of Trustees: My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and God Bless you all.