NFL fans are devastated over the passing of this legendary Hall of Famer

swimfinfan from Chicago, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Few players in NFL history have been able to gain universal respect from fan bases across the league for their play on the field.

And unfortunately all too often many fans only truly recognize some players’ greatness once it’s too late.

Now NFL fans are devastated over the passing of this legendary Hall of Famer.

The “original Raider”

Jim Otto, the Pro Football Hall of Fame center known as “Mr. Raider,” has died, the team confirmed in a recent statement.

Otto, who was 86, joined the Oakland Raiders in their inaugural 1960 season in the old American Football League.

He remained with the team throughout his storied 15 year career.

“The Original Raider,” the team wrote in a statement posted to X. 

“The personification of consistency, Jim’s influence on the American Football League and professional football as a whole cannot be overstated. His leadership and tenacity were a hallmark of the dominant Raider teams of the 1960s and 70s,” the statement added.

Otto remained involved with the Raiders even after they moved to Las Vegas in 2020, and was among players from the club’s past who were in the locker room following the Raiders’ 27-14 season-ending victory over the Denver Broncos.

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby posted on X that Otto was an “absolute legend & incredible person.”

Otto never once missed a game because of injuries, a feat that remains unrivaled, especially in this modern-day era of pampered millionaire athletes.

He played in 210 consecutive regular season games, and 308 straight total games despite undergoing nine knee operations during his playing career. 

In 2007, Otto’s right leg was amputated due to complications from all of his injuries.

“When you think of the old-time, tough Raider, you think of Jim Otto.”

Former Raiders quarterback Jim Gannon once said of Otto, “He’s a warrior. When you think of the old-time, tough Raider, you think of Jim Otto.”

It is believed Otto underwent more than 50 operations throughout his life, almost all of them as a result of football-related injuries. 

Most of the surgeries dealt with multiple joint replacements, arthritis, and debilitating back and neck problems. 

Otto also had prostate cancer and two major infections after his playing days were over.

“I can take any type of surgery in the world except for when it comes to something that’s internal,” Otto once said. “When it’s cosmetic, fixing your nose, fixing your knee, fixing your elbows or whatever, that’s nothing.”

Wearing his famous No. 00 jersey, which was a play on his name “Aught-oh,” Otto played in nine AFL All-Star games, as well as the first three NFL Pro Bowls after its merger with the AFL, before being inducted into Canton as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

“Throughout my career, I worked hard to continue to stay a level above everyone else, “Otto once said. “Every day I walked on to the field, I was the best center. That’s the way I wanted to be. I continued to play at that level with those expectations.”

Otto was a key part of the Raiders team that became one of the best organizations in professional football. 

The team won seven division titles in his last eight seasons and lost the Super Bowl to Green Bay following the 1967 season.

He played his final seasons with fellow Hall of Famers offensive linemen Gene Upshaw and Art Shell. 

That Raiders offensive line consistently physically dominated and intimidated their opponents.

“There was some intimidation,” he said. “Teams didn’t like to come to Oakland because of the fans and the football team.”

The Raiders also developed a league-wide reputation for partying just as hard as they played.

Legend has it that players would show up just in time for bed check at 11 p.m., then head back out the door, sometimes showing up in the locker room straight from a night of partying.

“No matter what happened the night before, they were all at practice the next morning,” Otto said.

Otto was born January 5, 1938, in Wausau, Wisconsin.

He grew up in abject poverty, even living for a time in a chicken coop with his family. 

He played college football at the University of Miami, starring as both a center and linebacker.

He went undrafted by the NFL in 1959, before ultimately signing with the AFL’s Raiders the next year. 

He was one of only 20 players who played in the AFL for its entire 10 years of existence.

Otto is survived by his wife Sally, his son Jim Jr. and daughter-in-law Leah, and 14 grandchildren. 

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