NFL Lockout: Remember That Not ALL Players Are Millionaires

In his finest hour, Jim Otto moved mountains. Actually, he moved defensive linemen, but they were mountainous men, and Otto used leverage, strength and sheer will to clear them out of the way.

Otto, the Hall of Fame center for pro football’s ne’er-do-well Oakland Raiders from 1960-74, played football at knee level. His world on the gridiron was mostly lived 24 inches off the ground.

Otto touched the football on every play, but in the same way that a bell is involved in every boxing match. Nothing happened on the football field until Jim Otto said so. No one was to flinch until Otto made his snap to the quarterback.

He wore the unusual number of 00, to represent the first and last letters of his last name. Where others in the trenches had helmets adorned with criss-crossed cages in front of their faces, Otto eschewed all that protection in favor of the simple, two-bar face mask that was worn by wide receivers and running backs.

For 60, 70 snaps every Sunday afternoon, Otto gave his heart and soul to Da Raiders, hiking footballs to everyone from Tom Flores to Daryle Lamonica to Kenny Stabler to Father Time himself, George Blanda.

He won league championships, and he won over his teammates. Jim Otto was the stabilizing force on so many great Oakland Raiders offensive lines.

You couldn’t fit a beach towel on the area of turf that Otto worked on as he fended off a bull rush by Merlin Olsen or plowed enough daylight for a Raiders running back to squirt past him for a gain of four yards. Otto’s office was a patch of grass for an offense that loved to traverse acres of it at a time.

He gave the Raiders everything he had, then he retired and owned some Burger King restaurants for a time, making some actual money.

After Otto quit playing football, everyone moved on in Raider Nation. The fans cheered a new center, a guy named Dave Dalby—who was pretty da...

About the Author