Hall of Fame center Otto, ‘Mr. Raider,’ dies at 86

NFL

Jim Otto, a Hall of Famer center whose iconic No. 00 jersey anchored the middle of the Oakland Raiders’ offensive line for 15 seasons, has died at the age of 86.

The Raiders, who moved from Oakland to Las Vegas in 2020, announced his death Sunday night, calling him “The Original Raider.”

To say that Otto was the dominant center of his era — some would argue any era — would be an understatement. From the time he first crouched over the ball in the Raiders’ first game in the new AFL in 1960, no one else would start at center for Oakland until Otto retired after the 1974 season.

“I had always done my best for the Raiders playing center, and it was a very good feeling to know I had accomplished that,” Otto told ESPN in 2019.

He was the only All-AFL center in the league’s entire existence from 1960 to 1969, and he was one of only three players who played in all 140 AFL regular-season games (George Blanda and Gino Cappelletti were the others).

Otto, who wore No. 50 his first season in Oakland before switching to 00, also was selected to the Pro Bowl in the first three seasons after the AFL-NFL merger. He was first-team All-Pro 10 times.

“I’ve often looked at being a football player as being a gladiator,” Otto told Bleacher Report in 2009. “There’s something inside of you that says, ‘I want to go out there and prove my worth.’ Most of the time you’re going to get injuries. That’s the life you choose. Some people need a challenge in life and they play hockey or rugby. Football was the way I could prove myself.”

Despite a long list of injuries, Otto never missed a game in 15 years. But those injuries did eventually come at a cost, as he endured more than 70 surgeries — many of those on his banged-up knees — and in 2007 had to have his right leg amputated following two life-threatening infections.

In his 15-year career, the Raiders won seven division titles and were AFL champions in 1967, losing to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. He later returned to the Raiders to work in the front office. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility.

In 2019, he was named to the NFL 100 All-Time team.

Otto grew up in Wausau, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Miami, where he starred as a center on offense and linebacker on defense.

“I want to be a person who always gave the most for everybody, that I was a team man in all respects,” Otto said in a 2016 interview with WSAW in Wausau. “Out of sports, I was a team man for that organization. I want to be respected for that. I’ve never snubbed anybody. I don’t believe in that. I just love people.”

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