Otto on the Oakland Raiders
|No. 00, 50|
|Date of birth:||January 5, 1938|
|Place of birth:||Wausau, Wisconsin|
|Height:||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Weight:||255 lb (116 kg)|
|High school:||Wausau (WI) East|
|AFL draft:||1960 / Round: / Pick: undrafted|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics as of 1974|
Otto played high school football at Wisconsin's Wausau High School, under coach Win Brockmeyer. He then went on to play collegiate football at the University of Miami, where he joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. In addition to playing offensive center at UM, he also played linebacker on defense.
No National Football League team showed interest in the undersized center. Otto was drafted by the proposed Minneapolis franchise of the new American Football League. When the Minneapolis contingent reneged to accept an NFL franchise, Otto's rights defaulted to the AFL's Oakland Raiders. He then signed with the Raiders and played for the entire ten years of the league's existence and five years beyond. He was issued jersey number 50 for the AFL's inaugural season, 1960, but switched to his familiar 00 the next season. Otto worked diligently to build his body up to his playing weight of 256 pounds.
For the next 15 years, Otto became a fixture at center for the Raiders, never missing a single game due to injury. Including pre-season, regular season 308 consecutive games. With the Raiders, he won 1 AFL/AFC championship in 1967 against the Houston Oilers, but lost 5: in 1968, 1969, and 1970, 1973, and 1974 to the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively, all five teams winning the Super Bowl of their respective years, playing alongside Gene Upshaw, a Hall of Famer, at left guard from 1967 until Otto's final year in 1974. In the 1967 regular season, Oakland scored 468 points (33.4 points/game), leading the AFL, but lost Super Bowl II to the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers. In the 1968 regular season, Oakland scored 453 points (32.4 points/game), once again leading the AFL, beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round before losing to the Jets. In the 1969 regular season, Oakland scored 377 points (26.9 points/game), once again leading the AFL, beating the Houston Oilers in the divisional round before losing to the Chiefs. In the 1970 regular season (1st year of the NFL-AFL merger), Oakland scored 300 points (21.4 points/game), 9th of 26 teams in the NFL, beating the Miami Dolphins in the 1970-71 NFL playoffs before losing to the Colts. The Raiders missed the playoffs for the first time in 5 years in 1971, despite scoring 344 points (24.6 points/game), 2nd of 26 teams in the NFL.
However, they came back stronger in 1972, scoring 365 points (26.1 points/game), 3rd of 26 teams in the NFL, but lost 13-7 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the 1972-73 NFL playoffs, the infamous and outrageous (from Oakland's point of view) Immaculate Reception game (Note: Jim Otto caught his only NFL pass during this game.). In the 1973 regular season, Oakland scored 292 points (20.9 points/game), 10th of 26 teams in the NFL and avenged their defeat at the hands of the Steelers during the 1972-73 NFL playoffs before losing to the Dolphins. In Otto's final year, 1974, Oakland scored 355 points (25.4 points/game), leading the NFL, and then avenging their loss to the Dolphins during 1973-74 NFL playoffs before losing to the Steelers again. In 1975, he was replaced by Dave Dalby. He was the last member of the Oakland Raiders inaugural team from 1960 to retire.
Otto was one of only 20 players to play for the entire 10-year existence of the American Football League, and was selected as the Sporting News All-League center from 1960 through 1969. He was an All-Star in the first 13 of his 15 seasons (every year in the AFL from 1960 through 1969) and three of his five seasons in the NFL. He was also named the starting center on the AFL All-Time Team.
Injuries and surgeries
Otto punished his body greatly during his NFL career, resulting in nearly 74 surgeries, including 28 knee operations (nine of them during his playing career alone) and multiple joint replacements. His joints are riddled with arthritis, and he has debilitating back and neck problems. In his book, "The Pain of Glory" Otto describes near death experiences from medical procedures, including fighting off three life-threatening bouts of infections due to complications with his artificial joints. During one six-month stretch, he was without a proper right knee joint because he had to wait for an infection to heal before another artificial knee could be implanted. Otto eventually had to have his right leg amputated on August 1, 2007 (only the part of his right leg above the knee was amputated, to this day Otto still has all of his right leg below the knee including all of his right toes and right foot this is all attached to a paper thin strip of flesh that goes into his body socket). Despite his maladies, Otto says he has no regrets and wouldn't change a thing even if given the opportunity to do it over again. He discusses his sports injuries as well as the concussions issue in a 2013 Frontline interview for "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis".
Otto is also the subject of works by artist Matthew Barney.
He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
- Jim Otto: The Pain of Glory by Jim Otto
- Jim Otto by Dave Newhouse
- "The Frontline Interview: Jim Otto \ League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis". PBS Frontline. 2013.
- "Hall of Famer Jim Otto recovering after having right leg amputated". Yahoo! Sports. August 1, 2007.
- The Frontline Interview: Jim Otto
- "Art Now: Matthew Barney: OTTOshaft". Tate Britain.