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Jim Otto, 'Mr. Raider' and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Dies at 86
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
May 20, 2024

Jim Otto, former center for the Oakland Raiders, poses with his bust after enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 2, 1980. Otto, the Hall of Fame center known as “Mr. Raider” for his durability through a litany of injuries, has died, the team confirmed Sunday night, May 19, 2024. He was 86. (GV Wire Composite)

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Jim Otto, the Hall of Fame center known as “Mr. Raider” for his durability through a litany of injuries, has died, the team confirmed Sunday night. He was 86.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

“The Original Raider,” the club said in a statement posted on the social platform 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.”

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

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

Otto joined the Raiders for their inaugural season in the American Football League in 1960 and was a fixture on the team for the next 15 years.

Unbroken Record and Legacy

He never missed a game because of injuries, competing in 210 consecutive regular-season games and 308 straight total contests despite undergoing nine operations on his knees during his playing career. His right leg was amputated in 2007.

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

Otto was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and is considered one of the AFL’s all-time greats.

He was believed to have undergone more than 50 operations, most because of football-related injuries. Those dealt with multiple joint replacements, arthritis, and debilitating back and neck problems. His right leg was amputated in 2007.

Otto also had prostate cancer and two major infections after his career.

“I can take any type of surgery in the world except for when it comes to something that’s internal,” he 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 — a play on his name, “Aught-oh” — Otto played in nine AFL All-Star games and the first three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

“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.”

Impact on the Raiders

Otto was a key as the Raiders became one of the best organizations in professional football. The team won seven division titles in his final 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. Those Raiders physically dominated 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 reputation for partying as hard as they hit. Legend has it that players would show up just in time for bed check at 11 p.m., then head back out the door.

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

Early Life and Career

Born Jan. 5, 1938, in Wausau, Wisconsin, Otto grew up in poverty, even living for a while in a chicken coop with his family. He left to play college football at the University of Miami, where he starred at center and linebacker.

He went undrafted by the NFL in 1959, before signing with the Raiders of the new AFL the next year. He was one of only 20 players to play in the AFL for its entire 10 years.

Otto most recently served as the team’s director of special projects. He organized reunions for former players and events for fans in the luxury boxes, and made public appearances for the team.

He also played a key role in negotiating the team’s move back to Oakland from Los Angeles before the 1995 season. The Raiders left the Bay Area for Las Vegas in 2020.

Otto is survived by his wife Sally, his son Jim Jr. and daughter-in-law Leah, and his 14 grandchildren — Alice, Sarah, Amy, Amanda, Josiah, Hannah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jennifer, Avery, Noah, Aiden, Roman and Ellie.

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