The Toughest of Them All?

Autographed 1963 Fleer Jim Otto
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When recalling the dominant players in the AFL, there is probably no one who held reign over his particular position on the field, and in the league, better than the Oakland Raiders’ Jim Otto.  Otto was dominant in the way the Boston Celtics, New York Yankees and U.S. Steel have been dominant.  During the AFL’s 10-year run, Jim Otto was THE ONLY man to be named First Team All-League at center.  From 1960-1974, Otto was THE ONLY starting center the Raiders had.  Awards?  He won them all.  All-Star, Pro Bowl, All-League, AFL All-Time Team, Team of the Decade, Pro Football Hall of Fame, etc., etc., etc…

Jim Otto = SUCCESS.  However, Jim Otto also = PAIN & SUFFERING.  We laud our players for their toughness, and willingness to play through pain.  But what is enough?  According to the following article (which was written six years ago), Jim Otto has endured nearly 70 surgeries based on football-related injuries.  No one can questions Otto’s courage, toughness, or dedication to his team, but he has paid a very steep price for his success.  Everyone has different thresholds for pain, and I am certainly no one to judge Jim Otto.  I simply hope that the results of his efforts were worth all that he put in.


Todd Tobias (789 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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5 Responses to The Toughest of Them All?

  1. Eddie Arminio says:

    When people read this story, it has to tell you how pro football players really pay the price. They all know what they are getting into, it is what they do best, no shame in that. Unfortunately, they are treated by ownership as spare parts in a junk yard,just like anyone who doesn’t own their own business. The collective bargaining agreement for football players should definately more player friendly.Roger Goodell makes 40 million plus annually, not to shabby, and I don’t see many franchises folding,despite the cries of poverty.

    • 0tt060-74 says:

      Surely former players should be treated better than they are presently. The Al Davis / Jim Otto relationship was rather unique, from what I have read, Jim Otto was treated first class by Al Davis all the way to the end.

  2. Howard says:

    Jim Otto is one tough SOB. One of my favorite players; a devastating run blocker and the cement of that great Raiders line that features three Hall of Fame players.

  3. afl says:

    Part of the best offensive line in history was the OAK Raiders C Jim Otto… subjectively, Jim Ringo, Mike Webster & a couple others deserve consideration, but Otto was/remains the best ever, my opine.

    Despite being an old Chiefs fan, I chuckle at KC’s fandom who claim that their more recent group of five OL featuring Willie Roaf, Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Will Shields & John Tait is best ever.

    If seeing is believing and accolades affirm, my vote is cast for OAK’s Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Jim Otto, George Buehler and Bob Brown. Each team’s five did not play together at their thence positions as a group and eras differ, but the final arbiter career affirms – nod to an old 1960’s music group – that OAK’s not so ‘we five’ placed 4 of their 5 in the Hall of Fame, whereas KC managed but 2… no contest. Though he gets more press, I would not rank Roaf of KC on par with the late Chief Jim Tyrer, latter good as there ever was, despite his HOF snub.

    One quibble with Otto is his grudging, more so poor sportsmanship (some might refer it Raider-esque pride, if not poise) when KC beat OAK in the 1969 AFL Championship Game.

    When someone suggested the Chiefs would be a good AFL representative in the Superbowl vs MIN, Jim’s quote was “I don’t think they’ll be a good representative”. Sour grapes after losing a game the Raiders were expected to win, perhaps rather easily coming off a 56-7 post season win over HOU the game before, OAK having beaten KC 7 of the previous 8 games played between them dating back to 1966.

    As an old Chiefs fan (I have no use for them or any teams/players today, the modern farce that is the ‘game’) I was resigned that the Raiders would in fact win that game played in OAK, but fate and history had a different plan.

  4. afl says:

    Typo: “did not play together at their thence positions as a group FOR LONG”

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