Jim Otto

American football player (1938–2024)

American football player
Jim Otto
refer to caption
Otto with the Raiders
No. 50, 00
Personal information
Born:(1938-01-05)January 5, 1938
Wausau, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died:May 19, 2024(2024-05-19) (aged 86)
Auburn, California, U.S.
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High school:Wausau
College:Miami (FL)
AFL draft:1960 / Round: Regular draft
Career history
  • Oakland Raiders (1960–1974)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:210
Games started:210
Fumble recoveries:3
Player stats at PFR
Pro Football Hall of Fame

James Edwin Otto (January 5, 1938 – May 19, 2024) was an American professional football player who was a center for 15 seasons with the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Miami Hurricanes.

Otto was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility. He was also named to the AFL All-Time Team and NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Early years

Born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin, Otto played football at Wausau High School under coach Win Brockmeyer. He played college football in south Florida at the University of Miami, where he joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.[citation needed] In addition to playing offensive center at the University of Miami, he also played linebacker on defense.

Otto was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame & Museum in 1972.

Professional career

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 255 pounds (116 kg). Otto wore the jersey number of 50 in his rookie season. However, it was the suggestion of equipment manager Frank Hinek that led to the idea of Otto wearing 00 (0 was being worn in the NFL by Johnny Olszewski) "for recognition", which Otto eventually went with, as did AFL Commissioner Joe Foss.[1]

For the next 15 years, Otto was a fixture at center for the Raiders, never missing a single game due to injury, and played in 210 consecutive games. He won one AFL/AFC championship in 1967 against the Houston Oilers with the Raiders, but lost five: in 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, and 1974 to the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively, with all five teams winning the Super Bowl. He played alongside Gene Upshaw, another Hall of Famer, at left guard from 1967 to 1974.[2] In the 1967 regular season, Oakland scored 468 points (33.4 points/game), leading the AFL, but lost Super Bowl II to the Green Bay Packers. In 1968, Oakland scored 453 points (32.4 points/game) in the regular season, again leading the AFL, and beat the Chiefs in the divisional round (unscheduled tiebreaker) before losing to the Jets. In the 1969 regular season, Oakland scored 377 points (26.9 points/game) to lead the AFL for the third consecutive year, and beat the Houston Oilers in the new divisional round of the AFL playoffs before losing to the Chiefs. In the 1970 regular season, the first year of the NFL-AFL merger, Oakland scored 300 points (21.4 points/game), ranking ninth in the 26-team NFL, and beat the Miami Dolphins in the AFC playoffs before losing to the Colts. The Raiders missed the playoffs for the first time in five years in 1971, despite scoring 344 points (24.6 points/game), second highest in the NFL.

The Raiders came back stronger in 1972, scoring 365 points (26.1 points/game), ranking third in the NFL, but lost 13–7 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, the famous Immaculate Reception game, in which Otto also made the only pass reception of his professional career. In the 1973 regular season, Oakland scored 292 points (20.9 points/game), tenth in the NFL, and avenged their defeat to the Steelers but lost to the Dolphins. In Otto's final year, 1974, Oakland scored 355 points (25.4 points/game), leading the NFL, and avenged their playoff loss to the Dolphins but lost to the Steelers again. In 1975, he was replaced by Dave Dalby, in his fourth season out of UCLA. Otto was the last member of the Oakland Raiders inaugural team from 1960 to retire.

Otto was one of only twenty players to play for the entire ten-year existence of the American Football League, and one of only three players to play in all of his team's AFL games. Otto was also 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.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility. In 1999, he was ranked number 78 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. In 2019, he was revealed as being selected to the National Football League 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Injuries and operations

Otto's body was punished greatly during his NFL career, resulting in nearly 74 operations, including 28 on his knee (nine of them during his playing career) and multiple joint replacements. His joints became riddled with arthritis and he developed debilitating back and neck problems.[3] In his book, "The Pain of Glory" Otto described near-death experiences from medical procedures, including fighting off three life-threatening infections due to complications from his artificial joints. During one six-month stretch, he was without a 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.[4] Despite his maladies, Otto said he had no regrets and would not have changed a thing even if given the opportunity to do it over again. He discussed his sports injuries as well as the concussions issue in a 2013 Frontline interview for "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis".[5]

Personal life

Otto was also the subject of The Jim Otto Suite, a series of three multimedia works by American contemporary artist Matthew Barney which served as a precursor to The Cremaster Cycle.[6]

Otto was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. He was the grandfather of dog musher Amanda Otto.[7]

Otto died on May 19, 2024, at the age of 86.[8][9][10][11]

See also


  • Jim Otto: The Pain of Glory by Jim Otto
  • Jim Otto by Dave Newhouse
  1. ^ Miller, Jeff (April 21, 2024). Going Long: The Wild Ten-Year Saga of the Renegade American Football League in the words of those who lived it. McGraw Hill. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-07-141849-2.
  2. ^ "Gene Upshaw Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  3. ^ "The Frontline Interview: Jim Otto \ League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis". PBS Frontline. 2013.
  4. ^ "Hall of Famer Jim Otto recovering after having right leg amputated". Yahoo! Sports. August 1, 2007.
  5. ^ The Frontline Interview: Jim Otto
  6. ^ "Art Now: Matthew Barney: OTTOshaft". Tate Britain.
  7. ^ Boner, Jeannette (June 23, 2021). "Local dog sledder Amanda Otto chases down Iditarod dream". East Idaho News. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  8. ^ Holleran, Andrew (May 19, 2024). "Legendary Oakland Raiders Star Died Sunday At 86". The Spun. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  9. ^ Gordon, Grant (May 19, 2024). "Jim Otto, legendary Raiders center and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 86". NFL.com. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  10. ^ Gutierrez, Paul (May 19, 2024). "Hall of Fame center Jim Otto, 'Mr. Raider,' dies at 86". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  11. ^ "Raiders mourn the passing of Jim Otto". Raiders.com. May 19, 2024. Retrieved May 20, 2024.

External links

  • Jim Otto at the Pro Football Hall of Fame
  • Career statistics and player information from NFL.com · Pro Football Reference
  • Jim Otto at IMDb
  • v
  • t
  • e
Oakland Raiders 1967 AFL champions
  • v
  • t
  • e
  • v
  • t
  • e
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1980
  • v
  • t
  • e
Running backs
Wide receivers /
Tight ends
Pre-modern era
two-way players
Defensive backs
Special teams
Italics denotes members who have been elected, but not yet inducted.