NEW ORLEANS ——Ozzie Newsome circled the weekend more than a year ago.
He knew that Jonathan Ogden, the first player he picked for the Ravens, would have a strong chance to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 2, 2013. Wouldn't it be something, Newsome thought, if the Ravens played in Super Bowl XLVII the next day?
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Mercedes-Benz Superdome, 1500 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
Would the Ravens really get this unique chance, on the grandest stage in football, to celebrate Ogden, Lewis, Modell and the origins of the franchise?
As is often the case with Newsome — architect of the Ravens — ambitious dreams hardened into reality. Ogden and Modell will find out about the Hall of Fame on Saturday and the Ravens, with Lewis suiting up for the last time, will play for the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
"I don't think any of you guys could have written that script," said Newsome, speaking with the Baltimore media last week.
Because of his enduring dominance at a key position, Ogden is considered a strong candidate to make the Hall of Fame on his first try, a designation that will be decided by 46 media members in a closed meeting Saturday in New Orleans. The 2013 class will be announced on the NFL Network at 6:30 p.m. EST.
It won't be easy, because voters have called the ballot one of the deepest in memory.
That could also work against Modell, who would have to beat out not only players but a great coach in Bill Parcells for one of the five modern-era spots.
Ogden chuckled in disbelief at the way the strands of the story have come together.
"It started in 1996 with myself and Ray Lewis as the first draft picks, and now it's his last game, and I could potentially go in the Hall of Fame," he said. "It's like it's all coming full circle from where it started to where it is now."
Newsome not only built this year's team; his ties to the organization's seminal figures are powerful. He had a Hall of Fame career as a tight end for Modell's Cleveland Browns and earned the owner's trust to the point Modell appointed him the league's first black general manager in 2002.
Before becoming a pioneer, Newsome ran Modell's first draft as vice president of pro personnel in 1996 after the franchise moved to Baltimore. He made it one for the ages, convincing the owner that the Ravens should take Ogden with the No. 4 overall pick instead of dynamic but troubled running back Lawrence Phillips. Newsome mustered a little more magic 22 picks later, when he snagged the undersized Lewis after three other linebackers had been drafted.
So the franchise began its time in a new city with maybe the best first round any team had ever pulled off.
Ravens' president Dick Cass, who oversees the organization's business and community ties, said it's hard to overstate the importance of Newsome's success with his first draft in Baltimore.
"Obviously, that set the foundation for what the Ravens are in Baltimore," Cass said. "Those guys were not only great players, they became so popular in the city. You need people to put a face on your franchise."
Said Ogden: "If he'd have blown it with me and Ray, who knows what would have happened from then on in?"
There's a reason, apparently, that Newsome's nickname is "The Wizard."
It almost didn't happen