The Alabama version of the "Wizard of Oz" was not a fictionalized character lifted from the pages of a book or a mythological movie screen figure. He is a genuine sports hero hailing from Muscle Shoals, the largest city in the Northwestern county. Ozzie Newsome was the given name listed in the program and revered by the entire state. The exploits of the Colbert County (in Leighton) scholastic star was celebrated on Wednesday evening.
Newsome was enshrined by the National High School Hall of Fame at the 32nd Annual Induction Ceremony held at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston, Mass. The banquet was in conjunction with the 95th Summer Meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Before he was an All-America at Alabama and inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Ozzie Newsome was a three-sport high school star.
Newsome led the basketball team to the 3A Championship in March of 1972 as a sophomore and earned all-state honors averaging 16 points as a senior. He was an outstanding catcher, batting .350 on the 1973 team that reached the Class 3A state finals before losing to Chilton County. A strenuous week of two-a-day football practices at a boot camp almost convinced Newsome to pursue basketball and baseball exclusively. He had a change of heart after starting as a sophomore in the opening game. Newsome's very first varsity reception resulted in a touchdown.
Winning the 1972 state football championship as a junior (15-0) against Cullman HS ranks as the fondest sports memory for the two-time all-state receiver. "I never won a Super Bowl as a player but I won a state championship in football and that ranks right up there," said Newsome, currently General Manager/Executive Vice President and a member of the Baltimore Ravens front office since 1996. "When we won the Super Bowls as a member of the Baltimore Ravens and I was the General Manager, it ranks right up there with me winning a state championship in high school football because when you walk off that field you do not have to prove to anybody else that you are the best."
He set state single season marks since eclipsed with 80 receptions and 23 touchdowns in 1973 topping his own standard of 20 in 1972. The single season of 23 remains tied for second on the all-tine Alabama High School Athletic Association record list. Newsome was chosen as an All-American as a senior after he amassed career (1971-73) totals of 49 touchdowns and 173 receptions. Colbert County suffered only four losses in those three years.
A 1994 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Ozzie Newsome starred for The University of Alabama earning All-America honors as a senior in 1977. Coach Paul W. Bryant called him "the best receiver I ever coached." He recorded 102 receptions for 2,070 yards and 16 touchdowns during his career (1974-77) with the Crimson Tide. Over the 13-year tenure (1978-90), all as a valued member of the Cleveland Browns, the three-time Pro Bowl selection achieved NFL tight end milestones with 662 receptions, 7,980 yards and 47 touchdowns lasting 11 years. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Newsome is only the third Alabama athlete to be an inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame. Class of 1989 and 2012 inductees, Bart Starr (Sidney Lanier HS, Montgomery) and Pat Sullivan (John Carroll Catholic HS, Birmingham) are the other two. The National High School Hall of Fame was founded in 1982 by the National Federation of State High School Associations to recognize athletes, coaches, officials, administrators and others. Individuals from the performing arts area become eligible in 2003. The 2014 class raises the total to 423 people chosen to be honored by the organization.
Newsome's wife, Gloria and son Michael attended the affair. "I grew up in the state of Alabama. Some people like movies. Some people like to read books. I like sports," stated the humble 58-year old during the ceremony's taped narrative highlight segment broadcast on Wednesday evening. The pioneering Newsome, named the NFL's first African-American General Manager in 2002, blazed another trail. He is the only native Alabamian to be honored in the national halls of fame for achievement as a high school, collegiate and professional athlete. Presenting the National High School Hall of Fame medallion to Ozzie Newsome was Steve Savarese, the Executive Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association,
'BAMA Magaize/BamaMag.com spoke exclusively with Ozzie Newsome after the induction ceremony on Wednesday evening.
Ozzie Newsome has gained induction into seven Halls of Fame:
Pro Football Hall of Fame (1999)
College Football Hall of Fame (1994)
NCAA Hall of Fame (1994)
State of Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (1995)
Colbert County High School Hometown Hall of Fame (2012)
Little League Baseball Hall of Fame (2008)
National High School Hall of Fame (2014)
John Garcia Jr. contributed to this story.