Football Legend Jim Otto, ‘The Original Raider’, Passes Away Leaving a Legacy of Influence on AFL

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The world of professional football has lost an irreplaceable icon. Known as “The Original Raider,” Jim Otto’s passing reverberates across an industry that was profoundly shaped by his influence. The cause of his death remains unclear, yet his impact remains undeniably etched in the annals of the American Football League (AFL) and beyond.

Otto held the moniker “The Original Raider” for a reason. His consistency on the field and his influence were a defining force during the AFL’s nascent years. Profoundly, his leadership qualities and unmatched tenacity greatly contributed to the dominance of the Raiders teams throughout the 1960s and 70s.

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Even after the team’s relocation to Las Vegas in 2020, Otto’s association with the Raiders remained unwavering. Even when the seasons ended, he consistently found ways to remain involved. In January, following the Raiders’ 27-14 clinching victory over the Denver Broncos, Otto was among the former members of the team’s illustrious past who took the time to stop by the locker room.

His impression on younger team members was unmistakable, as demonstrated by Las Vegas Raiders defensive end, Maxx Crosby. On the social media platform X, Crosby paid homage to Otto as an “absolute legend & incredible person.”

Otto was instrumental from the start, joining the team during their inaugural season in 1960. Over the next 15 years, his presence would become a reliable constant, a fixture of stability despite inevitable changes. Remarkably, not once did he miss a game due to injuries, even through the physical toll of extensive operations on his knees.

Otto’s resilient spirit, encapsulated in his 210 consecutive regular-season games and 308 total, led former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon to aptly describe him as a “warrior.” Statistically impressive, his achievements were also tributes to his tenacity: throughout his career, his right leg was amputated, and he underwent more than 50 operations, most of them due to football-related injuries.

In 1980, as a recognition of his contributions and prowess, Otto was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Considered one of the greats, his legendary reliability and acquired accolades were not merely admirable, but a testament to his unwavering dedication to the game and the Raiders organization.

Reflecting on his career, Otto expressed his relentless efforts to outpace others. “Every day I walked onto 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.”

Otto’s contributions were pivotal in morphing the Raiders into one of the best organizations in professional football, winning seven division titles in his final eight seasons. The teams he played with, brimming with Hall of Famers such as offensive linemen Gene Upshaw and Art Shell, became not merely teams, but symbols of physical dominance over their opposition.

Besides on-field promise, Otto was part of the Raiders folkloric reputation for partying just as intense as their in-game performance. As Otto confirmed, regardless of the previous night’s revelry, all were present for the next morning’s practice, demonstrating the work ethic that was synonymous with the team.

Born on January 5, 1938, in Wausau, Wisconsin, Otto had humble beginnings, growing up in poverty, at times even residing in a chicken coop. That didn’t hold him back, instead fueling his ambition to earn a college football placement at the University of Miami where his talent was showcased. Undrafted by the NFL in 1959, Otto signed up with the budding AFL’s Raiders and was one of the persevering 20 players who comprised the AFL for its entirety of 10 years.

Reaching beyond on-field achievements, Otto was the Raiders’ director of special projects, a role in which he organized cherished reunions for former players and orchestrated events for fans in the luxury boxes. Not forgetting his roots, Otto was key in negotiating the team’s return to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995, before their move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Otto is survived by his wife Sally, their son Jim Jr., and daughter-in-law Leah, as well as his 14 grandchildren — Alice, Sarah, Amy, Amanda, Josiah, Hannah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jennifer, Avery, Noah, Aiden, Roman, and Ellie. The solemn news of Otto’s passing marks the end of an era, and a fitting pause to celebrate a life well-lived and the legacy of an American football legend. Jim Otto—the name will forever echo the indomitable spirit of an “Original Raider”.