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Monday, March 9, 2015

Jonathan Ogden - The Difference Maker

The Difference Maker

NFL Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden makes aces and a positive difference in his post-football life

Story by Brian Hurlburt, Follow @LVGolfInsider

Photography by Exceed Photography and Play Golf Designs Inc.


Don’t think for a minute that the six-foot, nine inch mountain of a man and NFL Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden isn’t an athlete. Sometimes the perception of men built like J.O. is that they were merely fortunate to be born with the correct genes. For sure, size and stature matter, but there’s much more that goes into becoming a living legend.

When it comes to Ogden, a resident of Henderson, his athletic skills and work ethic are what allowed him to become one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history and a first-ballot hall of famer. A little known fact is that Ogden was a two-sport athlete at UCLA. Ogden played football and threw the shot put for the Bruins, earning major accolades for his prowess in both endeavors.

He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman and was a consensus All-American during his UCLA football career. Off the football field, Ogden heaved the shot put for the track and field team and won the 1996 NCAA indoor title in his “second” sport. He was elected to the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 1996, he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens as the fourth-overall player in the NFL draft. He went on to earn all-pro honors in 11 of his 12 seasons in the NFL and was recognized as one of the best in the history of the sport. His professional career was highlighted by a Super Bowl title in 2001 and capped off with his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

These days Ogden stalks golf courses like he used to roam football fields. His solid game proves, yet again, his athletic skill. The big guy plays to a more-than-respectable handicap of seven and has a career-best round of 72. He also has recorded two aces, both at Anthem Country Club, his home course. Of playing golf at six-foot, nine inches tall, Ogden, a gentle giant, says simply, “The club has a lot further to travel.” He believes that to be both a positive (more potential distance) and a negative (less control). 

Off the fairways and greens, Ogden, along with his wife, Kema, is dedicated to helping the community through the efforts of the Jonathan Ogden Foundation. In previous years, Ogden held charity golf tournaments to help raise funds and as this was written, plans were being finalized for a big bowling bash.

The inaugural Jonathan Ogden Celebrity Bowl fundraiser hits the lanes of the hip and cool Brooklyn Bowl at the LINQ on April 19. The event is open to all bowlers and offers a chance to roll strikes and turkeys with Ogden and a bunch of his NFL, actor and athlete friends. The event is $1500 per group to bowl and includes a VIP experience with proceeds benefitting the Jonathan Ogden Foundation. Visit www.OgdenCelebrityBowl.com for more details or to register.

“Growing up in Washington, D.C., I saw a lot of people in need,” says Ogden, who also plays in several other charity golf tournaments throughout the year to support worthwhile causes. “When I was in a position to make a difference, I started a foundation to help inner-city kids in the Baltimore area and then in Las Vegas with the help of my wife, Kema. It was also important to us to teach our children the importance of giving back and helping others.”

As for golf, Ogden was drawn to the game the same way a lot of others have been. He watched in awe as Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters by 12 shots and was quickly intrigued with the sport. Some three decades later, he’s never looked back and golf is in his blood forever.

“Tiger’s win attracted me to the game and I really started to become interested in golf after that,” remembers Ogden. “I started playing with my lawyer and other friends and loved it. Golf is a passion of mine. Trying to ‘beat’ golf is a challenge and even though it’s an impossible thing to do, I really enjoy trying.”

But while golf is his passion, helping others is in his soul. There have been memorable and meaningful moments through the last two decades of service, but several stand out to Jonathan and Kema.

“This Christmas, with the help of CAAMP Kids Care Club, we adopted seven families in the Vegas community and supplied them with items such as toys, clothes, shoes, food, furniture and family outings,” says Kema Ogden. “Although we have been a part of making a difference in many children and young adults’ lives throughout the years with our programs, this was a great moment and we were honored to be a part of it.” 

The Ogdens and the Foundation have also adopted several underserved title 1 schools. They work with Robert Taylor Elementary and West Preparatory Academy. A school literacy program provides each child books and they spend time reading together and incorporating activities that focus on improving comprehension. Health and wellness is also taught to the kids and healthy snacks are provided. Their philosophy is, “healthy bodies and healthy minds.” 

The Ogdens also operate a UFC gym in Anthem and they offer weekly workshops for at-risk kids that focus on things such as self-esteem, anti-bullying, anger management, and basic life skills. They work with several organizations such as Hope Link, Family Promise, Safe Nest and Your Choice Behavioral that have brought kids into the programming.

“Helping children and families understand that you not only need to be healthy physically, but also mentally, is very important and one of our main goals,” says Ogden.

It makes sense that a guy who spent a lifetime protecting quarterbacks and opening holes for running backs would now be dedicated to keeping an eye out for others.

And if some of that positive karma helps his next golf shot, so much the better.

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