The Wizard of Oz was one of the games’ all time greats.
Growing up in The Shoals, otherwise known as Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the great Ozzie Newsome was probably always destined to play for Alabama and the legendary Bear Bryant.
Although, he would be considered small by today’s standards for a tight end, at 6-2, 235, Newsome would have been great in just about any time period.
Colbert County High School will probably never have another athlete of Ozzie Newsome’s status. In 1972, Newsome caught 80 passes and 20 of those were for touchdowns while helping his Colbert County team finish the season with a 13-0 record and an Alabama class 3A state championship. He
broke his state touchdown record in 1973 when he caught 23 touchdown passes.
Newsome was a star on the basketball team that won a championship in the 1972 season and he was the catcher on the baseball team that finished in second place in state. Naturally, a guy like Newsome who was so gifted athletically would be really good in every sport.
Ozzie Newsome signed with the Alabama Crimson Tide in 1974 and in the Fall of that year he was a starter as a true freshman. Bear in mind that Bear Bryant’s offense was the Wishbone which obviously was a power running scheme.
Newsome came in as a true freshman and led the team in receiving with 20 receptions. That’s not a lot, but the Bama offense only threw the ball 125 times all season with 62 completions. Ozzie hauled in 20 receptions for 374 yards and a single touchdown.
Most of Newsome’s catches came from quarterback Richard Todd who was thought of as more of a running quarterback, but was later a first round draft choice by the New York Jets. While no Joe Namath, the likable Todd had some good success with the Jets throwing for over 20,000 yards. Todd was the last Alabama quarterback to go in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.
The 1974 version of the Crimson Tide finished the season 11-1 with their only loss coming in the Orange Bowl against Notre Dame.
After Bear Bryant switched over to the Wishbone offense, he had the Tide rolling along and they finished 1975 with another 11-1 record. It’s as though the Bear was destined to run this offense after it became popular.
The 1975 season began with a stunner and I will never forget this game. The Missouri Tigers just came out and whipped Alabama in their opening game, 20-7. The thinking was at the time that this Missouri team must be really good, but the teams moved in different directions after that. Missouri finished 6-5 and the Alabama Crimson Tide ran the table finishing 11-1 on the season after beating Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.
Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian and Texas coach Darrell Royal seemed to have Bear Bryant’s
number, but Bryant bettered Joe Paterno of Penn State.
Senior quarterback Richard Todd and sophomore tight end Ozzie Newsome as well as offensive guard David Hannah of the famous Alabama Hannah family led the offense in 1975. The defense was also stout with Bob Baumhower, Leroy Cook, Charley Hannah also of the Hannah family and Woodrow Lowe. Woodrow Lowe
An interesting fact about those days, at least to me, was that Alabama played 4 of their home games, plus a 5th game at Legion Field in Birmingham. Plus, their game against Mississippi State was played in Jackson, Mississippi.
Ozzie Newsome again led Alabama receivers with 21 catches for 363 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Thad Flanagan gave our guy Ozzie some competition for the leading receiver in 1976 with split end Flanagan coming down with 19 receptions. But, Ozzie did even better that season with 25 catches that year which were good for 529 yards and 6 touchdowns. Newsome even got to carry the football for 15 yards on 2 attempts.
Richard Todd had been picked by the New York Jets in the 1976 NFL Draft and Birmingham native Jeff Rutledge stepped into the starting role at quarterback.
It was something of a down year for the Alabama Crimson Tide with 3 losses and the Georgia Bulldogs winning the SEC championship. There were no big conference championship games played back then, and the Bulldogs beat Alabama 21-0 that season in Athens, Georgia on October 2nd. That was kind of a big deal with the party going on all night long in Athens and the Bulldogs playing for the national championship against Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama also lost to Ole Miss in a stunning upset in their opener. Then, they lost to Notre Dame
again, but this Fighting Irish team was coached by Dan Devine, not Ara Parseghian who had retired for health reasons.
The Crimson Tide recovered nicely by spanking Auburn in the Iron Bowl, 38-7, and then thrashing UCLA in the Liberty Bowl, 36-6.
1976 had been something of a transition season as the Crimson Tide reloaded at many positions. Gone were some of the all time greats, but there were new all time greats, plus the new 1977 team was the last season for super tight end, Ozzie Newsome.
After having their revenge against Ole Miss in their season opener, 34-13, the Crimson Tide traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to play the Cornhuskers. Unlike more modern times, the Huskers were a tough out back in the days of Tom Osborne and the Tide was beaten 24-31.
But, 3 games later, the Crimson Tide upset top ranked USC out in Los Angeles by a single point, 21-20. Bear Bryant’s old friend, John McKay had moved on to the NFL and John Robinson was coaching the Trojans at that point. The Tide went on to defeat everyone else on their schedule including a convincing win over old rival Auburn and then over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
It was by far Ozzie Newsome’s best receiving year at Alabama with 36 receptions for 804 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The 4 years that Newsome was at Alabama, the Tide finished with a record of 42-6 and he caught 102 passes for 2,070 yards and 16 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t impress compared to today’s players and the different offenses, but that takes nothing away from Ozzie Newsome’s greatness.
Ozzie was All SEC in 1976 and 1977 and a consensus All American in his senior year.
Done with college football, the Cleveland Browns make Ozzie Newsome the 23rd player picked in the 1978 NFL Draft.
Newsome was one of three Hall of Fame members coming out of the 1978 draft with the others being Earl Campbell and James Lofton.
His NFL career was sensational with the real Cleveland Browns of yesteryear. He caught 662 passes for 7,980 total yards and 47 touchdowns and he made 3 Pro Bowls.
After his impressive 13 year NFL playing career was over, Ozzie moved into the front office for the Browns, now the Baltimore Ravens. Today, he is their General Manager.
Ozzie Newsome is in the Hall of Fame on every level of football that’s officially played. If they had a middle school Hall of Fame, I’m sure he’d be on that one, too. He was one of the all time great tight ends.