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©2024, Erin Haight

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Photo: Oakland Tribune, August 13, 1960

Jim Otto

James Edwin Otto
Born January 5, 1938, Wausau, Wisconsin

University of Miami
6’2”, 255 lbs

Jim Otto, Mr. Raider, grew up in Wausau, Wisconsin, a medium-sized town in the central part of the state where he excelled as a hockey goaltender and as a football center at Wausau High. While he considered staying close to home after high school, he decided to accept a scholarship to attend the University of Miami in Florida. With the Hurricanes, he exhibited a style of play that gave no thought to his body’s structural integrity and suffered knee, shoulder, and ankle injuries during his three years with the Hurricanes.

He was drafted by Minneapolis/St Paul of the AFL in the fall of 1959, but when that team abandoned the league, he became a free agent. The Houston Oilers picked him up, but in March 1960 the AFL assigned his rights to the Oakland team that had replaced Minneapolis/St Paul.

Almost from the start of Raiders camp, he impressed the coaching staff and players with his high level of play, with several experienced coaches saying he was the best center they’d ever seen after even short acquaintance. Otto would be the man in the middle of the Raiders offensive line for the next 15 seasons, and while injuries and mishaps would force him to leave a contest now and then, he never failed to toe the line the following week.

Every season from 1960 to 1972, he was named first team All-AFL or All-Pro by at least one major news organization and at the time of his retirement, he was tied with fellow Raider George Blanda for having played in an NFL-record 210 consecutive games. That retirement came in the 1975 preseason. The constant damage to his body, particularly to his knees and shoulders, had finally worn him down and after playing the first offensive series in an exhibition game against the 49ers on August 29, he called it quits a few days later.

He would continue to work for the Raiders in various roles following his playing days and was a close confidante to team owner Al Davis until Davis’s death in 2011. As of this writing in early 2023, he was still listed in the Raiders media guide as a member of the team’s administrative staff.

He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility.

Outside of football, for a time Otto owned and operated a walnut grove in the Bay Area, then in 1981 he acquired the first of several Burger King franchises in the Auburn, California area and these would constitute his primary business focus until he sold out in 1995.

That year he began to take a more active role with the Raiders, playing a large part in the negotations between Davis and the city of Oakland that would result in the team’s return to its original home after a 13-season absence. He also began to suffer more physical deterioration as a result of his football career. He had already had more than two dozen knee surgeries and had had both shoulders replaced with artificial joints.

In 1998, a year after his 39-year-old daughter Jennifer had died during surgery for suspected ovarian cancer, Otto himself came close to death when a serious infection set in after yet another knee surgery. He recovered, but he eventually had to have his right leg amputated above the knee in 2007, following still another serious infection a couple of years earlier. He also survived a bout with prostate cancer in 2002 and heart surgery in 2008.

As of this writing, he had reportedly undergone more than 70 surgeries to repair and mitigate all the damage he had done to his body during his playing career.


November 23, 1959 - Selected by Minneapolis/St Paul in the 1960 AFL draft.

January 30, 1960 - AFL awarded his league signing rights to Oakland.

February 10, 1960 - Signed by Houston, suggesting either the actual signing date was before the end of January, or that Houston felt no need to honor Oakland's signing rights for some reason.

March 3, 1960 - AFL transferred his contract from Houston to Oakland.

September 3, 1975 - Retired from pro football.

See also

jim_otto.txt · Last modified: 2024/01/12 05:34 by ehaight