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Jim Otto, legendary Raiders center and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at 86

As the autumn winds blew across the first 15 seasons of the Raiders franchise, there was a constant game in and game out.

Jim Otto was that constant, an all-star at center and the epitome of a great teammate. Otto, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, has died at the age of 86, the Raiders confirmed Sunday.

"The Raiders Family is in deep mourning following the passing of Jim Otto...The Original Raider," the club said in a statement. "The personification of consistency, Jim's influence on the American Football League and professional football as a whole cannot be overstated. His leadership and tenacity were a hallmark of the dominant Raider teams of the 1960s and 70s."

In an astounding feat, Otto played 210 straight regular-season games to begin and end his amazing career, which included 12 AFL All-Star/Pro Bowl selections and 10 All-Pro nods prior to his 1980 enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. Otto was a key member of the Silver and Black's first title win in 1967, as the Raiders captured the AFL Championship en route to an appearance in Super Bowl II.

With double-zero emblazoned across his chest and a trademark neckroll over his shoulders, Otto was very much the portrait of an offensive lineman. He was tough as shoe leather, a leader for a new franchise that became a proven winner and a steadfast teammate who paved the way for other Hall of Famers' glory.

Otto played alongside a parade of fellow Hall of Famers, combining with guard Gene Upshaw to form one of the finest combinations of interior offensive linemen in league lore. He also shared a roster with HOFers George Blanda, Willie Brown, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Bob Brown, Ken Stabler and more.

"Commitment to excellence, pride and poise, the greatness of our football team were not only exemplified by Jim Otto, but for more than a decade he was the standard of excellence by which centers were judged in professional football," late Raiders Hall of Fame owner Al Davis said of Otto when enshrining him in 1980. "He was the most honored offense lineman in the history of professional football. But statistics are just a measure of accomplishment, not really the measure of a man. If it is true that great men inspire in others the will to be great, that alone qualifies Jim to be a great man."

A native of Wausau, Wisconsin, Otto was born on Jan. 5, 1938. He went on to play college ball at the University of Miami as a center and a linebacker. He was hardly a ballyhooed prospect, as evidenced by him going undrafted. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a great underdog story as the undrafted Otto would become an all-time NFL great.

Otto was originally bound for the Minnesota franchise of the new American Football League as his territorial draft rights were assigned to the club. When the Vikings contingent reneged on the AFL to become an NFL franchise, Otto's rights defaulted to the Oakland Raiders in a fortuitous transaction that helped to galvanize one of sports' most well-known franchises in its new-born years.

Otto was tremendous from the start as he was an AFL All-Star in his rookie season.

Not much changed for Otto thereafter other than his jersey number. He began his career as No. 50, but after his first season was forever noticeable as No. 00.

The man known as "Double O" played 15 seasons for the Raiders.

He was a 10-time All-AFL selection, being tabbed as the league's top center in each year of its existence. Just as he was a mainstay for the Raiders, Otto was likewise for the AFL. He was one of only three players -- joining Blanda and wide receiver/kicker Gino Capelletti -- to play in each of his team's AFL games.

In their inaugural season, the Raiders went 6-8. By their fourth season they were winners, and Otto and Co. would soon become models of consistent success. Oakland won seven division titles in Otto's 15 seasons, all of them coming over his last eight years. Amazingly, for those eight seasons, Otto and Upshaw started each game, future Hall of Famer side by side with future Hall of Famer.

When his career concluded, Otto had never missed a game for any reason. His 210 starts remain first in franchise history and his 10 first-team All-Pro nods are the most in NFL history for an offensive lineman.

The toughness of Otto is legendary and so too, unfortunately, was the toll his body paid.

Otto had in the neighborhood of 70 surgeries, and in his autobiography Jim Otto: The Pain of Glory, he described multiple near-death experiences stemming from medical procedures. In 2007, Otto had his right leg amputated.

"Football is football," Otto said in a 2009 interview with Bleacher Report. "It's like being a gladiator: you get in a ring and fight all the guys and then they turn a lion against you. I've often looked at being a football player as being a gladiator.

"There's something inside of you that says, 'I want to go out there and prove my worth.' Most of the time you're going to get injuries. That's the life you choose. Some people need a challenge in life and they play hockey or rugby. Football was the way I could prove myself."

Otto proved himself to be the best at his position time and again throughout his career.

From 1960 to 1974, one man started at center for the Raiders and few played the position better during that time -- or since.

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