Just like his former college coach, Ozzie Newsome has always been a winner.
He won a state championship as a player at Colbert County High School in 1972. He won three SEC championships in four seasons at Alabama.
He led the Cleveland Browns to seven appearances in the NFL playoffs during his 13-year career, which led to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He's also won as an NFL executive. As general manager of the Baltimore Ravens, Newsome is the architect of the team that won the 2000 Super Bowl. On Sunday, the Ravens will go for their second championship when they face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
"Winning at every level, that's the thing I'm most proud of," Newsome said from New Orleans in a phone interview earlier in the week.
While a part of several outstanding teams during his career with the Browns, the Super Bowl eluded Newsome as a player. That made the 2000 Super Bowl title special for Newsome, who was the first black general manager in the NFL.
The Ravens came close to returning to the Super Bowl several times before getting back this year by beating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
"It makes you realize how hard it is to get here," Newsome said. "You have to deal with all the injuries that occur and peak at the right time. Our coaches have done a great job and really have us playing at a high level right now."
Widely regarded as one of the top general managers in the game, Newsome seems to have a golden touch in the NFL Draft. From drafting Ray Lewis in 1996 to Joe Flacco in 2008, Newsome's picks have often gone on to become NFL stars.
"My instincts do come into play," he said. "Those instincts were honed as a player and by being around a lot of good people. I like to gather as much information as I can and let that make the decision for me."
Newsome always credits the people who influenced him through the years. Two of his biggest influences were former coaches — C.T. Manley at Colbert County and Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama.
"One thing that coach Bryant and coach Manley taught me was to not get complacent," he said. "I remember each of them calling me in and telling me that I was not playing as well as I was capable of playing. They taught me to always try to get better every day."
Newsome is known for drafting players from his alma mater and those with Southeastern Conference ties. Two Ravens starters, nose guard Terrence Cody and linebacker Courtney Upshaw, are former Alabama standouts.
Drafting Alabama players is no accident, Newsome said.
"I worked with Nick (Saban) in Cleveland, so I know what type of coach he is," Newsome said. "But as an alumnus, I start keeping up with those guys in high school. When signing day gets here I know a lot about those guys. So when I select an Alabama player in the draft, I've got a history with him back to his high school days."
Newsome is proud of his former school for winning three of the last four national championships. He attended both the 2011 and 2012 BCS Championship games.
Having lost to Notre Dame as a player in the 1975 Orange Bowl, Newsome said beating the Fighting Irish for the national championship this year was special.
"In one week, I got to exorcise two ghosts," he said. "One was the ghost of Notre Dame and the other was the ghost of John Elway and the Denver Broncos (which Baltimore defeated during the playoffs). That was a great week for me."
Newsome said a second Super Bowl title would be as sweet as, perhaps even sweeter than the first. He points to several reasons for that, such as it being the end of linebacker Ray Lewis' career and the fact the first Super Bowl team was hit hard by free agency.
"We knew that team would be blown up," he said. "This team will have a very good nucleus returning, so it should be able to sustain the success."
He will turn 57 in March, but Newsome is not yet making any retirement plans.
"I still enjoy watching these kids mature," he said. "It is a lot of fun to draft them and watch them develop. I'm not ready to just play golf and tailgate, which is what I will do when I retire."
In the past, Newsome has mentioned the possibility of returning to Alabama in some capacity. His name is often mentioned as a possible successor to Mal Moore as Alabama's athletic director.
"I don't think I would want that responsibility after I leave here," he said. "The only thing I want to be responsible for after I'm finished here is making birdies."
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.