Wausau Native Jim Otto, Legendary Raiders Center, Dies At 86

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Jim Otto, a tough player with deep faith who became an NFL Hall of Fame center, died Sunday at age 86.

Wearing his iconic “00” jersey, the Wausau native anchored the Oakland Raiders’ offensive line from 1960 to 1974. According to USA TODAY, he earned 12 Pro Bowl selections and appeared in Super Bowl II. Otto never missed a game, making 210 consecutive regular-season starts and 13 additional playoff appearances.

Otto paid a steep price for his career, earning the nickname “Mr. Raider.” In a 1999 interview with the Wausau Daily Herald, he revealed that he had undergone 38 major surgeries, including six knee replacements and two shoulder replacements. He endured life-threatening infections from these surgeries and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002.

Despite these challenges, Otto said he would do it all again.

After playing at Wausau High School, Otto competed for the University of Miami in Florida. He signed with the Oakland Raiders and, according to a statement from the Las Vegas Raiders, “took the first snap in franchise history.”

In the fall of 1980, Otto returned to Wausau to attend a banquet held in his honor after his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame, as reported by the Wausau Daily Herald.

During his Hall of Fame induction in 1980, Otto expressed that he had always wanted to be an NFL player. “It was at the age of 11, while listening to a football game on the radio, that I told my grandfather that someday I was going to be a professional football player,” he said.

Otto emphasized that achieving dreams requires dedication, pride, and faith. “It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of pride and above all, a lot of faith and prayer,” he said.

Reflecting on his high school years, Otto described them as tough but noted the support and guidance he received from his parents, his minister, and his coaches, Tom Yelich and Win Brockmeyer. He credited Yelich as “the best teacher of line fundamentals” and Brockmeyer as “a great builder of character.”

Otto mentioned that another NFL Hall of Famer from Wausau, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, also played under Brockmeyer.

Otto’s legacy in Wausau continued long after he left to pursue his dreams.

Jim Zillman, a longtime friend of Otto and founder of Zillman’s Meat Market, told the Wausau Daily Herald in 2006 that Otto had “always been a gentleman and involved in our church when he’s here. He’s a hard worker and a man of integrity. What more can you say?”