The Best OSU Football Player Ever?

Whenever Ohio State fans gather to debate the best player ever to wear the Scarlet and Gray, several names will enter the conversation.

When the time comes to discuss the greatest individual performance in the long and storied history of the Buckeyes, however, no one can match the performance of Vic Janowicz on a late October afternoon in 1950.

Janowicz, who would have celebrated his 79th birthday today, was one of those rare individuals who excelled at everything he ever tried to do. But even his great talent reached new levels when the Buckeyes hosted Iowa on Oct. 28, 1950.

In just one afternoon, the junior speedster scored two touchdowns, threw for four scores, recovered two fumbles each of which led to OSU touchdowns, was responsible for kicking 10 extra points, kicked off eight times, carried the ball six times for a 5.1-yard average and completed 5 of 6 pass attempts for 128 yards.

Once the dust had cleared, Ohio State owned an 83-21 victory over the Hawkeyes – a point total that still stands as the most ever scored by the Buckeyes against a Big Ten opponent – and Janowicz was on his way to becoming only the third underclassman to win the Heisman Trophy.

By the time he arrived in Columbus to play for head coach Wes Fesler, Janowicz was already well-known throughout Ohio.

Born Victor Felix Janowicz on Feb. 26, 1930, he was a triple-threat player at Elyria High School, starring on offense, defense and special teams. There was nothing Janowicz couldn’t do on a football field. His speed made him a threat to score a touchdown every time he touched the ball as a halfback or kick returner, and he played safety on defense with reckless abandon. His athletic talents were so great that he was also his team’s punter and placekicker.

Although recruiting was not followed at the frenzied pace that it is today, Janowicz’s exploits in high school made him one of the most highly sought-after prospects in the nation. More than 60 colleges and universities offered full scholarships, many of them promising to build their entire teams around Janowicz.

However, the Buckeyes had a little something extra going for them as they pursued the services of “Vic the Quick.” The previous year, an organization known as the Frontliners was formed to help recruit top talent for the Ohio State football program. Alumni Association field secretary J. Edward Weaver – who would later serve as the school’s athletic director from 1970-77 – joined with longtime assistant coach Ernie Godfrey to form the group comprised of prominent alumni, top businessmen and well-heeled program supporters. The group’s main purpose was to help direct top high school talent to Columbus.

One of the group’s members was property developer, thoroughbred breeder and Pittsburgh Pirates owner John W. Galbreath, who took an immediate liking to Janowicz. The feeling was evidently mutual and the Buckeyes were able to land one of the most prized high school recruits in many years.

Janowicz first arrived at Ohio State in the fall of 1948 and immediately made a name for himself on the Buckeyes’ freshman squad. The following season, he was one of several talented sophomores who worked their way into playing time with other talented players such as Pandel Savic, Fred “Curly” Morrison, Ray Hamilton and Jimmy Clark. Janowicz saw playing time on offense and defense as OSU had one of its best seasons in many years. He scored his first collegiate touchdown during a 46-7 win over Indiana, and later scored again during a 30-17 homecoming victory against Illinois.

The Buckeyes finished the 1949 season tied for the Western Conference championship and earned their first Rose Bowl bid in 29 years. Best of all, they got to avenge their 28-0 loss to California in the 1921 game by getting a fourth-quarter field goal from Jimmy Hauge for a 17-14 victory over the Bears. Janowicz didn’t see much action on offense in the contest, carrying the ball only once for a gain of just 1 yard. But he managed to play well on defense, picking off an interception early in the game and returning it 44 yards.

Years later, Savic would remember that “Vic’s interception and return turned things around for us, and it really took the spirit out of California’s attack.”

That kind of game-changing play would be in full display the following season as Janowicz took center stage for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State had lost its 1950 season opener, a 32-27 decision to Southern Methodist. The team regrouped, however, and rattled off three straight victories, outscoring Pittsburgh, Indiana and Minnesota by a combined 115-21 score. But the Buckeyes were just getting started when Iowa invaded Ohio Stadium on an unseasonably warm late October afternoon.

The annual Dad’s Day crowd of 82,174 was the third-largest ever in the Horseshoe at the time, and they had barely had a chance to settle into their seats before Janowicz lit the fuse on the offensive fireworks display.

The drama of the game was packed into the early minutes. Iowa won the toss and elected to receive but that allowed Ohio State to choose defense of the south goal, giving them the advantage of a gusting wind. That decision paid off quickly when Janowicz’s opening kickoff sailed far over the Iowa kick returners’ heads, hitting 10 yards behind the end zone and rolling to the cinder track that encircled the playing field.

That gave Iowa the ball at its own 20-yard line, and when Jerry Faske fumbled on the first play, Janowicz pounced and recovered the loose football at the 23.

The Buckeyes quickly moved to the 11-yard line and then Janowicz took over. He tried to break through a hole in the line on a trap play, but was hemmed in about the 7 by four Iowa defenders. But after making two of them miss and getting a block from Julius Whitman, Janowicz steamed over the last Iowa defender and into the end zone for the touchdown. He added the extra point and the Buckeyes were off and running with a 7-0 lead.

When the Hawkeyes got the ball back, they didn’t do much with it. They had a motion penalty on first down, a short run on second down and an incomplete pass on third down to force a punt. Iowa punter Glenn Drahn lofted a beautiful spiral into the crystal blue sky, sending Janowicz back in full gallop to field the kick. But Drahn’s effort was too good. His 70-yard boot had not only sailed farther than Janowicz had anticipated, it also outkicked the Hawkeye punt coverage.

Janowicz circled back to field the punt at his own 39-yard line, turned upfield, got a couple of key blocks and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone with a 61-yard touchdown return. He added the PAT again, and the Buckeyes enjoyed a 14-0 advantage only three minutes and 29 seconds into the contest.

And they were just getting warmed up.

On Iowa’s next play from scrimmage, the Hawkeyes fumbled again and Janowicz recovered at the 26-yard line. Three plays later, he ran wide to the right on what appeared to be a sweep but quickly stopped, jumped and threw a pass to Tony Curcillo, who was waiting in the end zone and made a leaping catch for the touchdown.

That made it Ohio State 21, Iowa 0, with 9:50 still remaining in the first quarter.

“It was like a dream,” Janowicz would say years later. “Everything we tried just seemed to work. It seemed like every time we got the ball, we scored.”

The advantage swelled by two more scores after a 43-yard run by Walt Klevay and a fumble recovery in the end zone by OSU lineman Jerry Manz. Janowicz added the PAT after both scores to give the Buckeyes a 35-0 cushion – and more than three minutes still remained in the first quarter.

The Hawkeyes counted seven possessions in the first quarter alone, and had the ball for more than 11 minutes to less than four for the Buckeyes. But Iowa fumbled away four of their possessions, and the three others resulted in punts, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Janowicz.

A holding penalty early in the second quarter momentarily stalled the Buckeyes, but on the next play, Janowicz flipped a short pass into the flat to Bob Grimes. The Buckeye receiver gathered in the ball, stopped for a moment to let an Iowa defender fly by, and then finished off a 40-yard touchdown play by outrunning a pair of Hawkeyes to the end zone. Janowicz added the extra point for a 42-0 lead.

As if the score wasn’t already out of hand, touchdown No. 7 for the Buckeyes featured some trickery. After a three-and-out on their next possession, Iowa punted to Fred Bruney, who fielded the ball on his own 13-yard line. As he scampered to his left, teammate Bob Demmel came from the other side of the field to offer some interference. However, when the two crossed paths, Bruney shuffled the ball to Demmel, who never broke stride.

Most of the Hawkeyes continued to track Bruney, and by the time they discovered what had happened, Demmel was well on his way to an 87-yard touchdown romp. Janowicz added another PAT, pushing the Buckeyes’ advantage to 49-0.

Ohio State tacked on one more touchdown in the second quarter. This time, faced with third-and-15 at the Iowa 25, Janowicz threw a strike to Richard Anderson in the end zone, who pivoted at the exact time the ball arrived.

The touchdown pass made it 55-0 in favor of the Buckeyes before Janowicz pushed his point-after kick attempt wide. An account the next day in The Columbus Dispatch characterized the missed kick was “just to show the guy is human – perhaps.”

The Hawkeyes finally got on the scoreboard at the 9:43 mark of the second period, tallying a short touchdown pass, and then they got another score on the final play of the second quarter to make it 55-14 at the break and close what was probably the most frenzied first half in Ohio Stadium history. The teams had combined for 10 touchdowns, including two on punt returns and one defensive score. The first half also featured 69 points, 476 total offensive yards, eight turnovers and 12 penalties.

Janowicz had already accounted for five TDs in the first 30 minutes. He had rushed twice for 19 yards, including his 11-yard score; passed four times, completing three (all for TDs) for 77 yards; and returned a punt 61 yards for another score. He also punted for a 33-yard average, kicked off nine times and converted seven PAT kicks.

The second half was simply a cherry on top of the sundae. The Buckeyes scored four more touchdowns that afternoon, including a third-quarter pass from Janowicz to Fred Bruney that covered 43 yards.

For the game, Iowa committed 12 turnovers, losing seven fumbles and five interceptions. Meanwhile, Ohio State could easily have cracked the century mark on the scoreboard because the Buckeyes turned the ball over three times on three interceptions, and also had a punt blocked.

Nevertheless, it was one of the most high-scoring afternoons in stadium history. The Buckeyes wouldn’t crack the 60-point barrier again until the 1969 season opener against Texas Christian, a 62-0 blowout. And they wouldn’t break 70 again until a 70-6 win over Northwestern in October 1981.

But an Ohio State team has not topped the 80-point mark since that late October day in 1950. Likewise, the program has never again witnessed a single player account for points by running, throwing, returning a punt and kicking an extra point since Janowicz achieved the feat against the Hawkeyes.

Janowicz went on to earn the 1950 Silver Football Trophy, symbolic of the Big Ten’s most valuable player, and then became the school’s second Heisman Trophy winner. He won the award in a landslide, more than doubling the vote total of his nearest competitor, SMU senior halfback Kyle Rote.

After leaving Ohio State following the 1951 season, Janowicz spurned offers to play in the NFL and instead played two seasons of major league baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Following the 1954 season, however, Janowicz decided to return to football and signed a contract with the Washington Redskins.

After easing his way back into the game in ’54 primarily as the Redskins’ kicker, Janowicz appeared to be back to form the following year. He rushed for 397 yards and four touchdowns, caught 11 receptions for 149 yards and two more TDs and booted six field goals and 28 PATs as Washington finished 8-4, just a game and a half behind Cleveland for the NFL East Division championship.

The following summer, Janowicz was primed for a breakout season but it was not meant to be. During training camp in 1956, he was nearly killed in an automobile accident. He suffered serious head injuries that left him partially paralyzed, ending his athletic career.

But Janowicz did not give up. After years of rehabilitation, he overcame the paralysis and spent many years as administrative assistant to the state auditor.

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976, and one year later was in the inaugural class of inductees into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1992, he received perhaps his highest honor when the Columbus Downtown Quarterback Club named him Ohio State’s greatest athlete of the previous 50 years.

Janowicz continued to be much in demand as a public speaker, especially at schools where he would cheerfully display his Heisman Trophy. He took great delight in telling children to rub the back leg of the player on the trophy for good luck.

He continued to tour the state as a goodwill ambassador for the university until his death from cancer on Feb. 27, 1996 – just one day after his 66th birthday.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s other Buckeye birthday belongs to former Ohio State basketball player Treg Lee.

Treg Lee was born Feb. 26, 1968, in Cleveland, Ohio, and named for his father’s four best friends – Tony, Ronnie, Eddie and Greg. Lee became an all-state performer and Class AAA player of the year at St. Joseph’s High School, leading the Vikings to the state semifinals as a senior while averaging 18.8 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists. He also earned consensus prep All-America honors in 1987 and was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. Lee signed with Ohio State but missed his freshman season as a Prop 48 academic casualty. He eased into the lineup as a sophomore and became a valuable backup as junior before starting at power forward for the Big Ten champion Buckeyes in 1991. Lee is probably best remembered for his game-winning shot that capped a terrific 97-95 overtime victory over Indiana, a game that is replayed often on ESPN Classic and the Big Ten Network’s “Greatest Games” series. Lee finished his OSU career with 643 points and 347 rebounds. After college, Lee played professionally in the Continental Basketball Association and also in Europe. Recently, he has been running General Lee Sports, his own basketball skills and fundamental business in the Cleveland area, and also officiating high school games.

Other luminaries sharing birthdays this 26th day of February: former game show host Tom Kennedy is 82; R&B legend Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino is 81; Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is 81; political columnist Robert Novak is 75; Sixties TV actress Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson in the original “Lost in Space”) is 64; Detroit Wheels frontman Mitch Ryder (born William S. Levise Jr.) is 64; contemporary crooner Michael Bolton is 56; Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is 51; Grammy winning singer Erykah Badu (born Erica Abi Wright) is 38; former NFL running back Marshall Faulk is 36; and eight-time Olympic gold medal swimming Jenny Thompson is 36.

A distinguished group of late celebrities also shared Feb. 26 as their birthday. They include English dramatist Christopher Marlowe; French author Victor Hugo; eponymous jeans maker Levi Strauss; American frontiersman William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody; Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander; comedic entertainer Jackie Gleason; actor Tony Randall; music legend Johnny Cash; and actor William Frawley, who has been on television almost nonstop since the early 1950s. Frawley, who died in 1966 at the age of 79, played Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy.”

AND FINALLY

** NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. says that the four top quarterbacks taken this year will be underclassmen because this year’s crop of senior QBs is “the worst senior quarterback group” he has ever seen. Even so, Kiper doesn’t have much good to say about the guys who will follow Matthew Stafford of Georgia, projected to be the overall No. 1 pick to Detroit. Kiper said that both USC’s Mark Sanchez and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman should have stayed in school – “Freeman is a roll of the dice. Same with Sanchez.” – and Nate Davis of Ball State had a poor finish to his college career and measured small at the combine. Kiper’s idea of a quarterback steal in this draft? Curtis Painter of Purdue, who is expected to be taken in the late rounds.

** Bracketology warning! Beware about picking some Cinderella team like Arkansas-Little Rock to go far in the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans are currently 20-7 and leading the Sun Belt West. But you should also be aware that leading scorer Steven Moore, who had 10 performances of 16 points or more this season, was recently dismissed from the team.

** Like father like son – in some things. Texas Tech basketball coach Pat Knight was suspended for one game following his complaints about the officiating after his team lost a 79-73 decision Feb. 21 to Texas A&M. That loss sent the Red Raiders’ record to 12-15 in their first full season under Knight. Know how many losing seasons his old man had during his 42-year Hall of Fame career? Two. His 1971 Army team was 11-13 and his 2006 Texas Tech team went 15-17.

** Speaking of coaching as a family business, new Illinois State head coach Brock Spack has hired Dan Shula as an offensive assistant. Shula is the son of former Cincinnati Bengals coach Dave Shula, nephew of former Alabama head coach Mike Shula, and grandson of former Miami Dolphins head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula.

** Sign of the economic times? Northern Iowa has announced it will drop its baseball program after this season, saving the university approximately $400,000. As a point of reference, new NIU athletic director Troy Dannen was hired with a four-year contract that pays him $155,000 annually. Also, football coach Mark Farley, who has been in Cedar Falls for seven seasons, recently was given a five-year extension on a deal that is worth $220,000 with additional incentives based on team athletic and academic performance.

** Some top-rated high school football players have yet to sign national letters of intent and already the 2010 recruiting season is well under way. Texas head coach Mack Brown just received a verbal from cornerback Carrington Byndum of Lufkin, Texas. That gives Brown a even dozen commitments for next year already.

The ‘Other’ Bill Hosket

Most Ohio State basketball fans know Bill Hosket from his all-conference playing days in the late 1960s to a broadcast career that has spanned four decades and continues to this day.

But did you know that Hosket’s father, known as Bill Sr., was also an All-Big Ten performer at Ohio State and that today would have been his 98th birthday?

Wilmer Clemons Hosket was born Feb. 19, 1911, in Dayton, Ohio, and became a championship basketball player at almost every level. Hosket, who eventually grew to stand just shy of 6-5, starred at Stivers High School in Dayton for head coach Floyd Stahl. Stahl would later serve eight seasons from 1951-58 as head coach at Ohio State.

With Hosket at the pivot, the Tigers won three consecutive state championships from 1928 to 1930, posting an 80-7 record during that span. Six of those losses occurred during Hosket’s sophomore season. At the time he was a high school player, Hosket was considered the finest basketball prospect ever produced by the state of Ohio.

After his graduation from Stivers, Hosket joined Ohio State head coach Harold “Tubby” Olsen’s program. Olsen, who at 24 seasons coached longer than any other basketball coach in school history, was looking to snap a string of second-division finishes in the Western Conference after leading the Buckeyes to their first league championship in 1925.

Hosket played mostly in a reserve role during his first couple of seasons at Ohio State. Those years featured lineups that included such standouts as Wes Fesler and Lew Hinchman – both of which were three-time football All-Americans – as well as Richard Larkins, captain of the 1931 team who went to become director of athletics at Ohio State from 1947-70.

Unfortunately, the OSU basketball teams during that time were not very competitive. The Buckeyes finished no higher than a tie for fifth place in the conference between 1926 and 1932, and had back-to-back ninth-place finishes in ’30 and ’31.

Hosket finally cracked the starting lineup at the beginning of the 1932-33 season and immediately paid dividends for Olsen. With a supporting cast that included captain Howard Mattison, former Stivers teammate Bob Colburn and Hinchman, Hosket became a dominating inside force. He was an excellent passer, could shoot the ball with either hand and became one of the premier post players in college basketball. As a result, Ohio State won 15 of their first 16 games during that season and went on to capture the school’s first Western Conference title in eight years.

The Buckeyes finished with a 17-3 record that season with Mattison earning first-team all-conference merit at guard and Hosket receiving first-time honors at center.

After the 1932-33 season, Hosket left Ohio State and played in the Midwest League and upstart National Basketball League as a member of the Dayton Metropolitans. After two seasons with the Metros, he played semipro ball before joining the famed Waterloo Wonders in 1940. The Wonders went from a high school team that won back-to-back Ohio state championships in the mid-1930s to a professional barnstorming squad that toured the country. Hosket played for the Wonders in 1940, a team that defeated both the original Boston Celtics as well as the Harlem Globetrotters.

Hosket returned to his hometown in 1941 and played for the Dayton Suchers, named for the Sucher Meat Packing Co. in the Gem City.

When his playing days were over, Hosket became a basketball official and refereed on both the high school and college levels.

Unfortunately, Hosket did not live to see his son become a basketball star. After a battle against leukemia, he died Dec. 29, 1956, at the age of 45. It was just nine days after Bill Jr. had celebrated his 10th birthday.

The younger Hosket – who technically is not Bill Jr. because his middle name is Frederick – went on to win a high school state championship at Dayton Belmont, a Big Ten championship with Ohio State in 1968, an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. basketball team at the ’68 Summer Games in Mexico City and an NBA title as member of the New York Knicks in 1970.

He led the Buckeyes in scoring and rebounding during each of his three varsity seasons and became the first OSU Academic All-American in basketball, an honor Hosket went on to win three times.

Perhaps his proudest achievement, however, came when he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 1968. That made the Hoskets the first father-son combination ever named first-team All-Big Ten in the history of the conference, and they remain the only ones to hold that distinction.

In 2006, the Hoskets received another joint honor when they were included in the inaugural class of inductees to the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. Also in that inaugural class was the Dayton Stivers teams on which the elder Hosket played.

Bill Sr. received one more posthumous award in 2006 when he was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Stivers High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s other Buckeye birthday belongs to former Ohio State cornerback William White. William Eugene White was born Feb. 19, 1966, in Lima, Ohio, and was a star tailback and punt returner for Lima Senior High School before concentrating on defense when he signed with the Buckeyes in 1984. White became a four-year starter at cornerback at OSU and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1987. He finished his career tied for third on the career interceptions list with 16 and is one of only nine Buckeyes ever to record three interceptions in a single game. White was a fourth-round selection by Detroit in the 1988 NFL draft, and he played 11 pro seasons with the Lions, Chiefs and Falcons. When he retired after the 1998 season, White had 20 career interceptions, averaging 15.5 yards per return, and recovered three fumbles, returning two of those for touchdowns.

Other luminaries sharing birthdays this 19th day of February: Motown legend William “Smokey” Robinson is 69; Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Paul Krause is 67; Sixties pop singer Lou Christie (“Lightnin’ Strikes”) is 66; Loverboy lead guitarist Paul Dean is 63; Black Sabbath guitarist and founding member Tony Iommi is 61; novelist Amy Tan (“The Joy Luck Club”) is 57; Argentina president Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner is 56; actor Jeff Daniels is 54; English author Helen Fielding (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”) is 51; Prince Andrew, Duke of York, is 49; retired four-time Grand Slam champion tennis player Hana Mandlíková is 47; Grammy winning singer Seal (born Seal Henry Olusegun Kwassi Olumide Adelo Samuel) is 46; Eighties television actress Justine Bateman is 43; Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”) is 42; Memphis Grizzlies forward Mike Miller is 29; and singer/actress Haylie Duff is 24.

An eclectic group of celebrities also died on this day in history. They include military aviation pioneer Billy Mitchell, actress Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet on the “Batman” television series); original AC/DC frontman Bon Scott; Italian actor Adolfo Celi (Bond villain Emilio Largo in “You Only Live Twice”); Oakland A’s owner Charles O. Finley; Chinese Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping; county music legend Grandpa Jones; and prolific film director Stanley Kramer, who directed such dramatic classics as “The Defiant Ones,” “Inherit The Wind,” “Judgment at Nuremberg” and “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” as well as broad comedies like “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” Many of Kramer’s films won technical and acting Academy Awards, but he never took home an Oscar for direction.

AND FINALLY

** NFL draft expert Mel Kiper has some words of wisdom for former Ohio State players prepping for this weekend’s NFL Combine: Do well or don’t bother to stay by the phone on the first day of the draft. “Malcolm Jenkins, if he’s runs a great 40 time, could be a top 10 pick,” Kiper said recently. “If not, he could be viewed as a safety (and his draft status will drop). I think this combine is as important for him as anybody in this draft.” Meanwhile, Kiper was a even more blunt regarding a pair of ex-OSU linebackers when he said, “James Laurinaitis’ stock has dropped from the beginning of the year, and Marcus Freeman’s stock has dropped. They need to have good workouts.”

** With starting quarterback Steven Threet deciding to leave the team and seek a transfer, does this mean Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez has to go back to square one again with his offense? That is a scary thought for U-M fans hopeful that last year’s 3-9 record was a one-year aberration. The Wolverines ranked dead last in the Big Ten last season in pass offense, total offense and turnover margin. Tough to see how Rodriguez’s team can improve those stats while breaking in another new starting quarterback.

** From the recruiting leftover file: Wide receiver DeAngelo Benton of Bastrop, La., committed to LSU two seasons ago but was unable to satisfy academic requirements for freshman eligibility. No problem. LSU head coach Les Miles tucked the 6-2, 190-pound Benton securely away at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., and then got reassurance from the receiver on the weekend before signing day that Benton would sign with the Tigers this year. Less than 24 hours before signing day, Benton was still telling everyone he would sign with LSU. The following day, Benton did indeed sign – with Auburn. Is there any wonder why so much animosity exists between SEC football coaches?

** Here’s a little quiz for you. What do guys named Jim Schwartz, Jim Caldwell, Rex Ryan and Raheem Morris have in common? Would you believe they are all head coaches in the National Football League? The NFL boasts 10 new head coaches, including seven who have never led teams before. Schwartz takes over in Detroit, Caldwell succeeds Tony Dungy in Indianapolis, Ryan will lead the New York Jets and Morris will be in charge in Tampa Bay. The other three newbies: Josh McDaniels in Denver, Todd Haley in Kansas City and Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis.

** Not sure what this means but IRL driver Danica Patrick’s tattoo of an American flag that adorns her lower back was airbrushed out of this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Last year, Patrick’s flag tattoo was visible in her swimsuit issue photos. Discuss.

Carter, Spielman Crowned 1984 Recruiting Class

I thought I’d step into the Recruiting Wayback Machine again and take a look back a quarter-century ago at the Ohio State class of 1984.

Twenty-five years ago, the Buckeyes signed 25 high school players to national letters of intent and several of them turned to be stars. Two became among the top performers at their position in school history – some would even argue the best wide receiver and linebacker to ever suit up for the Scarlet and Gray.

OSU head coach Earle Bruce had just completed his fifth season in Columbus and was in the middle of a seven-year streak of three-loss campaigns, a stretch that had earned the coach the derisive nickname of “Ol’ 9-3 Earle.” However, lost over time is the fact the 1983 team came within an eyelash of contending for a national championship.

The Buckeyes went 9-3 that season, but their three losses came by a total of just 13 points, all to ranked teams and all on the road. As a result, OSU finished ninth in the final AP poll that season and eighth in the UPI rankings. The team that year featured such future NFL stars as offensive tackle William Roberts, tight end John Frank, center Kirk Lowdermilk, linebacker Pepper Johnson and quarterback Mike Tomczak. Just those five players alone went on to combine for 59 NFL seasons and seven Super Bowl championship rings.

Roberts and Frank were among those graduating after the 1983 season, so Bruce and his coaching staff put heavy recruiting emphasis on restocking the roster with offensive linemen and tight ends. At the same time, OSU broke tradition in a couple of different areas. The Buckeyes did well in the Cincinnati area, where Bruce had experienced trouble keeping top players away from Notre Dame, and they uncharacteristically signed a couple of junior college standouts.

Two of the most highly rated players came from Ohio. Recruiting analysts are often a hit-and-miss bunch, but even the most myopic of the gurus could have foretold future greatness for receiver Cris Carter of Middletown and Chris Spielman of Massillon Washington.

That duo was the foundation upon which the Buckeyes’ class of ’84 earned the grade of “B to B-plus” from West Virginia recruiting expert Doug Huff. Illinois was given Big Ten honors followed by OSU and Michigan in a tie for second place. The Illini, who were defending conference champions, were given top marks for signing so many college-ready athletes. Head coach Mike White signed a whopping 12 JUCO transfers, including 11 from California.

In addition to landing Carter and Spielman, Huff gave Ohio State upgrades for landing a bevy of talented offensive line prospects. He listed junior college transfer Ron Paulsen and Chicago-area high school star Mike Durham as major “gets” for the Buckeyes. (If you recall either player, consider yourself a real student of Ohio State recruiting history.)

Bruce and his staff followed their tried and true recruiting philosophy in 1984, concentrating most of their efforts on Ohio-grown talent. As a result, 20 members of the class came from the Buckeye State with OSU signing one player each from Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania as well as junior colleges in Kansas and California.

As with nearly every recruiting season, though, the Buckeyes couldn’t sweep Ohio completely clean. They fought hard for linebacker Frank Stams of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, but it those days it was extremely different to pry any credible SVSM player away from Notre Dame. (After all, St. Vincent-St. Mary also plays as the Fighting Irish). Stams indeed signed with Notre Dame and became an All-America defensive tackle, helping those Irish win the 1988 national championship. He later had a seven-year NFL career with the Rams, Browns and Chiefs.

Other top-rated Ohio players who got away from the Buckeyes in 1984 included Akron Garfield running back Charles Gladman, who signed with Pittsburgh, and Cleveland St. Joseph tight end Mike Kovac, who signed with Michigan. Gladman became one of only nine Pitt running backs to rush for 2,000 or more yards in his career. Kovac, meanwhile, never lettered for the Wolverines.

Huff rated USC’s class as the nation’s best for an all-around effort by head coach Ted Tollner and his staff. The Trojans were able to sign national player of the year Ryan Knight, a running back from Riverside (Calif.) Rubidoux. Knight lettered four years for the Trojans, but never turned out to be anything more than a backup. (His younger brother, Sammy, also played at USC and has been an NFL safety since 1997.) Also signing with the Trojans that season was quarterback Rodney Peete of Shawnee Mission, Kan.

Here is a complete list of Ohio State’s recruiting class of 1984. See if you can remember some of these names.

Tom Anderzack, OLB, Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic – Anderzack was an athletic prospect who had been named Toledo’s defensive player of the year during his senior season. He was 6-3 and 210 pounds, a sprinter on the track team and president of his junior class. Unfortunately, none of that success carried over to his college career. He redshirted in 1984, played only sparingly during the next two seasons and never lettered for Ohio State.

Sean Bell, DB, Middletown, Ohio – Bell was the younger brother of Todd Bell, who starred for the Buckeyes from 1977-80 and then had a pro career with the Chicago Bears. Sean was the total package at 6-2, 185 pounds and 4.5 speed, but he could never match his older brother’s performance. Sean was a three-year letterman for OSU from 1985-87, but a broken leg suffered during the first week of fall practice in ’86 hindered his progress and he could never crack the starting lineup.

Mike Bloemer, OL, Cincinnati (Ohio) Aiken – An All-Ohio and honorable mention All-America offensive tackle, Bloemer was another excellent all-around prospect from the class of ’84. In addition to football, he played basketball for the Falcons and was an honor student, graduating 11th in a class of 345. Bloemer redshirted in 1984 and fought his way to No. 2 on the depth chart at tackle before an ankle injury slowed his progress. He never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Jim Carroll, TE, Berea, Ohio – The 6-4, 238-pound Carroll was supposed to be in line to succeed Frank at tight end after catching 51 passes during his high school career, including 20 for 350 yards as a senior. He saw action in two games as a true freshman in 1984 and entered the ’85 season in contention for the starting position. But he never earned a letter at OSU.

Cris Carter, WR, Middletown, Ohio – Carter exploded onto the scene as a true freshman in 1984 and continued to get better every year he was a Buckeye. He led the team in receiving as a sophomore and junior, becoming the first OSU receiver ever to record a 1,000-yard season when he caught a school-record 69 passes for 1,127 yards in 1986. Improper dealings with a sports agent cost him his entire senior year, but despite playing only three seasons, Carter remains second all-time at Ohio State in career receptions with 168. He went on to a Hall of Fame-worthy career in the NFL, earning eight Pro Bowl berths in 16 seasons with Minnesota, Philadelphia and Miami. Carter ranks third in league history in receptions (1,101), fourth in touchdown catches (130) and seventh in receiving yards (13,899). In 2009, his son Duron will join Ohio State as a receiver.

Gary Clift, QB, Brunswick, Ohio – Clift was a three-sport star in high school, but excelled as a dual-threat quarterback on the gridiron. He completed 190 passes for 2,286 yards during his final two years for the Blue Devils and added another 12 rushing touchdowns as a senior. A torn tendon in his throwing shoulder that required surgery forced Clift to move to defense in 1985 and then to a receiver position in the spring of ’86. He remained there for the remainder of his OSU career and Clift won his only letter in 1987.

Jeff Compton, PK, Ottawa (Ohio) Ottawa-Glandorf – Compton was a converted soccer player who didn’t play football in high school until his junior year. He was a quick learner, however, and earned a scholarship based on making 12 of 15 field-goal attempts as a senior. Compton was locked in behind veteran kickers Rich Spangler and Matt Frantz during the early part of his career and wound up never lettering for the Buckeyes.

Jim Davidson, OLB, Westerville (Ohio) North – The 6-5, 225-pounder was the son of former OSU captain and All-America tackle Jim Davidson. Jim Jr. earned second-team All-Ohio honors as a high school senior and was also a standout in the classroom, graduating as valedictorian of his class and serving as president of the National Honor Society. He lettered in 1985 as an outside linebacker, but was moved to the offensive line to bolster depth there. Davidson eventually was forced to accept a medical waiver prior to the 1987 season because of chronic neck and shoulder injuries. His brother, Jeff, later became a two-year starter at guard for the Buckeyes in 1988 and ’89 and is currently offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.

Dino Dawson, WR, Detroit (Mich.) Cooley – Dawson was a quick all-star prospect who had 4.46 speed and was a championship hurdler. He caught 48 passes for 925 yards and 12 TDs as a senior, and was projected along with Carter to give the Buckeyes a pair of deep threats for many seasons to come. After lettering in 1984, however, Dawson left OSU and transferred to Kent State, where he led the team in receptions in 1989. Dawson finally earned his degree from Wayne State in 1991 and began a college coaching career that has included stops at Wayne State, Illinois State, Bowling Green, Toledo, Cincinnati, Tuskegee and Illinois. He is currently offensive coordinator at Alcorn State.

Mike Durham, OL, Evanston (Ill.) Loyola Academy – An excellent prospect who was a two-year starter at Loyola Academy, the 6-6, 254-pound Durham earned Chicago area All-Catholic and Catholic All-America honors in 1983. Injuries plagued him throughout his OSU career and he never lettered.

Alex Higdon, TE, Cincinnati (Ohio) Princeton – The 6-5, 234-pound Higdon was an excellent all-around athlete. In addition to football, he played forward on the Vikings’ basketball team, was a pitcher on the baseball team, threw the discus and ran hurdles for the track team and even dabbled in boxing. After a prep All-America career, he became a four-year letterman for the Buckeyes, who used his versatility all over the field. Higdon won his first letter as a backup tight end, his second as a defensive tackle and his third as an outside linebacker before returning to tight end and taking over the starting position as a senior. Higdon tied for second on the team in receptions in 1987, grabbing 26 balls for 252 yards.

Frank Hoak, WR/TE, Richeyville (Pa.) Bethlehem Center – Hoak was another excellent all-around athlete in the class of ’84. The 6-2, 205-pounder caught 100 passes for 1,989 yards and 24 TDs during his high school career, punted for a 38.1-yard average and converted 45 of 50 PAT attempts. Hoak, who is the nephew of former OSU tight end and assistant coach Fred Pagac, also lettered in basketball and baseball and enjoyed playing golf. After redshirting in 1984, Hoak was switched to the fullback position and spent a year there before returning to tight. He won his only letter in 1987.

Jamie Holland, WR, Butler County (Kan.) Community College – Holland was a speedster originally from Wake Forest, N.C., who became a JUCO star. He had been an all-state running back in high school before being converted to a receiver who used his speed to score 11 touchdown on only 31 receptions in 1983. Holland won his only OSU letter in 1986. That year, he led the Buckeyes in kickoff returns, averaging 20.9 yards on 24 runbacks. Holland also caught eight passes for 142 yards and one TD in ’86.

Tim James, OL, Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder – James was following in the footsteps of his father, Dan, who played center for Woody Hayes at Ohio State from 1956-58 and then spent eight years in the NFL, mostly with San Francisco. Tim earned All-Ohio honors as a guard for Elder, and was an athletic prospects who also enjoyed softball, golf and rugby. He redshirted in ’84, but was considered a candidate for one of the starting guard positions the following season. It was not to be, however, and James never won an OSU letter.

Mike Madigan, OL, Wapakoneta, Ohio – Madigan was twice named his league’s lineman of the year and he earned honorable mention all-state honors as well as being named to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game. He redshirted in 1984, and then broke his arm during spring practice in ’85. He never lettered at Ohio State.

Michael McCray, OLB, Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar – McCray had an excellent prep career at two different high schools. As a freshman and sophomore, he attended Dayton Roth and started on the team that won the 1982 state championship in basketball. He later transferred to Dunbar, where he was a prep All-American in basketball and track. McCray earned three letters during his OSU career and was a two-year starter at linebacker in 1986 and ’87. But he is probably best remembered for recovering a fumble in the 1987 Michigan game, a turnover that began Ohio State’s comeback from a 13-0 deficit. McCray’s recovery led to a 61-yard touchdown pass from Tupa to Everett Ross and touched off the Buckeyes’ eventual 23-20 win in Bruce’s final game as head coach.

Ron Paulsen, OL, Norwalk (Calif.) Cerritos Community College – After an all-state career as an offensive tackle in Long Beach, Calif., Paulsen played two JUCO seasons before joining the Buckeyes in ’84. He was redshirted that year with an eye toward contending for one of the starting guard positions the following season. But a knee injury that required minor surgery set his progress back, and although Paulsen managed to win a letter in 1985, he left the team before the ’86 season began.

Scott Powell, QB, North Canton (Ohio) Hoover – Powell first made a name for himself as an outside linebacker, but when the Vikings needed a quarterback, he switched positions before his senior year and completed 119 of 220 passes for 1,580 yards and 17 TDs. That was good enough for the Buckeyes to offer him a scholarship, which he accepted. Powell was equally versatile for Ohio State, playing a variety of positions during his career including returning to an outside linebacker position and serving as the holder on PATs and field goals. He earned three letters from 1986-88.

Greg Rogan, DB, Urbana, Ohio – Rogan was generously listed at 5-10 and 180 pounds, but he oozed athleticism from every pore. He won All-Ohio honors as a defensive back but just as easily could have won them as a running back after gaining 1,800 yards as a senior. Rogan was a four-year starter at cornerback for the Buckeyes from 1984-87, but his senior season was cut short after only five games. Rogan sustained a broken left ankle early in the fourth quarter of his team’s 31-10 loss to Indiana.

Dwight Smith, DB, Middletown, Ohio – Smith was a two-sport star for the Middies, playing for championship football and basketball teams. He bounced back and forth between cornerback and safety during the early part of his Ohio State career before finally settling in as a backup safety and special teams player. He earned letters in 1987 and 1988.

Chris Spielman, LB, Massillon (Ohio) Washington – Spielman was born to play football and proved that assertion at an early age. After tearing up his parents’ house and the sandlots around Canton, Spielman moved with his family to Massillon and became an outstanding star for the Tigers. He earned prep All-America honors and was even pictured on the front of a Wheaties box while still in high school. Once he reached the college ranks, he never slowed down. Spielman begged Bruce to start him as a freshman and then spent the next four years as one of college football’s best linebackers. By the time his OSU career was over, Spielman had established a still-standing school record with 283 solo tackles, earned back-to-back consensus All-America honors and won the 1987 Lombardi Award. Detroit made him its second-round selection in the 1988 NFL draft, and Spielman played eight seasons with the Lions, averaging 127.5 tackles per year and making four Pro Bowls. He spent two years in Buffalo before a neck injury ended his career. Spielman is currently a college football analyst on Columbus radio as well as for ESPN, and is a tireless fundraiser for breast cancer research.

Tom Tupa, QB/P, Broadview Heights, Ohio – Tupa quarterbacked his high school team to the Ohio state championship in 1983, and then concentrated on punting when he got to Ohio State and wound up the school’s career leader in punting average at 44.7 yards per kick. (Andy Groom later broke the record with his career mark of 45.0.) Tupa also has the best two single-season punting averages in OSU history – 47.1 as a freshman in 1984 and 47.0 as a senior in 1987. Tupa doubled as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback in ’87, completing 134 of 242 passes (55.4 percent) for 1,786 yards and 12 TDs. He was a third-round pick by the Phoenix Cardinals in the 1988 NFL draft and spent 15 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, Browns, Buccaneers and Redskins. His career punting average of 43.4 yards ranks 28th all-time in NFL history. Tupa also threw for 3,430 yards and 12 TDs as a pro quarterback.

Jeff Uhlenhake, OL, Newark (Ohio) Catholic – Uhlenhake anchored the offensive and defensive lines for the Green Wave teams that made three consecutive state finals and won the title in 1982. When he got to Ohio State, Uhlenhake started at guard as a sophomore and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. The following year, he switched to center and was named a first-team All-American at that position as a senior. Uhlenhake was drafted by Miami in the fifth round of the 1989 NFL draft and started for five seasons for the Dolphins. He later spent two years each with New Orleans and Washington, and started for both of those teams. He retired following the 1997 season after starting 112 of the 119 NFL games in which he had played. After his playing days were over, Uhlenhake got into coaching and was an assistant at Cincinnati and with the Cleveland Browns. In 2007, he returned to his alma mater has spent the last two years as coordinator of strength and conditioning on Jim Tressel’s staff at Ohio State.

William White, DB, Lima (Ohio) Senior – Overshadowed by some of the other names in the class of ’84, White was one of the best cornerbacks Ohio State has ever produced. He was a dangerous tailback and punt returner in high school before concentrating on defense when he became a Buckeye. White was a rare four-year starter at cornerback and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior in 1987. He finished his career tied for third on the career interceptions list with 16, is one of only six OSU players ever return two picks for touchdowns during his career, and one of only nine Buckeyes ever to record three interceptions in a single game. White was a fourth-round selection by Detroit in the 1988 NFL draft, and he played 11 pro seasons with the Lions, Chiefs and Falcons. When he retired after the 1998 season, White had totaled 20 career interceptions, averaging 15.5 yards per return, and recovered three fumbles, returning two of those for touchdowns.

Greg Zackeroff, OL, Warren (Ohio) Harding – A hard-working, lunch-bucket kind of guy, Zackeroff came to the Buckeyes after winning All-Ohio honors and being named Trumbull County offensive lineman of the year. He toiled away on the scout team during his first season before earning his first of four letters in 1985. The following season, Zackeroff was inserted into the starting lineup at right guard and anchored that position for the next three seasons.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s Buckeye birthday belongs to former defensive end Matt Finkes.

Matthew Scott Finkes was born Feb. 12, 1975, in Piqua, Ohio, and starred for his hometown high school, earning Division I all-state and district lineman of the year honors as a senior. Finkes signed with Ohio State in 1993 and made an immediate impact. He broke into the starting lineup in ’94 as a sophomore and teamed with fellow defensive end Mike Vrabel to terrorize Big Ten quarterbacks for the next three years. The duo combined for 125 career tackles for loss – 66 by Vrabel and 59 by Finkes – and those totals remain first and second in OSU history. Finkes also had 25 sacks during his career, and that ranks third in school history behind only Vrabel (36) and Jason Simmons (27½). Finkes was a sixth-round selection by Carolina in the 1997 NFL draft, but never played for the Panthers. He was signed off waivers by the Jets and appeared in eight games for New York during the ’97 season. Finkes later played for Scotland in NFL Europe before returning to his hometown of Piqua where he owns his own construction business.

Also celebrating birthdays this 12th day of February: former baseball player and broadcaster Joe Garagiola is 83; Fifties quiz show scandal figure Charles Van Doren is also 83; U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is 79; NBA Hall of Fame center Bill Russell is 75; veteran character actor Joe Don Baker is 73; children’s author Judy Blume is 71; three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford is 71; The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek is 70; Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak is 67; actress and two-time Bond girl Maud Adams (“The Man With The Golden Gun” and “Octopussy”) is 64; former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett is 59; singer, former Doobie Brothers frontman and (some say) Mark Rea lookalike Michael McDonald is 57; TV actress Joanna Kerns (Maggie Seaver on “Growing Pains”) is 56; former talk show host Arsenio Hall is 54; Oscar-nominated actor Josh Brolin is 41; Wilson Phillips singer Chynna Phillips is also 41; model/celebrity wannabe Anna Benson is 33; and actress Christina Ricci is 29.

Also, Happy 200th Birthday today to Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.

Congratulations are also in order today for our friends in East Lansing. On this date in 1855, Michigan State University was established as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan. Happy birthday, Sparty.

AND FINALLY

** College football is evidently serious about cracking down on taunting, so much so the NCAA rules committee is considering disallowing a touchdown if a player is flagged for taunting during a scoring play. Citing an increasing concern over unsportsmanlike conduct, rules committee chairman and Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said yesterday that the group is considering a major change to the taunting rules. Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally is currently considered a dead-ball foul with penalty yardage assessed on the next kickoff. If the rule is changed, penalty yardage would be marked off from the spot of the foul and the touchdown would be nullified. I don’t like taunting but I also dislike wringing every drop of emotion out of college football. There has to be a better way.

** I still love baseball despite all of its flaws. But I guess I’m numb to the steroids issue because the owners and their puppet commissioner looked the other way when they knew players were taking performance-enhancing drugs. That’s why everyone should just shut up about Alex Rodriguez and how his admittance of taking PEDs will ruin the game. A-Rod is a great player, and just like Barry Bonds, he was great before he took steroids. But no one player is “the game.” It was being played more than a hundred years before A-Rod arrived on the scene and it will be here long after his shadow has faded.

** While we’re on the subject, why not release the other 103 names from 2003 who tested positive for steroids? I have no particular affinity for Rodriguez, but why must he be the only one made to pay a price?

** The Washington Nationals are rapidly becoming an eastern version of the Cincinnati Reds. When Adam Dunn signed a two-year, $20 million deal Wednesday with the Nats, he joined fellow ex-Cincinnati players Austin Kearns, Aaron Boone, Dimitri Young, Wily Mo Pena and Ryan Wagner in the Washington organization. Nationals GM Jim Bowden has also invited several other former Reds such as Javier Valentin and Corey Patterson to the team’s spring training camp.

** The most recent mock draft from NFL draft analyst Chad Reuter has Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford going to Detroit with the No. 1 pick. Reuter has Cleveland taking outside linebacker Aaron Curry of Wake Forest at No. 5 and Cincinnati taking Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin at No. 6. Reuter forecasts cornerback Malcolm Jenkins as the first Ohio State player taken, going to Green Bay with the No. 8 selection. Two others Buckeyes are projected first-round selections: linebacker James Laurinaitis at No. 20 to Detroit and running back Beanie Wells to Philadelphia at No. 21.

Whatever Happened To The Class Of ’85?

Ohio State football fans had plenty to cheer about Wednesday as head coach Jim Tressel restocked his roster with 25 new players including five-star recruits Dorian Bell, Melvin Fellows and John Simon.

Every reputable recruiting service seems to agree the class put together by Tressel is one of the best in the nation – Scout.com even rated it No. 1 – and several of the freshly-minted players are expected to see immediate playing time for the Buckeyes in 2009.

The consensus wasn’t quite as rosy two dozen recruiting classes ago as head coach Earle Bruce signed a defense-heavy class of 22 high school prospects. No one was blogging about recruiting in 1985 mostly because the Internet was in its infancy. Additionally, there weren’t nearly as many recruiting experts back then and the ones who were in the business decided the Buckeyes’ efforts rated only a C+.

“It’s not a bad year but it’s not a great one either,” national recruiting expert Tom Lemming said at the time. “I’m putting them either fourth or fifth in the Big Ten.

OSU’s class of ’85 was light on players at the skilled positions but was overloaded with seven linebackers. That was a little mystifying to some observers since the Buckeyes already had such LBs as Eric Kumerow, Byron Lee, Pepper Johnson and Chris Spielman on the roster.

That stockpile of talent seemed to chase away Brent White, a 6-5, 225-pound linebacker from Dayton Stebbins High School who was rated the best athlete in Ohio. White signed with Michigan, where he was moved to defensive tackle and had a rather nondescript career despite earning four letters.

Every expert’s selection for the biggest “get” in Ohio State’s 1985 class? That would have been defensive lineman Bill Smith, a 6-6, 260-pound defensive line prospect from Middletown, Ohio. Smith got particular praise from then OSU recruiting coordinator Bob McNea as well as Lemming, who called Smith “the kind of nasty-type defensive lineman they need at Ohio State now.”

(Even then, when the so-called experts concentrated on only a handful of prospects, recruiting was filled with hits and misses.)

Another sharp contrast from 1985 to 2009 was the way OSU employed its recruiting strategy. While Tressel signed 11 out-of-state prospects, Bruce and his staff stayed mostly at home. Seventeen Ohio players were signed with two from Pennsylvania, one from New York and one from Canada.

Thirteen members of the class eventually became starters for the Buckeyes, four of them were drafted by NFL teams and two had pro careers of six seasons or more.

Here is a recap of Ohio State’s 22-member recruiting class in 1985, and if you remember some of these names, consider yourself a true Buckeye fan.

Tom Bolyard, QB, Orrville, Ohio You would have expected big things from a guy from Bob Knight’s hometown as well as the Smucker’s jelly and jam headquarters. But the 6-4, 190-pounder, who was supposed to come in and contend for the starting quarterback job, never got his college career going. After earning first-team All-Ohio honors as a senior, Bolyard failed to supplant Jim Karsatos at quarterback and switched to punter. He had averaged 42.1 yards per kick in high school, but a college career wasn’t to be for Bolyard. He never earned a letter at Ohio State.

David Brown, DB, Utica (N.Y.) Notre Dame – Brown was a classic overachiever whose speed more than made up for a smallish (6-0, 180) frame. He quickly worked his way up the depth chart and wound up a starting safety as a redshirt freshman in ’86. Brown finished his career as a four-year starter – three at safety and one at cornerback during his senior season in ’89. He finished his OSU career with 212 tackles and 12 interceptions. Brown returned one of his picks 100 yards for a touchdown against Purdue in 1986. It established a new school record which has since been equaled by Marlon Kerner (at Purdue in 1989) and Will Allen (vs. San Diego State in 2003).

Karl Coles, DL, Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln – Coles was switched to the offensive line early in his OSU career and became a two-year starter at left guard. On signing day, Coles was listed at 6-4 and 233 pounds. During his final season with the Buckeyes, he had filled out to a 6-5, 295-pound frame.

Steve France, DT, Lancaster (Pa.) Catholic – The 6-5, 265-pounder couldn’t seem to find a home position with the Buckeyes. He was switched from defense to offense early in his career, and then was tried at center and tackle before finally settling in as a backup guard. France won one letter at OSU – his senior year of 1989.

Dennis Gossett, LB, Baden (Pa.) Ambridge – A two-time all-state performance, Gossett was a three-year starter at linebacker and a two-year starter at tight end. The 6-2, 225-pounder didn’t have nearly the same success as a Buckeye. He never lettered at OSU.

Dan Hirneise, OL, Marion (Ohio) Pleasant – The 6-3, 253-pounder was everything you could want in a recruit – a four-year starter at defensive tackle, a school record-holder in the shot put, and an honor student who was looking to pursue a career in engineering. Unfortunately, after a redshirt year in ’84, Hirneise suffered a severe knee injury in August 1985 that cost him all of that season and the next. When he rejoined the team in 1987, a sprained ankle sidelined him again. He finally accepted a medical waiver and never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Dedrick “D.D.” Howard, LB, Middletown, Ohio Howard was considered an excellent prospect after earning Ohio defensive lineman of the year honors from United Press International as a high school senior. He was strong, could run and had good size (6-3, 210). Unfortunately, he locked in behind several other linebackers and eventually bounced back and forth between outside linebacker and defensive tackle. He never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Derek Isaman, LB, Fremont (Ohio) Ross – The 6-3, 210-pound Isaman became a prototypical linebacker for the Buckeyes. He was a sure tackler and tough as nails as evidenced by playing several games in one season with a broken hand. Isaman was a two-year starter when he left the program after the 1987 season to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team. He then returned to finish his college career in 1989 and led the Buckeyes in tackles that year.

Charles Keenan, DL, Steubenville, Ohio – The 6-2, 215-pounder was Ohio’s Class AA lineman of the year as a senior, leading the Big Red to the state championship, and also served as class valedictorian with a perfect 4.00 grade-point average. He was also the state championship wrestler as a junior. Keenan played only sparingly in the early part of his OSU career, but earned his first letter in 1987 as a member of several special teams units. He made nine tackles in the 1988 spring game and was ready to contend for playing time at linebacker until a shoulder injury ended his career.

Mike Kuri, OL, Martins Ferry, Ohio The 6-5, 275-pounder became a career backup, spending time at all three offensive line positions. Kuri did make two starts at a tackle spot in 1988 and wound up his OSU career with two letters.

Tom Moore, C, Orrville, Ohio Moore was the last player in the class of 1985 to earn a scholarship offer. He was a specialist in high school, handling the long-snapping duties on punts, extra points and field goals, and performed the same tasks at Ohio State. The 6-3, 235-pounder served as the Buckeyes’ long snapper for four seasons from 1985 through 1988.

Tim Moxley, OL, Barnesville, Ohio Moxley was one of the largest offensive line prospects recruited by the Buckeyes in the mid-1980s and worked his way into the starting lineup by his third year in the system. At 6-7 and 310 pounds, Moxley was a road-grader for the OSU running back and often manned the starting position on the strong side of the field. Washington selected him with its ninth-round pick in the 1990 NFL draft.

Jim Palmer, LB, Loudonville, Ohio Injuries set Palmer back during his first three seasons as a Buckeye. But he blossomed in 1988 when he was moved to tight end and the 6-5, 250-pounder wound up as an excellent player. When starter Jeff Ellis was felled by a knee injury early in the ’89 season, Palmer filled in and finished second on the team in receiving with 28 catches for 308 yards and three touchdowns.

Everett Ross, RB, Columbus Eastmoor – With players such as Keith Byars ahead of him at tailback, Ross quickly changed to a receiver position when he got to Ohio State. The 5-11, 188-pound speedster had limited success during the early part of his career, but had a breakout year as a junior in 1987 when he caught 29 passes for 585 yards and five TDs. His 20.2-yard average per catch ranked second in the Big Ten that year. Ross later earned a measure of notoriety when he was the final player chosen in the 1989 NFL draft – No. 335 in round 12 by Minnesota. That earned him the title of “Mr. Irrelevant,” which since 1976 has gone to each player hearing his name called last in the draft. Ross was cut in preseason camp by the Vikings, but then joined the U.S. Army and served in the military through 1995.

Bill Smith, DL, Middletown, Ohio Unfortunately for Smith, academic difficulties ended what could have been a promising career. The 6-6, 250-pounder could not meet minimum grade requirements for freshman enrollment and never attained his college eligibility.

Edward Soltis, LB, Austintown (Ohio) Fitch – The 6-3, 215-pounder was a versatile player in high school, earning honorable mention All-Ohio honors as a linebacker and leading his conference in punting. Unfortunately, Soltis was not able to make it as a Buckeye. He never lettered at OSU.

Joe Staysniak, DL, Grafton (Ohio) Midview – Staysniak, who was a first-team All-Ohio performer as well as his high school’s kicker, moved to offense when he got to Ohio State and became a three-year starter at tackle. The 6-5, 287-pounder was strong and smart – three-time Academic All-Big Ten and Academic All-America honors in 1989. Staysniak was a seventh-round draft pick by the Chargers in the 1990 draft and he played 63 NFL games (including 33 starts) over six seasons with Buffalo, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Arizona from 1991-96.

John Sullivan, LB, Mentor (Ohio) Lake Catholic The 6-1, 215-pound Sullivan brought a lunch-bucket mentality to the linebacker position and fought off a myriad of injuries to break into the starting lineup as a senior in 1988. That year at outside linebacker, he led the Buckeyes in tackles with 88.

Mike Sullivan, LB, Mentor (Ohio) Lake Catholic Mike was John’s identical twin brother and was a two-year starter at nose guard. He was 215 pounds on signing day and lived in the weight room to add 25 pounds of muscle, finishing as the team’s second-leading tackler behind Chris Spielman in 1987. Sullivan finished his OSU career with 208 tackles, including 21 for loss and 6½ sacks.

Pat Thomas, DL, Centerville, Ohio The 6-1, 230-pounder played sparingly during his first three seasons with the Buckeyes. But work in the weight room that packed on 30 pounds to his frame and elevated his bench press to 400 pounds got him into the starting lineup at middle guard after Mike Sullivan’s graduation. Thomas totaled 59 tackles in 1989, including four for loss and two sacks.

Vince Workman, RB, Dublin, Ohio Workman was the eventual crown jewel of the 1985 recruiting class, and he rushed for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore in 1986. Unfortunately, his OSU career was derailed by an ill-advised position change to flanker at the end of the 1987 season and his dealings with an agent that prematurely ended his days as a Buckeye in 1988. Workman was drafted in the fifth round in 1989 by the Packers and spent four seasons in Green Bay as a kick returner and running back. He wound up his NFL career with Indianapolis in 1996. For his eight-year pro career, Workman totaled 1,537 yards and 13 TDs rushing and as additional 1,294 yards and seven TDs receiving.

Srecko Zizakovic, LB, Weston (Toronto, Ontario) Collegiate – Ohio State jumped at the chance to sign Zizakovic after losing out on a highly rated Canadian-born player the year before. Zizakovic eventually filled out to a 6-5, 260-pound frame and became a two-year starter – at outside linebacker in 1988 and at defensive end in 1989.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

We have a pair of Buckeye birthdays today. Former OSU quarterback/punter Tom Tupa celebrates his 43rd while former receiver Doug Donley hits the big 5-0.

Thomas Joseph Tupa Jr. was born Feb. 6, 1966, in Cleveland, and quarterbacked his Brecksville High School team to the Ohio state championship in 1983. He concentrated on punting when he got to Ohio State and wound up the school’s career leader in punting average at 44.7 yards per kick. (Andy Groom later broke the record with his career mark of 45.0.) Tupa also has the best two single-season punting averages in OSU history – 47.1 as a freshman in 1984 and 47.0 as a senior in 1987. Making the latter mark even more remarkable is that Tupa doubled as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback in ’87, completing 134 of 242 passes (55.4 percent) for 1,786 yards and 12 TDs. He was a third-round pick by the Phoenix Cardinals in the 1988 NFL draft and spent 15 seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, Patriots, Jets, Browns, Buccaneers and Redskins. His career punting average of 43.4 yards ranks 28th all-time in NFL history. Tupa also threw for 3,430 yards and 12 TDs as a pro quarterback.

Douglas Max Donley was born Feb. 6, 1959, in Cambridge, Ohio, and earned first-team All-Ohio honors as a running back during his senior prep season at Cambridge High School. In addition to winning three letters in football for the Bobcats, Donley also won three letters in basketball and four in track. When he got to OSU, Donley quickly was moved to a receiver position and used his speed to total 106 receptions for 2,252 yards and 16 TDs for his career. Nicknamed “White Lightning,” Donley was the second-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFL draft. He played four seasons in Dallas, totaling 55 catches for 898 yards and four TDs. Donley retired from football following the 1984 season and went into private business in the Dallas area.

Also celebrating birthdays this 6th day of February: actress Zsa Zsa Gábor is 92; British actor Patrick Macnee (the original John Steed in “The Avengers”) is 87; actor Rip Torn (Artie in “The Larry Sanders Show” and Zed in “Men In Black”) is 78; actor Mike Farrell (B.J. Honeycutt in “M*A*S*H”) is 70; author and television newsman Tom Brokaw is 69; Grammy-winning singer Natalie Cole is 59; actress Kathy Nijimy (the voice of Peggy Hill on “King of the Hill”) is 52; actor/director Robert Townsend is 52; Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose (born William Bruce Rose) is 47; author and TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau is 46; the Rick Roll man himself, British singer Rick Astley is 43; former world champion gymnast Kim Zmeskal is 33; New England Patriots defensive end Ty Warren is 28; and former Minnesota and current Toronto Raptors power forward Kris Humphries is 24.

Several other luminaries from the past shared Feb. 6 birthdays including U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr, baseball legend Babe Ruth, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, French film director François Truffaut, reggae immortal Bob Marley and actor Thurl Ravenscroft. Don’t know who Ravenscroft was? He was the booming voice of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger and also sang “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the holiday cartoon classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

AND FINALLY

** At a news conference last weekend honoring the newest inductees of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the sister of late Dallas Cowboys receiver Bob Hayes spoke on his behalf. The woman read a thank-you note supposedly penned by Hayes in 1999, three years before he died at the age of 59 due to kidney failure. Unfortunately, it appears the woman is a fraud and the letter is a fake. Hayes’ siblings and ex-wife deny that Lucille Hester is actually Hayes’s sister, and the signature on the thank-you letter does not resemble known signatures on Hayes memorabilia. Even worse, former Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach’s name is misspelled “Stauback” in the letter, and one would think Bullet Bob would have known how to spell the name of the man who threw so many passes to him in Dallas. But the killer is the report that the letter in Hester’s possession was typed in the Calibri font, which didn’t exist until five years after Hayes’ death.

** In doing my research for the 1985 Ohio State recruiting class, I came across a nugget that reported former Buckeye basketball players Clark Kellogg and Herb Williams were drawing NBA salaries of $406,000 and $200,000, respectively, from the Indiana Pacers during the 1984-85 season. Obviously, Special K and Herbie were born too soon. Nowadays, as a third-year player, Kellogg would have commanded a salary of at least $826,269 while Williams, who was in his fourth season in the league, would have been due at least $854,957. The minimum NBA salaries this season range from $442,114 for first-year players to more than $1.62 million for veterans with 10 years or more in the league.

** Congratulations to Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, who notched her 1,000th career victory last night. To put that into some sort of context, Ohio State has 795 wins in the entire 43-year history of its women’s basketball program.

** Our old friend Larry Coker is still looking for work after being fired at Miami (Fla.) in 2006. You might think there would be someone out there looking for a guy who has a national championship on his résumé, but evidently not. Coker recently expressed his interest in taking over the brand-new program at Texas-San Antonio. USTA, which will make its debut in 2011, told Coker they’d get back to him.

** A brief memo to the NFL: I watch the Super Bowl each year for the football not the officiating. Eighteen penalties for a total of 162 yards? Next year, tell your zebra crew that unless it is something resembling a total decapitation, keep your hands off your yellow hankies.

** In a recent ESPN poll, fans were asked if they thought a variety of sports were “fixed.” Among the more than 42,000 respondents, 11 percent said yes to college basketball, 14 percent said yes to college football and the NFL and 48 percent said yes to boxing. At the top of the list? Professional wrestling, a “sport” in which 75 percent of those responding said they thought was fixed. My question: Do the other 25 percent believe pro wrestling is the real thing?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.