Celebrating The Architect Of Ohio State Football

Today marks the 121st anniversary of the birth of the man who was the driving force behind Ohio State as it became a college football power.

John Woodworth Wilce was born March 12, 1888, in Rochester, N.Y., and got his first taste of the Western Conference (later the Big Ten) when he became a three-sport letterman at the University of Wisconsin. Wilce earned all-conference honors as a fullback with the Badgers in 1909, and then went into coaching.

Following his graduation from Wisconsin, he took over the program at La Crosse High School before returning to his alma mater as an assistant professor of physical education and an assistant football coach. The Badgers were one of the country’s top programs at the time and had won the 1912 Western Conference title with an undefeated record.

Meanwhile, Ohio State was struggling to get traction with its program. The Buckeyes had been playing football since 1890, and had enjoyed some success playing mostly instate rivals. But that was about to change when the school was invited to join the Western Conference beginning with the 1913 football season.

Not only was OSU taking a step up in competition, the university also needed some stability at the head coaching position. Eleven men had served as head of the program in just 23 years and none had stayed longer than four seasons. In fact, in 1913, the Buckeyes were in search of a fourth new head coach in as many years.

Enter Wilce, who at the young age of 25 was given the task of building Ohio State football from what was largely a club sport into an intercollegiate program capable of competing with stronger, more established teams.

During that initial season in 1913, the Buckeyes turned in a 4-2-1 overall record including a 58-0 win over Northwestern in the season finale. That represented the team’s first conference victory, and it wound up with a 1-2 league record and sixth-place finish.

Wilce saw incremental improvement the next two years as Ohio State finished in a fourth-place tie in 1914 and a third-place tie in 1915 before the program’s breakout season came in 1916. Wilce had recruited one of the country’s top prospects from East High School in Columbus, and Chic Harley led the Buckeyes to their first-ever Western Conference championship as a sophomore. OSU set a host of school records that season, including a 128-0 win over Ohio Wesleyan – the most points ever scored by the Buckeyes in a single game.

The Wilce-Harley combination also produced Ohio State’s first-ever win over archrival Michigan. The 13-3 victory in Ann Arbor in 1919 ended a previous 0-13-2 drought against the Wolverines.

Wilce would guide Ohio State to two more conference titles in 1917 and 1920 and three runner-up finishes in 1919, 1921 and 1926. He also coached 10 All-Americans, a pretty fair accomplishment in an age when former coach and famed sportswriter Walter Camp annually chose the only acknowledged All-America team.

During Wilce’s tenure, the Buckeyes were transformed from a team with only a regional following into a national force that played its home games in cavernous Ohio Stadium. And while coaches such as Knute Rockne, Pop Warner and Amos Alonzo Stagg are more renowned today for the impact they had on football’s early days, Wilce doesn’t receiver nearly enough credit for being one of the game’s top tacticians of his time.

His teams played tenacious defense, and Wilce was one of the first coaches ever to adopt the strategy of rushing the passer. He is also believed to be the first ever to utilize the five-man defensive line, unveiling it during a game at Princeton in 1927.

In addition to his innovative pass defense, Wilce also specializing in a wide-open passing attack. While most teams played ball-control with their triple option formations, Wilce allowed his players to throw extensively throughout the game. During the 1920 season, the Buckeyes defeated Illinois and won the conference title by throwing the football. In that game, quarterback Harry “Hoge” Workman passed to Cyril “Truck” Myers for the winning touchdown on the final play of the game, giving the Buckeyes a 7-0 win.

Earlier that season, Ohio State had come from behind to beat Wisconsin when Workman threw two late touchdown passes to All-American Gaylord “Pete” Stinchcomb. Camp was in attendance and later wrote that the game was the “most thrilling I have ever seen.”

Wilce also tried to marry the physical and mental aspects of the sport. He was constantly trying to reform the speech of the way his players talked on and off the field, and he is credited with coining the phrase “intestinal fortitude.” He first used the term in 1916 while lecturing to his team on anatomy and physiology.

Wilce coached at Ohio State for 16 seasons, a record that wouldn’t be surpassed until Woody Hayes spent 28 seasons in Columbus from 1951-78. After the 1928 season, Wilce resigned, citing a personal struggle of trying to balance the ideals of athletics with the increasing financial requirements needed to field a team that could compete annually for national honors.

“I figured football was becoming more and more of a business proposition than I wanted to go into,” Wilce said years later. “I saw the game being taken away from the boys. I was a faculty-type coach. I had always stressed educational aspects of the sport. This, to me, was far more important than winning the game.

“I don’t want to give the impression that I’m critical of football the way it is played today. It came about through no one’s fault in particular. It followed the normal trend of things and was brought about by the public’s demand. I just didn’t want to become an active part of that type of football, so I quit.”

Wilce could have ridden off into the sunset with his legacy intact. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and wrote several books on football, many of which became primers for coaches who followed him into the profession. He was an honorary life member of the American Football Coaches Association, served as the group’s first secretary, and received the Stagg Award in 1959, the association’s highest honor for “perpetuating the example and influence of the great coach in football.”

But Wilce went on to another career and had as much success – if not more – than he enjoyed on the gridiron.

He had continued his studies of medicine at Ohio State while serving as head coach and received his medical degree in 1919. After his resignation, Wilce took postgraduate classes at Columbia and Harvard as well as the National Hospital for Diseases of the Heart in London, and then returned to Ohio State in the 1930s to become a professor of preventive medicine at the university’s College of Medicine. Wilce later became one of the country’s leading heart specialists, and he also served as director of Student Health Services at OSU from 1934 to 1958. The John W. Wilce Student Health Center, built in 1969, is named for him.

Wilce retired to his Westerville home in 1958 and continued to remain active in numerous Columbus charitable organizations until he suffered a stroke in 1962. He was hospitalized twice over the next several months, and then died at home on May 17, 1963, just five days after his 75th birthday.

Wilce’s legacy lived on through his grandchildren. Anne Krause was one of Colorado’s best-loved sports and outdoor photographers until her death of pancreatic cancer in 2006. And Dr. James M. Wilce Jr. is one of the world’s top linguistic anthropologists and is currently a professor at Northern Arizona University.

STATUE GETS A RETRO-FIT

One day after John Wilce died in 1963 at the age of 75, 1961 Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis lost his battle with leukemia. He was only 23.

Davis led Syracuse to the national championship as a sophomore in 1959, and in his junior season averaged a hefty 7.8 yards per carry. As a senior, the 6-2, 212-pounder led the Orangemen in rushing, receiving and scoring, and won the Heisman by a scant 53 votes over Ohio State fullback Bob Ferguson. He was the first African-American to win college football’s most prestigious individual award.

When Davis finished his career, he held all of Syracuse’s records in rushing, all-purpose yardage, touchdowns and overall scoring.

The Washington Redskins drafted Davis in the first round of the 1962 NFL draft, but traded his rights to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for receiver Bobby Mitchell. Cleveland head coach Paul Brown envisioned a backfield of Davis and Jim Brown punishing NFL defenses for many years to come, and the Browns signed Davis to a then astronomical salary of $80,000 per year.

Unfortunately, things did not work out how Brown had planned. Mitchell went on to an All-Pro career with the Redskins and was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. Brown was fired by Cleveland owner Art Modell following the 1962 season. And a few days after a College All-Star Game in the spring of 1962, Davis was diagnosed with leukemia. He never played in a professional game and he died May 18, 1963.

The Browns honored his memory by retiring his jersey No. 45 (even though he had worn it only in practice), and in 1979, Davis was inducted into the College Football of Fame. In 2005, Syracuse retired jersey No. 44, which was worn by Jim Brown, Davis and Floyd Little.

Late last year, Syracuse unveiled a life-sized statue of Davis on campus. Unfortunately, sculptor Bruno Luchessi got some things wrong from an historical standpoint. Davis was depicted holding a modern football in his right hand and a modern-style helmet tucked under his left arm. He was also wearing shoes with the Nike swoosh logo even though that company was formed nearly a decade after Davis died.

On Tuesday, the university unveiled a revamped statue of Davis. Luchessi spent five months correcting the inaccuracies and painstakingly removed the football, helmet and cleats, replacing them with equipment circa 1961.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Today’s other Buckeye birthday belongs to former quarterback Bret Powers.

Bret Christopher Powers was born March 12, 1971, in Glendale, Ariz., and earned recognition as an all-state performer in both football and basketball at Cactus High School. Football was his first love, however, and Powers signed with hometown Arizona State after throwing for 1,629 yards and 12 TDs as a senior. After redshirting for the Sun Devils in 1989, he played in 13 games, including nine starts, over the next two seasons and completed passes worth 1,777 yards and eight scores. A shoulder problem sidelined him for several games during the 1991 season, and when it appeared he would lose the starting job the following spring, Powers transferred to Ohio State. He was forced to sit out the ’92 season before backing up sophomore Bobby Hoying in 1993 for the Buckeyes. Powers played in 10 games that year, and completed 45 of 77 attempts for 721 yards and seven TDs. He earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in 1993, his only season in the Big Ten. Powers is currently living in the Los Angeles, Calif., area and is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine.

Among the worldwide luminaries celebrating birthdays this 12th day of March: legendary female pro wrestler Mae Young is 86; three-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee is 81; former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Vern Law is 79; Southwest Airlines co-founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher is 78; Sixties TV actress Barbara Feldon (Agent 99 on the original “Get Smart”) is 77; former civil rights activist and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young is 77; three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford is 71; Grammy winning singer Al Jarreau is 69; former MLB slugger Jimmy Wynn is 67; gangster-turned-FBI-informant Sammy “The Bull” Gravano is 64; Tony, Grammy, Emmy and Oscar winning entertainer Liza Minnelli is 63; former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is 62; Grammy winning singer/songwriter James Taylor is 61; U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) is 61; action film director Rob Cohen (“XXX” and “The Fast and the Furious”) is 60; actor Jon Provost (he played Timmy in the original “Lassie”) is 59; journalist/novelist Carl Hiaasen is 56; Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris is 53; two-time National League MVP Dale Murphy is 53; Jackson 5 member Marlon Jackson is 52; former NFL linebacker and Detroit Lions president Matt Millen is 51; actor Courtney B. Vance (he’s played everything from sonar technician Ronald Jones in “The Hunt for Red October” to ADA Ron Carver on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” not to mention being married to Angela Bassett) is 49; former MLB outfielder Darryl Strawberry is 47; ESPN sportscaster Steve Levy is 44; Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III is 43; actor Aaron Eckhart (DA Harvey Dent is “The Dark Knight”) is 41; and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Casey Mears is 31.

Today is also the 22nd anniversary of the death of the man who some would argue is the “real” architect of Ohio State football. Woody Hayes died March 12, 1987, at the age of 74.

BUBBLEHEAD BOBBLEHEAD PLANNING

It’s likely a sign of the times, but attendance figures are down throughout Grapefruit and Cactus league games this spring. Last Sunday, for example, Cincinnati hosted Toronto and the teams hooked up for a titanic struggle that was played before a crowd of 3,915 in Sarasota where Ed Smith Stadium holds 7,500.

Some of the attention dip in Sarasota could be due to the strained relations between the city and the Reds since the team is pulling up stakes after this season and moving its spring training facilities to Arizona. But the tough economic climate is affecting other teams as well. Last weekend, the Pirates and Astros played to a crowd of 3,959 in Bradenton, well below the McKechnie Field capacity of 6,562. Even in Arizona, where Glendale built the White Sox and Dodgers a new facility this year, crowds aren’t exactly what they were expected to be. A crowd of only 3,963 watched Chicago beat the Indians on Monday at the spacious new Camelback Ranch where capacity is 13,000.

Those sobering numbers will likely linger on into the 2009 regular season. Obviously teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Cubs and Dodgers are practically bulletproof economically, but what about mid-market teams that may struggle in the standings? What can they do to keep the turnstiles moving?

Usually teams fall back on tried and true marketing ploys such as dime-a-dog nights or bobblehead giveaways. Traditionally, those promotions are held through the week and against weaker opponents, giving fans an excuse to go to the ballpark.

The Reds, however, have inexplicably scheduled each of their bobblehead games in 2009 for Saturday night. Even more of a head-scratcher: The first two, which feature popular young stars Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, will be when Cincinnati hosts NL Central rival St. Louis.

Last season when the Cardinals played their only weekend series at Great American Ball Park, the three games were witnessed by an average of 31,472 fans. The Reds only averaged 25,415 for the entire home schedule, and that ranked 23rd among the 30 major league teams.

I don’t have a degree in marketing, but I don’t need one to realize the folly of scheduling your most popular promotions on nights when the ballpark was going to be full anyway.

AND FINALLY

** Congratulations to our old friend Larry Coker. The former Miami (Fla.) head coach and Ohio State assistant was hired last week by Texas-San Antonio as its first-ever football coach. The Roadrunners, who will play their home games in the Alamodome, are scheduled to begin competition at the Division I-AA level in 2011. It is Coker’s first job in coaching since the Hurricanes fired him after the 2006 season. He has a 60-15 career record as a head coach, which includes the 2001 national championship. San Antonio is the largest city in the nation without an NFL or Division I-A football team.

** Some athletes just don’t get it. Last week, pitcher Pedro Martinez said that while he is still hoping to pitch in the majors this season, he is not interested in any incentive-laden contracts. “I don’t think I’m in that stage,” Martinez told the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. “I believe I’m very comfortable. I’m not going to let anybody disrespect my abilities the way I am. … I wouldn’t say I want to pitch that bad.” You want to talk about disrespect, Pedro? How about disrespecting the fans of any team that would sign your tired 37-year-old arm after posting a 17-15 record and 4.74 ERA over the past three seasons? You’re history, pal. You’re lucky the Dominican Republic needed warm bodies to fill its World Baseball Classic roster.

** Since we’re on the subject, do you think Martinez is a future Hall of Famer? I’m not so sure. Pedro has a pretty gaudy .684 winning percentage (seventh best of all time), more than 3,000 strikeouts and he won three Cy Young Awards. But he won 20 games only twice, his 214 career victories rank below the lifetime totals of Curt Schilling, Dennis Martinez, Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat and Tommy John, and he doesn’t rank in the top 150 in career innings pitched. His Cooperstown bona fides seem a little iffy to me.

** And then there’s this: Boris Isayev, a 48-year-old Russian man, took first prize in the pancake eating contest to mark the end of Maslenitsa, or “pancake week,” in the western Russian region of Kaliningrad. Isayev downed 43 banana-and-cream-stuffed pancakes at the competition, and then collapsed while he was receiving his trophy. A few minutes later, Isayev was pronounced dead. Probable cause: axphyxiation due to a piece of pancake lodged in his throat. I would write more but I’m too choked up.

Hits, Misses In OSU Recruiting Class Of ’82

Where were you 27 years ago? If you were an Ohio State football fan, you might have been poring over a list of head coach Earle Bruce’s newest recruits. It was a 23-member class that was top-heavy on in-state talent and split almost evenly between offensive and defensive prospects.

Just a week before signing day in 1982, Bruce was beginning to wonder about his recruiting numbers. The class number was stalled at 17, making the final weekend of official visits crucial for the Buckeyes. Unlike in recent years, though, OSU closed with a big finish, getting six verbal commitments just hours before National Signing Day dawned.

Among that half-dozen were two of the best players in Ohio – offensive lineman Bob Maggs of Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and running back Keith Byars of Dayton Roth. Both players were somewhat of a pleasant surprise for Bruce. Maggs was thought to be leaning toward a commitment to either Notre Dame or Penn State before signing with the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, Byars was thought to be headed for UCLA before deciding to play his college ball a little closer to home.

The other late-deciding members of the class of ’82 were defensive back Scott Leach of Bridgeport, Conn.; linebacker Tom Bose of Stow, Ohio; offensive lineman Tim Odom of Cincinnati Moeller; and defensive lineman Gene Hulshult of Hamilton (Ohio) Badin. Of those four, the Buckeyes seemed to be most impressed with Leach and Hulshult.

Leach picked Ohio State over offers from USC, Tennessee and Syracuse, and was described as a Jack Tatum clone, capable of delivering punishing tackles. Hulshult, meanwhile, was projected as a player ready to make an early impact on the depth chart.

“I think I have a good shot at playing,” Hulshult told Buckeye Sports Bulletin at the time. “I think I can go in and play. Maybe not as a freshman but as a sophomore or junior.”

Despite the fact Bruce often did much of his recruiting in his home state, he uncharacteristically went outside Ohio to sign the two quarterbacks in the 1982 class. Jim Karsatos of Fullerton, Calif., joined Walter Norley of Warrington, Pa., as new Buckeyes. At the same time, Bruce allowed one homegrown signal caller to escape his grasp.

That was Parade All-American QB Bernie Kosar of Youngstown (Ohio) Boardman, who signed with Miami (Fla.). After redshirting with the Hurricanes in 1982 behind starter Jim Kelly, Kosar broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in ’83 and led Miami to its first national championship.

Here is a complete list of Ohio State’s recruiting class of 1982. See how many of them you can remember.

Dan Bachorski, OT, Bridgeville (Pa.) Chartiers Valley – Bachorski played both offensive and defense in high school and earned all-state honors as an offensive tackle in 1981 as a senior. Unfortunately, he reported for his first Ohio State about 35 pounds overweight and spent most of his first few years as a Buckeye trying to keep his weight under control. Bachorski finally looked like he had turned the corner during spring practice in 1985 but he left the team shortly thereafter and won no letters during his OSU career.

Roman Bates, RB, Memphis (Tenn.) Hamilton – The 6-0, 207-pound Bates had lots of speed and plenty of power. He could bench press 365 pounds and squat lift 665. As a high school senior, he rushed for 1,616 yards and 19 TDs, and then lettered for the Buckeyes in 1983 and ’84 as both a tailback and fullback. In those two seasons, he totaled 447 yards and averaged a nifty 5.0 yards per carry. But Bates was plagued by injuries and run-ins with the law during his OSU career. He was limited to only a handful of games during his junior season in 1985, and then shortly before the 1986 season opener, Bruce announced he had dismissed Bates from the team for “violating team regulations.”

Tom Bose, LB, Stow, OhioBose was a two-sport from Stow and served as captain of his high school’s football and basketball teams as a senior. He won third-team All-Ohio honors in 1981 as a linebacker but was versatile enough to have also played offensive tackle and tight end for the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, he could not duplicate that success at Ohio State. Bose never lettered for the Buckeyes.

Keith Byars, FB, Dayton (Ohio) Roth – Over the last three decades, Byars is one of the most gifted all-around athletes to play football at Ohio State. He was a four-sport star at Roth and excelled at everything he tries. Byars rushed for 1,701 yards and 14 TDs as a senior; started at forward on two state basketball championship teams; played center field on the baseball team and hit .520 as a junior and .480 as a senior; and ran on the state track championship 440-yard relay team. After spending his freshman season as a backup fullback, Byars broke out as a sophomore with 1,199 yards and 20 TDs in 1983, and then had a junior season of epic proportions. In addition to rushing for 22 touchdowns, he broke the OSU single-season record with 1,764 yards. He also added 42 receptions for 479 yards and two more scores. That year, Byars finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting to Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie. Unfortunately, Byars broke a bone in his foot prior to his senior season in 1985 and was limited to only a handful of games. Nevertheless, he went on to become a first-round draft pick of Philadelphia in the 1986 NFL draft, and Byars enjoyed a 14-year pro career with the Eagles, Dolphins, Patriots and Jets.

Jeff Cargile, RB, Cincinnati (Ohio) Roger Bacon – The 6-1, 203-pounder did a little bit of everything in high school, earning a total of nine letters combined in football, basketball and track. He had 2,715 yards and 25 career TDs for the Spartans, and earned all-city honors as a senior. Because of a glut of talented running backs ahead of him, Cargile switched to defense and earned letters in 1983 and ’84 as backup to starting roverback Sonny Gordon. He left the program before the 1985 season.

Tom Glancy, OL, West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Newman – Glancy was an accomplished high school athlete who won letters in football, wrestling and track, and he also dabbled in racquetball and swimming. The 6-4, 264-pound was recruited to play offensive guard for the Buckeyes and appeared ready to contend for the starting spot in 1985. But he couldn’t break into the two-deep and eventually left the program with no letters.

Steve Hill, DB, Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) ChoctawhatcheeHill was an Air Force brat who grew up all over the world. He was an excellent two-sport star in high school, and lettered in baseball as well as football for the Buckeyes. Hill hit .310 and played outfield for the baseball Buckeyes to win his only letter in 1985, and he earned three football letters from 1983-85 as a backup cornerback. His athletic career ended in the spring of 1986 when he suffered a freak kneecap injury while playing baseball, but he served the final year of his scholarship as a student-coach for the football team.

Dennis Hueston, LB, Toledo (Ohio) Macomber – At 6-1 and 204 pounds, Hueston was a bit undersized to play linebacker but that didn’t stop the Buckeyes from recruiting him. He was good enough to earn all-city honors on both offense and defense, and he earned third-team All-Ohio mention as an outside linebacker. Hueston lettered for the Buckeyes in 1983, and registered 35 tackles, including a pair of sacks, the following season. He left the team prior to the 1985 season.

John Hutchison, LB, Atwater (Ohio) WaterlooThe 6-3, 236-pound Hutchison was versatile enough to play quarterback and linebacker for his high school team. He began his OSU career as an outside linebacker, but switched to tight end in the spring of 1983. Hutchison spent the remainder of his career backing up starter Ed Taggart, but he was valuable enough to earn three letters from 1984 to ’86.

Gene Hulshult, DL, Hamilton (Ohio) Badin – An all-state defensive tackle for the Rams, the 6-4, 246-pound Hulshult was envisioned as a potential hole-plugger for the Buckeyes. OSU coaches described him as a “fundamentally sound” defensive lineman, and he came from a winning program that posted a record of 33-5 during his three years as a starter. Unfortunately, his college career never got started and he never lettered as a Buckeye.

Thomas “Pepper” Johnson, LB, Detroit (Mich.) MacKenzie – The 6-3, 216-pound all-state terror earned his unusual nickname from an aunt who observed him regularly sprinkling pepper on his breakfast cereal. Johnson teamed with Chris Spielman in 1984 and ’85 to give the Buckeyes one of the most awesome one-two linebacker punches in college football history. Johnson topped 140 tackles in each of his last two seasons and was voted the team’s defensive most valuable player both years. Earning All-America honors as a senior, he was also voted as one of the team captains in both his junior and senior seasons. Johnson was a second-round selection in the 1986 NFL draft by the New York Giants and he anchored a defense that won Super Bowl championships in 1986 and 1990. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and spent 13 seasons in the NFL with the Giants, Browns, Lions and Jets. Since 2000, he has been an assistant coach for the New England Patriots, first with linebackers and now with the defensive line, and has won three more Super Bowl rings with that team. Johnson’s son, Dionte, played four seasons at fullback for Ohio State from 2004-07, and when the younger Johnson was voted team co-captain for the ’07 season, it made the Johnsons only the third father-son combination in school history to serve as captains. The others are Jim and Kirk Herbstreit (1960 and 1992) and James and Jeff Davidson (1964 and 1989).

Jim Karsatos, QB, Fullerton (Calif.) Sunny Hills – After an excellent high school career that included throwing for 4,426 yards and 40 touchdowns, Karsatos took a while to get his Ohio State career going. He was actually part of the team’s 1981 recruiting class, but he underwent knee surgery and delayed his enrollment. He redshirted in ’82, and then suffered a stress fracture in his back the following summer. By the team he had regained his health, Karsatos was locked in behind starter Mike Tomczak. Once Tomczak graduated, though, Karsatos took over and was the Buckeyes’ QB in 1985 and ’86. He became the first Ohio State quarterback ever to enjoy back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons and finished his career with 5,089 yards and 36 TDs. The yardage figure is eighth all-time in school history and the touchdown total ranks sixth.

Mike Kee, LB, Columbus (Ohio) Eastmoor – Kee earned all-state honors as a senior for the Warriors and was named to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game. Unfortunately, he blew out a knee in a summer league basketball game and missed the entire 1982 season. Kee returned to letter as a backup linebacker and special teams player in 1983, but injuries limited him to only two games in ’84. Again, he rehabbed and eventually became at starter at linebacker in 1986. Kee totaled 93 tackles, including seven for loss, and also caused three fumbles for the Buckeyes during his senior season in ’86.

Mike Lanese, RB, Mayfield, OhioLanese was recruited as a tailback after rushing for 1,417 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. After displaying his quick moves and penchant for catching the football, it didn’t take the Buckeyes long to move him to a receiver position, however. Lanese was the starting flanker in 1984 and ’85, and finished his career with 73 receptions for 1,175 yards, an average of 16.1 yards per catch. In addition to his accomplishments on the field, Lanese was also an honor student in the classroom. He was a two-time Academic All-American, a National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholarship winner and a Rhodes Scholar.

Scott Leach, DB, Bridgeport (Conn.) Bassick – With a 6-3, 214-pound frame and good speed, Leach was a terror in the defensive backfield and earned co-player of the year honors in Connecticut as a high school senior. He blew out his knee as a freshman at Ohio State in 1982 but rehabbed and became a valuable backup and special teams player for the Buckeyes. Leach was a three-year letterwinner from 1984 to ’86.

Byron Lee, LB, Columbus (Ohio) Eastmoor – Lee was overshadowed on a team that also featured All-Americans such as Johnson and Spielman, but he had a workmanlike attitude and was a member of one of college football’s best linebacking corps during the era. Lee was a three-sport star at Eastmoor, and made an almost immediate impact when he joined the Buckeyes. He was a three-year starter on the outside and was consistently the team’s best player at getting after the quarterback. Lee established a new school record in 1984 by sacking Indiana quarterbacks for 32 yards in losses. That mark was equaled by Vernon Gholston in 2007 against Wisconsin, but it has never been bettered. Lee completed his career with 10 sacks for 111 yards in losses.

Darryl Lee, DL, Columbus (Ohio) Marion Franklin – The 6-3, 258-pounder had a perpetual motor and once registered 30 tackles in a high school game. Lee also seemed to be in the right place at the right time, including his freshman year when he blocked a punt in the end zone against Minnesota that gave the Buckeyes a touchdown. The four-year letterman started at defensive tackle in 1985 and ’86, and totaled 69 tackles, including 9.0 for loss and 3.0 sacks, during those two seasons.

Bob Maggs, OL, Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney – The 6-5, 274-pounder earned prep All-America honors at Mooney, and the Cardinals posted a 22-1 record during the two seasons he was a starter. Maggs started his career as a tackle, but switched to center when starter Kirk Lowdermilk broke his leg eight games into the 1984 season. Maggs continued his stranglehold on the position for the remainder of his career and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in both 1985 and ’86.

Tom McCormick, OL, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward – Long before nearly every offensive tackle prospect stood 6-5 or taller, the 6-7 McCormick was one of the tallest OSU prospects at the time. He earned first-team All-Ohio honors and had exceptionally quick feet for a big man. McCormick couldn’t crack the lineup with the Buckeyes, however, and never lettered.

Walter Norley, QB, Warrington (Pa.) Germantown AcademyNo one really knows just how good Norley could have become at Ohio State. After throwing for more than 2,100 yards and 25 TDs in 2½ high school seasons, the 6-3, 196-pounder broke his collarbone in the fifth game of his senior season and missed the rest of the year. Then, before he got to OSU, Norley injured his back in a summer all-star game and decided to delay his enrollment for a year. Norley never became a Buckeye and eventually enrolled at Georgia, where he was a backup quarterback and won his only letter in 1983.

Tim Odom, OL, Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller – Odom had a superlative high school career, earning All-Ohio and All-America honors as a guard and helping the Crusaders to back-to-back state championships in 1980 and ’81. When he got to OSU, the Buckeyes moved him to center where he was a backup to Lowdermilk and Maggs in 1984. Odom won his only letter than season as a chronic knee injury forced him to miss the entire ’85 season and eventually give up football.

Mark Pfister, LB, Upper Arlington, OhioPfister was a talented 6-2, 232-pound bruiser who starred at linebacker in high school, helping the Golden Bears to a three-year record of 28-4-1. Power was one of his attributes with a bench press in excess of 400 pounds and a squat lift of 625. Unfortunately, a litany of injuries followed Pfister throughout his OSU career. He suffered an ulcer, a severely sprained knee, a separation shoulder, a hand injury and a second shoulder separation before finally giving up the game after lettering in 1983 and ’84.

Rich Spangler, K, Geneva, OhioSpangler was a gangly 6-2, 180-pound kicking specialist that more than one teammate initially mistook for a team manager. By the time he had graduated four years later, he was one of Ohio State’s all-time leading scorers. Spangler kicked 39 field goals during his career, which still ranks fifth on the school’s all-time list, and booted a 52-yarder in the 1985 Rose Bowl against USC, the longest field goal in Ohio State bowl history. Spangler also benefited from a potent OSU offense during his career to convert 177 of 184 PAT attempts. Both numbers remain school records nearly a quarter-century after Spangler last kicked for the Buckeyes. His 294 career points still ranks sixth all-time behind Mike Nugent (356), Pete Johnson (348), Dan Stultz (342), Keith Byars (300) and Vlade Janakievski (295).

Barry Walker, FB, Lancaster, OhioWalker maximized his talents despite suffering several injuries and struggling with asthma throughout his playing career. He rushed for 1,129 yards as a high school senior and also set an Ohio prep shot put record at 69 feet, 10¾ inches. When he got to the Buckeyes, he flip-flopped between fullback and tailback and suffered shoulder injuries as well as a couple of concussions. Nevertheless, he shouldered on and won four letters between 1983 and ’86. He also started at the fullback position in 1984, rushing for 154 yards on just 30 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per carry.

John Wooldridge, RB, Akron (Ohio) Central-Hower – Wooldridge was an All-Ohio running back in high school and totaled more than 1,500 yards and 22 TDs as a senior. A blend of speed (4.42 in the 40) and power (squat lift of 600 pounds), he became the perfect backfield complement to Byars. Wooldridge was a four-year letterman and took over the starting tailback spot when Byars was sidelined for most of the 1985 season, leading the Buckeyes with 820 yards that year. The 5-11, 190-pounder returned to a backup position during his senior year as sophomore Vince Workman took over the starting tailback spot. Wooldridge finished his OSU career with 1,483 yards and four TDs.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Among the worldwide luminaries celebrating birthdays this 5th day of March: Hockey Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt is 91; former MLB catcher and manager Del Crandall is 79; Eighties TV actor James B. Sikking (Lt. Howard Hunter in “Hill Street Blues”) is 75; actor and former NFL player Fred “The Hammer” Williamson is 71; former MLB reliever Kent Tekulve is 62; reggae musician Eddy Grant (“Electric Avenue”) is 61; Dire Straits keyboardist Alan Clark is 57; comedian/magician Penn Jillette is 54; The Proclaimers frontmen Charlie and Craig Reid (“I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles”) are 47; Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin is 43; Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante is 39; former MLB outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds is 38; St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Franklin is 36; actor Kevin Connolly (Eric Murphy on “Entourage”) is 35; actress Eva Mendes is 35; actress Jolene Blalock (Commander T’Pol in “Star Trek: Enterprise”) is 34; model Niki Taylor is 34; Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko is 33; and Cleveland Cavaliers guard/forward Wally Szczerbiak is 32.

Today also marks the 46th anniversary of the country version of “When The Music Died.” On March 5, 1963, county legend Patsy Cline was killed when her small airplane crashed in a forest just outside of Camden, Tenn., about 90 miles from Nashville. Cline, who recorded such standards as “Walking After Midnight,” “I Fall To Pieces,” “She’s Got You” and “Crazy,” was only 30.

Others who have passed into history on March 5 over the years include: Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev; Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Pepper Martin; actor Jay Silverheels (he portrayed Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s faithful companion); actor William Powell; and comic actor John Belushi.

I WISH THEY WERE JOKING … BUT THEY’RE NOT

Did you know there are currently three bills in committee in the U.S. House of Representatives concerning the Bowl Championship Series? Unbelievable given the economic circumstances we find ourselves in, but true nonetheless.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), would withhold federal funds from any Division I-A school that doesn’t participate in a playoff. Another, whose main sponsor is Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), would prohibit a national championship game on the grounds that it was unfair and deceptive. The third would reject the BCS as an illegal restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and it is sponsored by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii).

Honestly, is this the kind of thing we sent you people to Washington to do? I humbly suggest you write to these three nimrods and tell them to get their eyes back on the ball – and I don’t mean football.

AND FINALLY

** That poor 40 time in the NFL Combine seems to have sent Malcolm Jenkins’ stock plummeting like that of AIG. Before the draft, Jenkins was projected by most analysts as a top-10 pick. On Monday, Jamie Dukes of the NFL Network released his latest mock draft and Jenkins is nowhere to be found in the first round. Dukes projects Beanie Wells and James Laurinaitis as the lone Ohio State players to be taken in the opening round – Wells to Philadelphia at No. 21 and Laurinaitis to Baltimore at No. 26.

** NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. evidently agrees with Dukes. Kiper had Jenkins at No. 12 on his “Big Board” before the combine. After the workouts in Indianapolis, Jenkins dropped off that board which features Kiper’s top 26 draft prospects. Still, Kiper rates Jenkins as the No. 1 cornerback available this year. “Jenkins has all the qualities you look for except topflight catch-up speed, which is an obvious concern,” Kiper wrote last week after the combine. “Even so, he’s too good an overall performer to pass up in the middle portion of Round 1. Hopefully, he’ll run a little better than the 4.55-second 40 time he posted at the combine workout.”

** For anyone who still thinks Joe Paterno entertains any notion of retirement, look at what former Penn State receiver Derrick Williams told reporters at the NFL combine: “Joe Paterno’s one of those coaches that he eats, sleeps, dreams everything about football. That’s what’s keeping him going. He’s very young at heart. We know that if he was going to retire, something would have really, really had to been wrong, like he died on the field or something like that. I never even thought about it. I thought this year might have been the year and the next thing I hear is, ‘I can’t wait to run out on the field next year.’”

** Some major college programs are interested in playing marquee series while others are not. Every Ohio State fan knows the Buckeyes will play Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech and Oklahoma in the coming years, while LSU and West Virginia recently announced their home-and-home series will begin in 2010. Then there are schools such as Missouri and Wisconsin. The Tigers have announced they will fill out their 2009 schedule with Furman while the Badgers completed their 2011 slate with South Dakota. I understand the reasoning behind scheduling I-AA opposition, but schools should at least put representative teams from the so-called Football Championship Subdivision. Furman went 7-5 last year and South Dakota was 6-5.

** One of the most talked-about college quarterback prospects of the future is David Sills of Bear, Del. He is currently working with QB tutor Steve Clarkson, who has also mentored the sons of Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana, who share quarterbacking duties at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, Calif. The most unusual thing about Sills? The thing that currently sets him apart from Clarkson’s other pupils? He’s 12.

** When it’s time for me to go, I think I’d like Liev Schreiber to give the eulogy. In case you didn’t know, Schreiber is the narrator of all those great HBO sports documentaries.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.