For roughly the past century or so, the Ohio State football program has built its championship-laden tradition on running the football. The names of star halfbacks, tailbacks and fullbacks roll off the tongue of Buckeye fans as easily as the words to “Carmen Ohio” or “Hang On Sloopy.”
Of course, as good as they were, guys like Hopalong Cassady and Archie Griffin couldn’t have won the Heisman Trophy all by themselves. There had to be offensive linemen in front of them to lead the way, and that led to my latest position ranking of all-time Buckeyes.
I started out trying to lump all of the linemen into one category, but there have been so many outstanding players who have excelled in the trenches at Ohio State that it was impossible to narrow them down to a list of 10. For example, how do you choose who’s better between Orlando Pace and Jim Parker? Pace is the best college lineman I have ever seen in person, but I have watched tape of Parker and he was an absolute beast – and he played both ways.
Therefore, I decided to split the categories into the way they’re split on the field. I’ve already got a working list of my top 10 tackles (guess who’s No. 1?) and centers but I’ll leave those for another day. Today, we’ll take a look at my Ohio State top 10 all-time guards. See how this list stacks up to yours.
1. Jim Parker – Ohio State has churned out a variety of outstanding linemen over the years but the prototype was Parker. Playing at a listed 6-2 and 248 pounds during an era when most linemen were in the 5-11, 185-pound range, Parker was a tremendous athlete, one of the first interior players who combined power and quickness. He excelled as an offensive lineman, especially at the guard position, and he was one of the best pulling and run blocking offensive linemen the Buckeyes have ever produced. Parker was a two-time All-American at OSU and went on to become an eight-time All-Pro with the Baltimore Colts. He is a member of both the College and Pro Football halls of fame.
2. Warren Amling – A two-time All-America lineman who finished seventh in the 1944 Heisman Trophy balloting, Amling was inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984. He also played basketball for the Buckeyes and is the only member of the College Football Hall of Fame to start in a Final Four contest.
3. Iolas Huffman – One of the program’s first players to win four varsity letters, Huffman was also versatile. He earned All-America honors as a guard in 1920 and as a tackle in 1921. Huffman was the captain of the undefeated OSU team that made the school’s first Rose Bowl appearance, and in his senior year, he won the Big Ten Medal of Honor as Ohio State’s top scholar-athlete.
4. Lindell Houston – Houston played only two years at Ohio State in a career cut short by World War II, but he packed a lot of excellence into that short time. He was an All-America guard in 1942, the same year the Buckeyes won their first-ever national championship. In Houston’s two seasons, OSU posted a record of 15-2-1. After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, Houston played pro football for the Cleveland Browns from 1946-53 and won five world championships. He is the older brother of former OSU tight end Jim Houston.
5. Edwin Hess – One of the Buckeyes’ early stars, Hess earned All-Western Conference and All-America honors at guard during his junior and senior years in 1925 and ’26. A standout both offensively and defensively, he won the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy in 1925, then the nation’s top individual award. Hess was inducted into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985.
6. Jim Lachey – Most Buckeye fans believe Lachey was a dominant offensive lineman during his OSU career. The truth is that he was a starter for only one season – but that season was tremendous. He anchored the line in 1984, paving the way for Keith Byars to rush for 1,764 yards and 22 TDs. Lachey earned All-America honors that year and went on to an all-pro career in the NFL.
7. William Hackett – As a starting guard in 1943 and ’44, Hackett gained the reputation as a superior blocker and strong defender. In 1944, he earned All-America honors while helping lead the undefeated Buckeyes to a Big Ten championship. He later helped Paul Brown organize the Cincinnati Bengals and became a board member for the team. Hackett was inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986.
8. Aurealius Thomas – Thomas was better known as a defensive player but he was also a devastating blocker who blew open holes for such star halfbacks as Don Clark and Dick LeBeau. Thomas played an amazing 463 minutes at guard during the Buckeyes’ national championship season of 1957, averaging 52 minutes per game. He earned All-America honors that season as OSU won nine straight games to capture the title. Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
9. William Bell – Bell was the Jackie Robinson of Ohio State football. When he joined the Buckeyes in 1929, he became the first African-American to play football for the team. Bell was a three-time letterman and earned honorable mention All-America honors while playing guard and usually opening holes for Fesler. Bell went on to serve as a professor and had a distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force, retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
10. Gust Zarnas – A three-sport star at Ohio State, Zarnas earned All-America honors as a guard in 1937 and was voted to play in the 1938 East-West All-Star Game. He also lettered two years in baseball for the Buckeyes and one year in track. Zarnas was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
If you would to see my all-time top 10 Buckeyes at other positions, here are the links:
Among those celebrating birthdays today include U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D, N.Y.) is 79; actor Gene Wilder is 76; Seventies TV actor Chad Everett (Dr. Joe Gannon in “Medical Center”) is 73; three-time Formula One champion Sir Jackie Stewart is 70; Seventies TV actress Adrienne Barbeau (Carol Trainer on “Maude”) is 64; politician and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros is 62; King Crimson lyricist and Supertramp founding member Richard Palmer-James is 62; former MLB infielder Dave Cash is 61; ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard is 60; 38 Special lead singer Donnie Van Zant is 57; soap actor Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott on “The Young and the Restless”) is 56; Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana is 53; actor Hugh Laurie (Dr. Gregory House on “House”) is 50; 2006 U.S. Open champion golfer Geoff Ogilvy is 32; former Connecticut and current WNBA star Diana Taurasi is 27; New York Mets shortstop José Reyes is 26; and movie heartthrob Shia LeBeouf is 23.
Several well-known people also share this date as the day they passed into history. Among those who died on the 11th of June: conqueror Alexander the Great; Boy Scouts of America founder Daniel Carter Beard; movie icon John Wayne; actor DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the original “Star Trek”); Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh; and legendary TV newsman David Brinkley.
** In case you missed it, Phil Steele released his preseason All-Big Ten team last week and named four Ohio State players to the first team – safety Kurt Coleman, cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, offensive lineman Justin Boren and return specialist Ray Small. Steele also named quarterback Terrelle Pryor, safety Anderson Russell, linebacker Ross Homan and defensive end Thaddeus Gibson to his second team while kicker Aaron Pettrey, running back Brandon Saine, center Michael Brewster and receiver DeVier Posey earned third-team selections. Kick returner Lamaar “Flash” Thomas was on the fourth team.
** Last week, the NCAA announced it would suspend membership dues for the next school year, a move the body figures will save a collective $1.3 million. Before you get too excited, however, the plan will save individual schools only between $900 and $1,800. That’s how much annual dues are depending upon which of the NCAA’s three divisions the school participates.
** If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind Father’s Day gift for that Notre Dame dad on your list, I may have something for you. The Fighting Irish are going to upgrade their stadium scoreboards this season and will be auctioning off one of their old scoreboards with Steiner Sports Memorabilia. The scoreboard is 40 feet long and 16¼ feet high, and was installed at Notre Dame Stadium in 1997. So far, the only bid of $1,988 had not met the reserve. In case you’re interested, click here.
** A couple of weeks ago, I jokingly suggested to Cleveland Indians management that it might want to inquire about the services of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller. Some joke. The 90-year-old will be the starting pitcher for the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic, set for Father’s Day in Cooperstown, N.Y. Feller, who went 266-162 with a lifetime 3.25 ERA, said, “I’ll be throwing just as hard as ever, but the ball probably won’t be going quite as fast.”
** Tiger Woods seems serious about defending his U.S. Open championship this week at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. On his way home to Florida after winning the Memorial Tournament last weekend, Woods took a side trip to Long Island on Monday morning and played 18 holes on the Black Course with swing coach Hank Haney. After that round, Woods hopped into his private jet and played 18 more holes Monday afternoon on his home course.
** Congratulations to former Ohio State golfer Vaughn Snyder, who advanced to the U.S. Open championship after firing rounds of 67-69 on the South Course at NCR Country Club in Dayton in sectional qualifying Monday. The Massillon, Ohio, native is among the final field of 156 for the Open, which begins June 18.
** For those of you lamenting Nick Montana’s choice to attend Washington instead of Ohio State, remember that the chip off the old block is rarely as good as the original. There are exceptions, of course – Ken Griffey Jr. and Hank Williams Jr. readily come to mind – but there are many more who couldn’t live up to the family name. Let’s just wish Montana well in the Pacific Northwest and move on.