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College Football Hall of Famer and former Ohio State running back Chic Harley.
College Football Hall of Famer and former Ohio State running back Chic Harley. / Courtesy of the College Football Hall of Fame

COLUMBUS — Attention is correctly fixed on one thing Saturday: The Game.

It’s Ohio State-Michigan week, and the Buckeyes are playing for a share of the Big Ten championship. Beyond that, the Wolverines are suffering through their worst season in the 126-year history of the program, dimming the glow from this ancient rivalry.

It’s just so rare for either team to be so bad. Historically, this game has been so much fun because it has meant so much. Many players on both sides have cemented their reputations on Saturdays in late November at their rival’s expense.

Just how big those personalities have become was confirmed again last week when the OSU alumni magazine arrived via mail. The featured item was a ballot for Ohio State’s All-Alumni team.

Naturally, that triggered a number of interesting thoughts, perhaps more relevant this week than any other. So, without further ado, here’s one vote for the Buckeyes’ All-Alumni team:

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK: Rex Kern (1967-1970)

The Lancaster graduate was twice a top-5 Heisman finalist, led OSU to three Big Ten
championships and played in three de facto national championship games. He was MVP of the 1969 Rose Bowl and would’ve been MVP of the 1971 Rose Bowl had the Buckeye secondary hung on to a 17-13 fourth-quarter lead.

HALFBACK:

Archie Griffin (1972-75)
Chic Harley (1916-17, ’19)

One is the only two-time Heisman winner in the history of college football. Ohio Stadium should be named after the other. Both were three-time All-Americans. Both are in the College Football Hall of Fame. Harley is the greatest all-around player in school history and ignited the mania for the Buckeyes that exists to this day. No one else is even close to either of them.

CENTER: LeCharles Bentley (1998-2001)

The Buckeyes’ lone Rimington Award winner, Bentley went on to become the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. He then promptly suffered career-ending injuries. Honorable mention goes to Gomer Jones, who was MVP of the 1935 Big Ten champs and became a College Football Hall of Famer based on his offensive line coaching exploits for Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma.

RECEIVER: Cris Carter (1984-86)

Never has Ohio State had a more acrobatic or athletic receiver. Carter didn’t blind anyone with his speed. Instead, his 6-foot-3 size and 41-inch vertical leap combined with Spiderman hands to make him the best wideout in school history. Honorable mention to Terry Glenn, who won the Biletnikoff Award after setting a school record with 17 touchdown catches in 1995.

GUARDS:

Jim Parker (1954-56)
Aurealius Thomas (1955-57)

This was some run of guards Woody Hayes enjoyed. Both are College Football Hall of Famers. Parker was an All-American in 1955 and ’56, and Thomas in 1957.
Each excelled on both sides of the ball, too. Parker enjoyed a Hall of Fame NFL career as well, and also is on most historical college football teams. Thomas used
quickness and technique to outmaneuver and then dominate up front. Honorable mention to Jim Lachey, who was an All-American in 1984, but in a baffling lack of coaching acumen, played little until that one year.

TACKLES:

Orlando Pace (1994-96)
John Hicks (1970, ’72-73)

Numerous historical lists, including Sports Illustrated, point to Pace as the greatest offensive tackle in the history of college football. Hicks has come closer to winning the Heisman than any person to play offensive line exclusively. He finished second to John Cappelletti in 1973.

TIGHT END: Jan White (1968-70)

A consensus All-American in 1970, and captain as a senior, White was recruited by more than 100 schools and showed his ability by switching to tight end shortly after arriving on campus. He never had eye-popping receiving numbers, but it was for lack of opportunity, not ability. As a blocker and pass receiver, he has no peer in OSU annals.

FULLBACK: Bob Ferguson (1959-61)

A two-time All-American, it’s hard to understand how Ferguson didn’t win the 1961 Heisman.

He finished second in what was the closest vote in history at that time, and a scenario that never would happen today. Ferguson had 938 yards rushing in 9 games while playing for the undefeated, No. 1 team in the country. Meanwhile, Syracuse winner Ernie Davis compiled 823 yards rushing for a 7-3 team that played one extra game. Ferguson was the elite fullback in a program that has cranked out Bob White, Jim Otis, John Brockington, Pete Johnson and Jamar Martin, among others.

DEFENSE

LINEBACKERS:

Randy Gradishar (1971-73)
Tom Cousineau (1975-78)
Andy Katzenmoyer (1996-1998)

Woody Hayes called Gradishar the greatest linebacker he ever had, and he became a College Football Hall of Famer. Cousineau is the best athlete to ever play the position at Ohio State, and was twice an All-American, not to mention the first pick in the NFL draft in 1979.

Katzenmoyer was twice an All-American and garnered the Butkus Award as a sophomore. Honorable Mention to Chris Spielman, who won the Lombardi Award and was a two-time All-American.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

Bill Willis (1942-44)
Jim Stillwagon (1968-70)
Van DeCree (1972-74)
Dan Wilkinson (1992-93)

Willis is a College and Pro Football Hall of Famer who recently had his number retired. Stillwagon was a two-time All-American who won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. As a defensive end, DeCree was a two-time All-American and a spectacular speed rusher off the edge. Wilkinson’s combination of size, agility and strength helped him occupy consistent double teams and become a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick.

DEFENSIVE BACKS:

Jack Tatum (1967-70)
Neal Colzie (1972-74)
Antoine Winfield
(1995-98)
Vic Janowicz (1949-51)

The alumni list has Janowicz as an offensive back, but he wasn’t as good as Harley or Griffin there, and he’s simply too good not to be on this team. Probably the second greatest all-around player in school history, a College Football Hall of Famer who has the most famous field goal in school history (1950 Snow Bowl) and one of the most crucial interceptions (1950 Rose Bowl), that helped OSU rally to a victory. Tatum’s jersey already should be retired. He was the national Defensive Player of the year in 1970, twice an All-American and also a College Football Hall of Famer. Colzie was at once the nation’s best punt returner and best cover corner while earning All-American honors in 1973 and 1974. Winfield won the Thorpe Award in 1998 and was twice All-American, including earning team MVP honors in 1997.

COACH

Woody Hayes
(1951-78)

Five national championships and 205 wins with 13 Big Ten titles in 28 years makes this the easiest pick of all.

SPECIAL TEAMS

KICKER: Mike Nugent (2001-04)

Winner of the Lou Groza Award and an All-American in 2004, he holds virtually every key career kicking record in Ohio State history.

PUNTER: Tom Skladany (1973-76)

Woody Hayes made Skladany his first special teams scholarship player, and the Pennsylvania native proved his worth by becoming a three-time All-American.

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