AndyVance's picture
July 24, 2013 at 10:04a

Since 1933, 24 men have worn #38 on the Ohio State University football team. Sixteen earned varsity letters for their efforts, and three served as captain. Two earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, though Donnie Nickey only wore the jersey one season, and most of his achievements were notched while he wore #25.

Among the long-ago names on the roster are many you've probably never heard of. In recent memory, however, are two Buckeye fan favorites. Brandon Joe played for Coach Jim Tressel from 2001-2004, earning a letter each year. In three seasons of playing time, the fullback gained 262 yards on 78 rushing attempts, including one touchdown. He also caught 6 passes for 57 yards, and returned 3 kicks for 23 yards.

As a redshirt sophomore, Joe saw limited use as fullback during the 2002 National Championship campaign and victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. He went undrafted, but was signed in 2006 as an undrafted free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After serving on their practice squad and fighting for a spot on the roster, he was released by the team in September.

Not long after Joe finished his years at Ohio State, the #38 jersey was picked up by a future NFL-drafted linebacker. The decade with Jim Tressel at the Buckeye tiller was marked as much by the success of the teams' linebackers as anything, and Dayton native Austin Spitler played alongside some of the best.

Earning a varsity letter from 2006-2009, the 6 ft. 2 in., 250 lb. linebacker later served as a team captain during his senior season. He played in every game of his freshman campaign, largely on special teams, but recorded seven tackles, including three in the win at Michigan State.

In his sophomore season, Spitler notched 26 tackles including seven tackles and a sack in the win over Youngstown State, and five the following week over Kent State. He earned the "Jack Tatum hit of the week" award for a slobbernocker during the Wisconsin game.

Spitler worked behind highlight machine James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker for much of his career. In his third season he recorded only 11 tackles, having sprained a knee versus Troy that sidelined him for several weeks. Returning to play at Michigan State, he recovered a fumbled Buckeye punt return and promptly went about taking care of business.

In his final season with the Buckeyes, Spitler notched 38 tackles, including five tackles for loss, as well as one sack and an interception. Selected by the Miami Dolphins in the 7th Round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Spitler debuted with the team that fall, and has played three seasons in the league. While not a starter, he's recorded 23 tackles and one fumble recovery during his time in Miami.

Also worth noting, this year marks 38 years since Archie Griffin's senior season. Had the 1975 Buckeyes not lost to UCLA in Griffin's fourth-straight Rose Bowl start, the team would almost certainly have won the national championship, coming into the game ranked #1 for the last seven weeks of the regular season. It also marks 38 years since Griffin was awarded his record second Heisman Trophy. Damn you, Bruins.

And that'll do it for today's installment of the countdown. If you've missed it so far, here is the archive of the series for your reading/viewing enjoyment:

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Baroclinicity's picture

I had *no idea* Spitler got drafted!  That's great that he's been able to play at the next level.  I always thought he was somewhat of an untapped talent.  He always made good plays on special teams, although he may have had a roughing the punter penalty against LSU in 2008.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Earle's picture

I have a soft spot for fullbacks.  Unheralded job.  I'm sad to see the position going the way of the single wing.
No love for Vaughn Broadnax?

Snarkies gonna snark. 

AndyVance's picture

With a name like that, it's hard to see how I missed it... Well, here goes nothing:
Four year letterman Vaughn Broadnax, owner of one of the coolest names in Buckeye football history, played for Earle Bruce's Buckeyes from 1980-1983. Recording 1,079 yards rushing during his career in 248 carries, Broadnax scored 14 touchdowns on the ground, and added another as a receiver.
Listed as one of the top five Buckeye fullbacks of all time by Bleacher Report (in one of their many, interminable rankings articles), Broadnax spent most of his career blocking for Keith Byars and Tim Spencer, both of whom reached 1,000-yard seasons behind him in the backfield. Scoring a 1-yard touchdown in the game, he helped lead the 8-3 Buckeyes to a victory over BYU in the 1982 Holiday Bowl.
Broadnax came up huge in the 1981 season finale against the Buckeyes' hated arch-rivals, wiping out three Wolverine defenders blocking for quarterback Art Schlichter, who ran in the winning touchdown for a 14-9 OSU victory. A resident of Indianapolis, he is also active on Twitter.

Earle's picture

Nice!  Definitely makes the All-Name Team.  He was a load, and blocked for a couple of pretty decent tailbacks.  Thanks, Andy.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

cajunbuckeye's picture

Missed this one yesterday, Andy. Great addition to the "38 days". I had the honor of lining up on the other side of the ball against Vaughn my senior year. He was a load, to say the least.

An angry fan...rooting for an angry team...led by angry coaches

Hovenaut's picture

My Dad hates Dick Vermeil, and all his crying, to this day. I'm told nearly every fall how tough a Rose Bowl loss that was.

"How the hell did he beat Woody?"

pjtobin's picture

I somehow missed this daily countdown when I went through them all last night. I do remember Brandon Joe. Mostly his name. I don't remember any special plays or anything. I don't remember Austin Spitler at all. He must have been hidden in the animals shadow. 
I used to LOVE the dolphins. They were my team. I knew 85% of their rooster each year. When I was a jr or sr I just quit watching. I started chasing tail and partying. It left little time to follow the fins. Plus Marino retired. That ended it for me. I started paying more attention to the buckeyes. I wasn't as serious about them then as I am now. But I did like them. It was a hard time to be a OSU fanatic in the 90's. Everyone here knows why. I have become very interested in TOSU since graduation in May of 99. I started to read a little here and there. In the papers mostly. Then I went to work for a Union contractor finishing drywall on campus. The new building called Ross Heart and Lung was the first big job I was on down there. I started to read the lantern. I parked behind the varsity club ( for free!) and would walk by the shoe everyday. I was falling in love. And now I'm here. I still don't follow pro ball. I do follow our young men who are getting paid there. When Ginn was playing for the fins I thought I could reconnect with my old favorite team. No cigar. Every team seemed to have at least one buckeye. I won't cheer on any teams. Just players. Besides with all the trading and shuffling that goes on I get bored. 
I guess hearing about our rich Buckeye history compelled me to discuss my love affair with the dolphins and Buckeyes. I am thankful it has happened the way it did. The dolphins are still crappy. And the Buckeyes kick the crap out of mostly everyone. Talk about a win win. 
Thanks Mr Vance. GO BUCKEYES!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad.