Like many of us, I'm living in a glass case of emotion this morning, so let's quickly get to the countdown and let some historically-great Buckeyes calm our collective nerves.
Precisely eight men have worn #40 on The Ohio State University football team, and chances are, you've only heard of one of them. The first two players to wear the jersey, in 1933 and 1934, played only one season, and didn't earn a varsity letter. Two lettermen wore the now-iconic number between 1935 and 1940.
In 1941 and 1942, Robert "Bob" Shaw, a native of Richwood, pioneered the position of Tight End and was part of the Buckeyes' first NCAA National Championship team in 1942 under legendary coach Paul Brown. Playing both offense and defense (and lettering in Track to boot), Shaw was named a first-team All American that season, and would later be inducted into Ohio State University Athletic Hall of Fame, in 1996.
As with his coach, World War II interrupted Shaw's football career. He served with the famed 104th Infantry - the Timberwolf Division - which was ordered into active military service on 15 September 1942 and organized at Camp Adair, Oregon. Seeing fairly heavy combat, Shaw was awarded a Bronze Star for his service, and later completed his bachelor's degree in education at Otterbein College upon his return stateside.
Selected by the Cleveland Rams in the 10th Round of the 1944 NFL Draft, played four seasons in Cleveland and Los Angeles (the Rams moved to the coast in 1945) before finishing his NFL career with a final season with the Chicago Cardinals. The Rams won the NFL Championship his rookie season, and in 1950 Shaw was the NFL's leader in receiving touchdowns with 12, and became the first player to catch five touchdowns in a game.
He played two seasons in Calgary before launching a successful coaching career, at times coaching at Baltimore, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago and Buffalo. He died at his home in Westerville, at the age of 89, in 2011.
The man who would cause the Buckeyes to eventually hang his jersey in Ohio Stadium, of course, is the legendary Howard "Hopalong" Cassady. The two-time All-American and All-Big Ten halfback was, quite simply, one of the greatest running backs ever to play for Ohio State. Winner of the 21st Heisman Trophy in 1955, Cassady scored 37 touchdowns in 36 games for 222 points. According to the Heisman Trust, he gained 2,466 yards rushing for an average of 5.6 per try: "A player's player, his 964 yards with a total of 15 TDs [in 1955] was his greatest ever. Overlooked were his sparkling defensive plays; he never had a pass completed over him in four years of Big Ten competition. He held the Buckeyes' yardage-gained record for many years."
In fact, Cassady held several Ohio State career records for many years following his graduation. He held the career rushing record (2,466 yards) until he was surpassed by Jim Otis in 1969, the career all-purpose yards record (4,403 yards) until he was surpassed by Archie Griffin in 1974, and the scoring record (222 points) until he was surpassed by Pete Johnson in 1975.
In 1954 the Buckeyes finished the season 10-0 and won a consensus national championship. That year Cassady finished third in the vote for the Heisman Trophy behind Alan Ameche of Wisconsin, but in 1955 he won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history (at that the time). Also winning the Maxwell Award and named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year, Cassady was the first Heisman winner to exceed 2,000 total points, edging Jim Swink of TCU by 1,477 points.
Drafted by the Detroit Lions with the third-overall pick of the 1956 NFL Draft, Hopalong played nine seasons in the league, spending his first seven in Detroit and spending one each in Cleveland and Philadelphia. An all-purpose back, playing both the receiver and the running back positions, he scored twenty-seven touchdowns in his career. In nine seasons, he rushed for 1,229 yards (an average of 3.9 yards per carry) and racked up 1,601 yards receiving (14.4 yards per catch).
Ohio State retired his jersey, #40, in 2000 - it hangs in Ohio Stadium along with other Heisman Trophy-winning legends of the 'Shoe.
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: