On a sunny and unseasonably warm day in April I was watching the kickers and punters practice on the renovated practice fields of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. While 99% of the other coaches in attendance for the clinic were watching Braxton Miller and the other celebrated Buckeyes go through drills, my eyes were on the overlooked and under appreciated kickers. I wanted to see who had a “leg” up between the 5th year senior and incoming freshman. However, I was not the only person watching and critiquing the steps and mechanics of the young men kicking for the starting job.
Next to me was a gentleman slight in stature, but large in presence. Something told me this man had participated in similar drills a few years before. Perhaps it was his gold Ohio State ring, the gold pants draped around his neck or the Ohio State varsity jacket he was wearing that tipped me off. I introduced myself and for the next hour I had the great experience of talking to Blair Conway about kicking mechanics and his playing days.
For the 1972 and 1973 seasons Blair Conway handled kickoffs, field goals and extra points for Ohio State. The Buckeyes were 19-2-1 with Conway on the team and in 1973 he led the Big Ten in scoring. Below you will learn more about the man who was one of Ohio State's last straight-on kickers.
*Actually, it's 22 questions. Go here to read No. 3 in the Countdown Series.
Where and when were you born?
Blair Conway: I was born in Cleveland and until 6 lived in Avon. From 6 until college graduation lived in Middleburg Hts.
You attended Midpark High School. What were your playing days like?
Blair Conway: At Midpark High everyone told me I was too small to play football. So I went out for cross country. I was the No. 1 jv runner but always watched football practice. I went to the football field and watched the varsity kickers. I knew I could out kick them so I asked to switch to football. All the football coaches also said I was too small and initially wouldn't let me switch. Reluctantly they eventually let me switch. I starred on the jv team and after the second game they promoted me to varsity. I kicked the game winning kick's against state powers Warren Harding, Elyria, Mentor, Garfield Heights and Valley Forge. I set numerous Midpark records.
What was your recruiting experience like?
Blair Conway: Again, everyone thought I was too small to play college ball and was only recruited by Ashland College. Again I started and starred as a freshman at Ashland.
How did you make it to Ohio State?
Blair Conway: On an equipment repair trip at Ohio State (specialty item) I decided to talk with the tackle, ends, and kickers coach Ralph Staub. He told me the No. 1 kicker was a senior this coming year and since I would have to sit out one year if I transferred I would be in the hunt the following year to be the No. 1 kicker. So I transferred.
Was it difficult to sit out for a year?
Blair Conway: Sitting out proved to be a blessing. I had numerous technique flaws that had become habit since no one in high school or at Ashland knew anything about kicking. These were all corrected the year I sat out.
What do you remember about your first start?
Blair Conway: Before the first start I threw up, but many players threw up before every game and mine was probably from food and not nerves.
When was the moment you knew you belonged on the field?
Blair Conway: From tenth grade I knew I belonged on the field and unlike many players from the moment I decided to transfer to OSU I knew I belonged there. Placekicking is not a position you can lack confidence.
What was your most memorable play / game? Why?
Blair Conway: Most memorable kick was the 10-10 Michigan tie field goal because of the importance. Any kick you feel the pressure. For a kicker when you go on the field you either score or you fail. There is no pretty good job done on a play.
Did you feel bad for their kicker, Mike Lantry after he missed three difficult field goals in the last minutes of The Game in 1973?
Blair Conway: Never felt bad for Lantry he was a loser. He missed several kicks in our '73 game and missed again in the '74 game that would have won the game. He choked both years and that's a loser.
What was your experience like at the 1974 Rose Bowl?
Blair Conway: For the '74 Rose Bowl it was all business. We were beat pretty good the year before so we had revenge on our minds.
What game or play would you like a second chance at?
Blair Conway: I never missed a critical kick so there is no second chance needed. I had a bad kickoff in the '73 Rose Bowl I would like a do over.
Who was your holder?
Blair Conway: During the 1972 and 1973 seasons the NCAA had a limited substitution rule. So nearly every kick I had a different holder or center. They also counted it as a miss even if it was a bad snap or hold and the kick never got kicked. This happened six times my senior year in '73 and five times in '72 on extra points also on FG's as well. On one the holder actually ran it in for a touchdown after dropping the FG attempt. Those are a few facts that don't show up in the stat books. That said I ended 1973 my senior year as the kick scoring champion for the Big Ten.
Who were your roommates?
Blair Conway: I roomed with the punter Gary Lago in '72 and Tom Skladany in '73.
Outside of that team up north, what team did you dislike the most?
Blair Conway: Equal dislike for TTUN and Notre Dame. In '73 we were the best team and the sports writers voted ND No. 1 because they did not like Woody. We were clearly the best team and were the best team OSU has ever had.
Is there a story or memory of Coach Hayes you would like to share?
Blair Conway: When I was cut in the pro's Woody brought me back as a graduate assistant coach. In one meeting with all the coaches he was discussing players and asked Coach Staub who the kicker was going to be (which he knew already). When Coach Staub told him he looked at me and said "I wish we had Conway back".
While in school did you have a favorite place to eat or hangout?
Blair Conway: We hung out at the Varsity Club and ate a place called The Huddle by Long's book store, gone now.
Besides yourself, who do you think of as the player to wear No. 3 for Ohio State?
Blair Conway: Mike Sensibaugh was one of the best at OSU to wear No. 3.
After your senior season was playing professional football a possibility?
Blair Conway: There were several of us that were drafted by the WFL (World Football League) which occurred prior to the NFL draft. Myself by the Chicago Fire. Back then you had no idea if the NFL teams were interested so a few of us signed with the WFL team that drafted us negating the possibility of being drafted by an NFL team. I found out after I signed with the Fire that Dallas had planned to draft me. Big mistake on my part.
What was the WFL like?
Blair Conway: Ended up the WFL was a joke. After a couple of days at their camp myself and 20-30 other players left camp. The following year Cleveland Browns had a tryout camp like the movie "Invincible". 500 players showed up. Myself and a fellow teammate, Ed Trepanier, made it as free agents and into the pre-season camp. I was going against Don Cockroft, an All-Pro, and was eventually released.
How important is Ohio State to you today? How do you stay involved?
Blair Conway: As a former player OSU is part of your life in your soul. I try and get back each year for a game or two and stay in touch with a few team members and Varsity O, etc.
Anything you would like to share about your life/family today?
Blair Conway: I'm a retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff. I now live in Prescott, Arizona and I'm a devoted Christian.
Blair Conway is a straight shooter. He is an easy person to talk with and tells you the truth in a blunt, but nice way. From my correspondence with Mr. Conway I can tell you that Blair Conway is honest. Blair Conway is mentally tough. Blair Conway is a winner. Blair Conway is a Buckeye.
The Buckeyes were 19-2-1 during Conway's career.
1972 Big Ten Title.
1973 Big Ten Title.
1974 Defeated No. 7 USC 42-21 to win the Rose Bowl.
Went 1-0-1 against That Team.
1972 Defeated No. 3 That Team 14-11.
Conway led the Big Ten in scoring in 1973.
Set an all-time OSU record for most extra points made in a season (45) in 1973.
Made 8 extra points against Minnesota in 1973. At the time it was the second most made in a game in Ohio State history.
Attempted 9 extra points against Northwestern in 1973. At the time it was the second most attempts in Ohio State history.
Conway finished his career with 90 attempted extra points which was the most in Ohio State history at the time. Today that total ranks 10th all-time.