When a program is able to claim seven national championships, 34 Big Ten titles, seven Heisman winners, six Lombardi Awards, four Outland and Maxwell Trophy winners, a pair of Jim Thorpe Award winners and 78 consensus All-Americans, it's safe to say an enormous amount of talent has passed through its football factory.
Ohio State, like all elite college football powers, celebrates the greatness of individual players in various ways including the "retirement" of uniform numbers. Since the Buckeyes began playing football in 1890, only seven players have been bestowed this ultimate honor: Les Horvath (22), Eddie George (27), Vic Janowicz (31), Howard "Hopalong" Cassidy (40), Archie Griffin (45), Chic Harley (47) and Bill Willis (99).
But what about all the numbers? As a rabid fan, you're already well aware of who the truly outstanding players are in Buckeye history but if you looked at all the guys who have suited up for the Scarlet and Gray, which specific uniform numbers sport the most historical mojo?
Examining the list of every Ohio State football player by uniform number, I present, in no particular order, my top five uniform numbers in Buckeye history along with some supporting data.
As expected, two different single-digit numbers make the list because 1) they are typically deemed sexy by players and 2) single-digit numbers can be worn by a variety of skill positions.
Uniform #2 sports a solid supporting cast but it's the three-headed monster of Cris Carter, Mike Doss and Malcolm Jenkins that makes it a lock for this (offseason topic fueled) list.
The man with a fancier name than you realized, Graduel Christopher Darin Carter, suited up for Ohio State for three seasons, becoming the school's first All-American wide receiver. A consensus All-American in 1986, Carter left Ohio State as the all-time leader in receptions and only David Boston has passed him since (191). His 27 career touchdowns are also 2nd all-time in school history (Boston, 34) while his 2,792 career receiving yards stand 4th. Oh, and he was pretty sick in the NFL, earning a spot in Canton, where he took the time to apologize to OSU fans for blowing his senior season after it was learned he signed with an agent.
On the other side of the ball, a pair of all-time greats in the secondary wore #2 in Mike Doss and Malcolm Jenkins. Doss was a three-time All-American and captain of the 2002 national championship team, a year in which he was also named the B1G Defensive Player of the Year. Jenkins, also a captain, was a beast in his own right, earning All-B1G 1st-team honors three straight years while adding two national All-American and the 2008 Jim Thorpe Award to his resume.
Beyond that ridiculous trio, uniform #2 also sports Terrelle Pryor and Christian Bryant. Pryor, despite an ugly exit from Columbus, owns the school record for career touchdown passes (57) and was 3-0 against Michigan and 2-1 in bowls including a Rose Bowl win over Oregon and a curse-exercising victory over SEC foe Arkansas in the Sugar.
If I could go back in time, have some actual football talent worthy of a scholly from Ohio State, I'd wear #36 for the same reason as many of you – Chris Spielman. Just a hair above Antoine Winfield, Spielman is my favorite Buckeye of all and he certainly did justice to #36, a number he shares with two other legendary Buckeye linebackers in Marcus Marek and Tom Cousineau.
Impressively, the trio of linebacking greats can all lay claim to All-American and All-B1G honors along with serving as team captains. Combined, that totaled 1,687 tackles for the Scarlet and Gray with Marek the school's all-time leader (572) followed closely by Cousineau's 569 and Spielman's 546. For perspective, 4th on the list is Steve Tovar at 408.
Spielman and Cousineau share the single-game tackles record at OSU with 29 each but Spielman gets bonus points as his came against Michigan in a 26-24 loss ($^#& kickers) in the Shoe.
Honorable mentions for #36 include Bruce Elia and Brian Rolle, Ohio State's 2010 leader in tackles.
The other single-digit number to make the list, #7 claims two quarterbacks and three receivers, one of which was the nastiest punt returner I've ever seen and another a lockdown cornerback.
Cornelius Greene isn't an overly celebrated signal-caller in Buckeye lore but that's bound to happen when your coach loathes the forward pass and you share a backfield with Archie Griffin and Pete Johnson. A gifted runner, Corny helped guide the 1973, '74 and '75 squads to conference titles, earning a spot on the All-B1G in the final two seasons.
The other #7 to shine under center, Joe Germaine was and still is the best pure passer in the history of Ohio State football. By way of a little junior college in Scottsdale, Germaine shared time with a lesser player before exploding for 3,330 yards passing with 25 touchdowns on the way to breaking 11 school records and capturing the B1G's MVP trophy.
Recently, I wrote about the 10 best players not in Buckeye Grove and one of those names was Joseph Scott Galloway. A straight burner, Galloway led the B1G in yards per catch (20.1) and ranked in 2nd in receiving touchdowns (11) in 1993. He was also a three-time academic All-American before being selected with the 8th pick of the 1995 NFL Draft.
Another burner, Ted Ginn Jr, wore #7 from 2004-06 during which time he hauled in 135 passes (6th all-time) for 1,983 yards (8th). His six punt return touchdowns are twice as many as the next Buckeye on the career list and his 25.6 yards per punt return in 2004 lead the country and stands as the most in school-history by nearly seen yards.
Finally, Chris Gamble earned 1st team all-league honors as part of the 2002 national championship team thanks to four interceptions, 31 catches for 499 yards and 546 yards on punts and kickoffs. His ability to shut down half the field on defense was a thing to watch.
Uniform #10 is anchored by two of the best quarterbacks in school history, another one that wasn't too shabby and a dynamic force at linebacker.
Rex Kern quarterbacked the 1968 team to the national championship as a sophomore to solidify his place in Buckeye lore and Troy Smith stands as Ohio State's most dominant QB ever thanks to a sick 2006 campaign that saw him claim the Heisman Trophy on the strength of school records for completion percentage (65.3%) and touchdown passes (30) against six picks. Smith is also the school's all-time leader in Passing Efficiency at 157.1.
The final quarterback, Art Schlichter, makes the cut though I believe he was always a bit overrated considering he never completed more than 54% of his passes in a single season and while he threw 48 touchdowns, he also tossed 50 interceptions though 21 of those came as a freshman. On the plus side, his 2,551 passing yards in 1981 rank 3rd all-time while his 7,547 career yards remains the school record (Braxton needs 2,256 to beat it).
The 3rd biggest heavy-hitter on the list to wear #10, Ryan Damn Shazier was all class as he racked up 45.5 career tackles for loss, good enough for 5th on the OSU list. Last season, Shazier recorded an astounding 143 tackles including 101 solo stops, 3rd-most is school annals.
Honorable mention here goes to 1933 quarterback Carl Cramer for earning All-American and 1st-team All-B1G honors.
Two words. Orlando Pace. Case closed.
Obviously, 75 isn't a very sexy number but you can't forget about the hogs up front. Pace alone puts the number in contention considering there's never been a finer lineman in college football history. The two-time Lombardi Award and one time Outland Trophy winner finished fourth in the Heisman balloting as a junior after he recorded 80 pancake blocks. Pace didn't give up a sack during his last two years in Columbus before becoming the 1st pick in the 1997 NFL Draft.
Two older names to rock #75 include All-B1G performers David Cheney (1968-70) and Nick Buonamici while fresher names include Simon Fraser and NFL mainstays Alex Boone and Mike Adams.
Again, it's possible #75 is graded on a curve. As a sampler, here are a few other numbers that garner honorable mention:
- #1 - Marcus Freeman, Boom Herron, Mike Lanese, Bradley Roby and Tom Skladany.
- #4 - Another single-digit, #4 is paced by Will Allen, C.J. Barnett, Kurt Coleman, Kirk Herbstreit and Santonio Holmes. Sorry, #4, maybe I subliminally held Ray Small against you.
- #11 - Anthony Gonzalez and Antoine Winfield, my 2nd favorite Buckeye of all-time. This group doesn't have much depth however as names like Etienne Sabino and Jake Stoneburner are near the top of the remaining names.
- #45 - Very little depth because his number was put on ice for years but ARCHIE FREAKING GRIFFIN and Andy Katzenmoyer.