14 Ohio State Greats Enshrined in Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame, Gene Smith Named Honorary Varsity O Letterwinner

By Dan Hope on October 6, 2023 at 10:39 pm
Nick Mangold and Maureen Cogan during Carmen Ohio

Fourteen Buckeye greats officially became Ohio State Athletics Hall of Famers on Friday.

Friday night’s honorees included three former Ohio State players: Jim Thorpe Award winner Malcolm Jenkins, All-American center Nick Mangold and starting linebacker/tight end Rick Middleton.

Eleven Warriors caught up with all three of those Buckeyes before they were officially enshrined into the Hall of Fame at Friday ceremony at the Covelli Center.

During his speech, Jenkins told the story of how he went from being a “one-star recruit” to becoming a Buckeye thanks to his performance at one Ohio State football camp.

“If you wanted to turn me into an animal, tell me I couldn’t do something,” Jenkins said. “One kid asked me where I was from. When I told him I was from New Jersey, he laughed at me with his boys and said, ‘They can’t play no football in Jersey.’ And the monster came out.”

Mangold didn’t know he was supposed to prepare a speech for Friday’s event, but he showed his sense of humor as he joked about having the shortest bio of any of this year’s Hall of Famers before explaining how much Ohio State – where he won a national championship as a freshman in 2002 – means to him.

“Coach (Jim) Tressel brought me in and was my coach all four years, Coach (Jim) Heacock recruited me and Coach (Jim) Bollman was my offensive line coach, and those three men had a profound impact on my life as a player and as a person,” Mangold said. “It was here where I made my friendships, I made my teammates and we had a lot of fun. We won some games, which was a lot of fun. And it was very special to me.”

Middleton, who started at linebacker for the 1973 Ohio State football team that gave up only 64 points all season, said he was shocked when he found out he was being inducted into the OSU Athletics Hall of Fame but expressed that he felt that honor belonged more to the entire team than it did to himself.

“If there’s anything that can make me prouder than getting this honor, it’s to have been elected as captain in 1973,” Middleton said. “That was one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had that these guys wanted me to be in charge of the team.”

Other members of this year’s Hall of Fame class include Joe Roberts, a starter on Ohio State’s 1960 national championship men’s basketball team; Kelsey Mitchell, the all-time leading scorer in Ohio State women’s basketball history; and Tom Ryan, who has been Ohio State’s wrestling coach since 2006. Eleven Warriors also caught up with Ryan to talk to him about what it means to be a Hall of Famer and to get an update on Sammy Sasso as he continues his recovery after being shot this summer.

“It’s an incredible honor,” Ryan said. “Just grateful for the opportunity my family and I were granted in 2006. Eternally grateful to Gene Smith for believing that a Hofstra man could come out to Ohio and lead the Buckeyes. Just grateful for my staff and my team. I think the real magic lies in the relationships with the student-athletes, and that’s where the real magic is in the coaching and the profession. I love the sport, love to coach, so just honored and humbled.”

Eight other former Ohio State stars also became members of the OSU Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night: Maureen Cogan (women’s cross country/track and field), Miho Kowase (women’s tennis), Yesenia Luces (field hockey), Sean Melton (men’s gymnastics), Steven Moneke (men’s tennis), Renee Powell (women’s golf), Taylor Sandbothe (women’s volleyball) and Nicolas Szerszen (men’s volleyball).

The 14 new Hall of Famers weren’t the only honorees at Friday’s ceremony. Before the Hall of Fame inductions started, outgoing Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was recognized with the awarding of an honorary Varsity “O” membership, which is typically reserved for letter-winning athletes.

Smith, who received an official Ohio State letterman’s jacket as a part of his honorary membership, was both surprised and humbled by the honor.

“It means a great deal to me,” Smith said. “I just can’t imagine what that conversation was in the room. It means a great deal to me. I’ll cherish it and be respectful of it and it’s just a great honor for me.”

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