Revisiting Pro Careers of Former Buckeye Offensive Linemen as Taylor Decker Prepares to Create His Own NFL Legacy

By Chris Lauderback on March 24, 2016 at 1:05 pm
Taylor Decker is a virtual lock to be a 1st round draft choice.

After a national championship, 42 starts and a B1G Offensive Lineman of the Year award, Taylor Decker finds himself in prime position to be a 1st round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. 

The Lombardi Award semifinalist and All-American served as the anchor of Ohio State's stout offensive line the last two seasons from the left tackle spot though it's entirely possible he'll shift to right tackle at the next level. 

How Decker's NFL career ultimately pans out remains to be seen but the talent is there to be a longtime starter.

For perspective on what it will take for Decker to be considered elite at the next level compared to previous Buckeye offensive linemen, we take a look at the pro production of past OSU stars. 

JIM PARKER 1 8 1957 11 135 ? 8
ORLANDO PACE 1 1 1997 13 169 165 7

Take your pick on who you think the greatest former Buckeye offensive line is between Jim Parker and Orlando Pace and you really can't go wrong. 

Many folks still say Jim Parker is in the conversation when it comes to the best linemen of all time.

Both earned tickets to Canton as pro Hall of Fame inductees and both are also in the College Football Hall of Fame but Parker has the edge in Pro Bowls. 

Parker, enshrined in 1973, starred at both left tackle and guard and many still consider him the greatest offensive lineman of all time. Elected on his 1st ballot, Parker was charged with protecting the blindside of Johnny Unitas for the Baltimore Colts. The two-time NFL champ is listed on the league's 50th and 75th anniversary teams. 

Pace, out of Sandusky, Ohio, went to seven straight Pro Bowls from 1999-2006 two seasons after the St. Louis Rams made him the top overall pick of the 1997 Draft. 

A beast who logged 12 years with the Rams at left tackle, Pace started all 16 regular season games eight times in 13 career seasons. 

Pace, who captured a Super Bowl title with the Rams in 2000 was named to the NFL's All-2000s Decade team. 

JIM TYRER 3 22 1961 14 194 ? 9
N. MANGOLD 1 29 2006 10 156 156 7
D. SCHAFRATH 2 23 1959 13 176 ? 6
BOB VOGEL 1 5 1963 10 139 ? 5

The next grouping features four guys who made at least five Pro Bowls during the course of their spectacular careers. 

A name you're likely unfamiliar with, Jim Tyrer, headlines this group with nine Pro Bowl nods in 14 career seasons. The linchpin at left tackle during 13 seasons with the Dallas Texans / Kansas City Chiefs franchise, Tyrer helped them to three AFL titles and one Super Bowl victory. 

Though Tyrer was a Hall of Fame finalist in 1981, it came on the heels of him murdering his wife and committing suicide amid financial struggles in September of 1980. 

Nick Mangold is next on the list and it's a good bet he'll continue his climb toward the top considering his stellar ongoing resume. Through 10 seasons in the league, Mangold has seven Pro Bowl selections under his belt, two 1st team All-Pro nods and he's still easily one of the top five centers in the game. 

Dick Schafrath was an old school boss for the Browns (Photo: file)

Behind Mangold is another old school guy in Dick Schafrath. Known as "The Mule", Schafrath put on 50 pounds following his college days to play for Paul Brown's Cleveland squad. 

During a 13-year career with the Browns, Schafrath logged six Pro Bowls and four 1st team All-Pro honors while playing in 181 of 184 Cleveland's regular and postseason games. The Mule also had a little crazy in him as evidenced by the time he took a dare to run 62 miles from Cleveland to his high school football field in Wooster or when he wrestled a bear. 

After reading that, you may find it surprising he also served in Ohio's state senate from 1986-2003. 

Rounding out the list is Bob Vogel who started alongside Jim Parker as a rookie for the Colts after they tabbed him with the fifth pick in the 1963 Draft. Shortly after Vogel's arrival, he took over left tackle duties from Parker, shifting him to guard, and went on to earn five Pro Bowl selections in 10 seasons. 

ERNIE WRIGHT 15 200 1961 13 174 ? 3
JIM LACHEY 1 12 195 10 131 129 3
TOM DELEONE 5 106 1972 13 174 104 2
DOUG FRANCE 1 20 1975 8 110 87 2
RICH MICHAEL N/A N/A 1960 6 80 ? 2
LECHARLES BENTLEY 2 44 2002 4 57 57 2

Ernie Wright headlines the multi-year Pro Bowlers with three selections during a 13-year career which is all the more amazing considering his status as a 15th round selection in the 1961 Draft. 

Wright earned all three of his Pro Bowl nods during a nine-year stint with the LA / San Diego Chargers of the AFL and was a key player on their 1963 AFL championship squad which helped him earn a spot on the franchise's 50th anniversary team. Wright also served as a four-year starter for the Cincinnati Bengals at the back end of his career. 

Jim Lachey posted three Pro Bowls and three 1st team All-Pro honors during a terrific 10-year career. The St. Henry product was a key cog on Washington's famous offensive line, The Hogs, which helped catapult the Redskins to the Super Bowl XXVI title. 

On the list of the 70 Greatest Redskins, younger folks know him as the football analyst on 97.1 The Fan's radio broadcasts. Fans of 11W know Lachey as the fun-loving storyteller holding court at our annual Gold Pants Social event. He gets bonus points for clowning Mark May in the majority of those stories. 

The Handsome Hog: Jim Lachey

Next up is another former Cleveland Brown in Tom DeLeone. Starring at center for the brown and orange for 11 of his 13 professional seasons, DeLeone was selected to back-to-back Pro Bowls (1979-80) but did his most impressive work after his playing days when he logged 22 years of service as a special agent for U.S. Customs and later with the Department of Homeland Security. 

Doug France enjoyed a strong eight-year playing career highlighted by two Pro Bowls but after football he was sentenced to a year of house arrest following a vehicular manslaughter charge in 1991 and later to two years in prison for driving drunk in 1999. 

After two-time Pro Bowler Rich Michael who turned in a solid six-year career with Houston, is none other than the great LeCharles Bentley. 

A 2nd round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2002, Bentley was a Pro Bowler in two of his first four seasons before a tear of his left patellar tendon during 2006 training camp (then with the Browns) and subsequent battle with staph infection not only ended his playing career but almost cost him his leg

Still connected with the sport, Bentley owns and operates the premier training facility designed specifically for offensive linemen, LeCharles Bentley O-Line Performance in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

WILLIAM ROBERTS 1 27 1984 13 195 154 1
MIKE CURRENT 3 59 1967 13 169 164 1
DAVE FOLEY 1 26 1969 9 110 90 1
KOREY STRINGER 1 24 1995 6 93 91 1
GUST ZARNAS 5 40 1938 3 38 7 1

The list of one-time Pro Bowlers starts with William Roberts who enjoyed a memorable 10-year career with the New York Giants winning two Super Bowls in three trips while serving as primarily the left guard. 

RIP String

A relative unknown to the younger generation of Buckeye fans, Mike Current started 105 of 108 games with the Denver Broncos during his heydey while also starting for three years in Miami and one year for Tampa Bay. Despite Current's success, it's impossible to celebrate his career considering he committed suicide one day before he was set to enter a plea on numerous sexual assault charges involving children which would have put him behind bars for more than 30 years with no chance at a reduced sentence. 

After Dave Foley, who started 90 of 110 career games including 79 of 81 games with Buffalo where he was also a Pro Bowl performer, is the gentle giant, Korey Stringer.

Stringer, a 1st round pick in 1995, started 91 of 93 games for the Minnesota Vikings and was selected to the 2000 Pro Bowl which sadly turned out to be his final year in the NFL after he died from heat stroke complications during Minnesota's 2001 preseason camp leaving a wife and three-year old son. 

In the years since his passing, Stringer's widow, Kelci, partnered with the NFL to create the Korey Stringer Institute on UConn's campus which advocates "for the promotion of prevention of sudden death in sport via health and safety initiatives."

KIRK LOWDERMILK 3 59 1985 12 178 150 0
DOUG VAN HORN 4 55 1966 13 172 139 0
RUFUS MAYES 1 14 1969 11 139 98 0
DICK HIMES 3 81 1968 10 135 104 0
ROB SIMS 4 128 2006 9 125 114 0
JEFF UHLENHAKE 5 121 1989 9 119 112 0
TIM VOGLER N/A N/A 1979 10 117 41 0
CHRIS WARD 1 4 1978 7 100 95 0

The 100-Games Club rounds out the list of the greatest former Buckeye offensive linemen in the NFL and is headlined by Kirk Lowdermilk who logged 150 starts across 12 NFL seasons for the Vikings and Colts. 

Doug Van Horn, Detroit's 4th round pick in 1966, eventually became an 11-year starter for the New York Giants playing both the guard and tackle spots. 

Rufus Mayes: Gone too soon

The 14th overall pick by the Chicago Bears in 1969, Rufus Mayes lasted just one season in Chitown before being traded to the Bengals and serving as their starting left tackle for the better part of nine years. Mayes died at the early age of 42 following a bout with bacterial meningitis in 1990. 

Rob Sims, a three-year starter for the Buckeyes at left tackle and left guard, totaled four years in Seattle with 34 starts in 45 games but the strength of his career came in Detroit where he owned the left guard slot logging 16 starts in five consecutive seasons. 

Newark Catholic product Jeff Uhlenhake started at least 20 games at center for three different franchises highlighted by 59 starts in 63 games for the Miami Dolphins from 1989-1993. 

Primarily a right guard, undrafted Troy, Ohio native Tim Vogler emerged as a starter for the Buffalo Bills over the bulk of his final four pro seasons after six years spent largely as a backup center and guard. 

Finally, Chris Ward, the fourth pick of the 1978 Draft, finishes the list of guys to appear in at least 100 professional games after having spent six of his seven years as the starting left tackle for the New York Jets. 

Nearly a dozen other guys played anywhere from 50-98 professional games including names like John Hicks  who was the third overall pick of the 1974 Draft but played just four seasons logging 50 starts. 

Alex Boone is in that grouping with 59 starts and 77 games and figures to move up the list as an active and legit NFL starter after recently signing a four-year, $26.8 million deal with the Vikings. 

No other former Buckeye offensive lineman, active or otherwise, has more than 49 games under their professional belt. 

In case you missed our previous looks at other positions, we've already covered quarterbacksrunning backs, receiverstight endsdefensive backsdefensive linemen and linebackers

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