Five Frings: Most Legendary Bad Asses to Don the Scarlet and Gray

By Chris Lauderback on June 22, 2017 at 11:05 am
Tatum, Spielman, Winfield, Pace and Gradishar make up my OSU Bad Ass Hall of Fame.

Ohio State's storied football history is loaded with primetime players who became Buckeye legends for a myriad of reasons. 

Some were straight up stat-stuffers gifted with freakish talent, another chunk of guys were physical specimens that bullied their way to greatness, and countless others fell somewhere in-between while leaving their mark on the program. 

Similar to Gus Fring, the stoic, all-business and ice-cold character in Breaking Bad, a select few Buckeye greats were straight up bad asses who played the game with no fear while creating it in others thanks to a style of play that left no doubt who was in charge on any given Saturday. 

As noted the past few weeks, with the offseason dragging on like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, I'm filling my Thursday slot bastardizing my postgame Five Things article with offshoots looking at various aspects of Buckeye football history. 

So far, I've looked at the most ridiculous streaks of individual greatness, acrobatic receptions, crushing defeats, and one-hit wonders

Now, we press on looking at Five Frings, aka the baddest dudes to ever suit up for the scarlet and gray. 


The captain of this list, Tatum played the game with a ferocity previously unknown to mankind. 

The two-time All-American and College Football Hall of Famer was easily the most intimidating player of his era as he patrolled the defensive backfield for Woody Hayes. During his three years as a starter Ohio State won 27 of 29 games, two B1G titles and a national championship. 

Despite looking like a natural at safety thanks to sharp instincts and the desire to dish out pain on unsuspecting receivers, Tatum actually arrived in Columbus as a running back before making a career-defining position switch. 

Tatum was so good and so fierce the award presented to the league's best defensive back bears his name (along with some other Ohioan I'll decline to mention). 

When you think of bad dudes to play at Ohio State, the list has to begin with The Assassin. 


Another lock for my list, Spielman embodied everything you want in an Ohio State linebacker. 

The Massillon product was tough as nails – rumor had it he played tackle football on blacktop as a youth – and a desire to win burst from his effort on the field. 

Spielman was one of the surest tacklers in Buckeye history as evidenced by his school-record 283 solo stops. 

A three-year starter, Spielman was All-B1G each year, twice an All-American and he put a bow on his career with the 1987 Lombardi Award. 

Uhhh, yep, you're on the list.

The heart and soul of the defense during his run, Spielman registered an astounding 29 tackles in the 1986 version of The Game. 

With all those accolades what probably sums up Spielman for purposes of solidifying his inclusion on this list is when he, as a freshman reserve, paced the sidelines like a madman ordering/begging the coaching staff to put him in the season opener against Oregon. 

After his badgering finally led to playing time, Spielman blitzed and caused a Duck fumble helping turn momentum in what became a 22-14 Buckeye win. Despite coming off the bench Spielman tallied 11 tackles and two sacks in his debut. Boss. 


Winfield might be a surprise to some folks especially if they were too young to witness his exploits on the field but for my money, Antoine is pound-for-pound the baddest Buckeye of them all. 

At 5-foot-9, Winfield became Ohio State's first non-linebacker to lead the team in tackles with 100 (82 solo) in 1997 and also the school's first defensive back to be named team MVP. 

A lockdown corner, Winfield was simply unafraid to take on bigger ball carriers between the tackles or in space. He didn't miss tackles using a textbook shot to the legs, which he followed up by regaining his feet and smiling from ear-to-ear as teammates mobbed him in celebration of another ridiculous play. 

A two-time All-American, Winfield became Ohio State's first Thorpe Award winner in 1998. Man was he fun to watch. 


The only offensive player to make my list, Pace is quite simply the best lineman in the history of college football. 

A starter from day one, Pace churned out three seasons of straight dominance flashing a mean streak between the lines despite a calm and polite demeanor. 

Pace made the "pancake" block famous and according to Ohio State he tallied 80 of those during his final season in Columbus. Maybe not as sexy but every bit as important, Pace was also the best downfield blocker in school history. It wasn't uncommon during the '95 season to see him escorting Eddie George into the endzone after a lengthy run. 

RIP Notre Dude

The first sophomore to capture the Lombardi Award, Pace followed it up by becoming the first two-time winner a year later while also snagging the Outland Trophy and placing 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting. 

His 4th place finish was the best by a lineman since fellow Buckeye John Hicks (RIP) finished as the runner-up to Penn State's John Cappalletti in 1973. (Note: Ohio State placed three of the top six vote getters that year.)

Like Tatum, the B1G's award for the best offensive lineman bears his name along with Dave Rimington. 


The final spot on my list of five was a crap shoot. Though I looked at literally no less than 10 other players, I ended up going with Gradishar. 

Gradishar was the embodiment of what Woody Hayes looked for in a football player. Mean but smart and driven to be great. 

Hayes called Gradishar the best linebacker he ever coached and Ohio State still presents the Randy Gradishar Award to the team's top linebacker. 

A well-rounded defensive wiz, Gradishar started all three years and anchored the '73 defense which is considered to be one the finest in school history thanks to four shutouts and 64 total points allowed. 

Gradishar left Ohio State as the school's all-time leading tackler though he has fallen into the low teens since. 

I think the thing that put Gradishar, a College Football Hall of Famer and Denver Broncos Ring of Fame member, over the top is the fact his left ring finger is all kinds of jacked up from playing the game.

As for honorable mentions, the names I kept going back to include John Simon, Andy Katzenmoyer, Mike Doss, Ryan Shazier, Darron Lee, Joey Bosa, Pepper Johnson, Mike Vrabel and A.J. Hawk. 

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