Welcome to “That Happened” where we dig deep into the who, why, and how of outliers in Ohio State athletics history.
Before Ted Ginn Jr. ever arrived in Columbus, he was a star. The former five-star recruit, with the second-highest rating in his class, was an Army All-American and showed Buckeye fans a preview of what was to come.
A Cleveland native, Ginn committed to Ohio State that same day, giving the Buckeyes their highest recruit of all time.
After winning a National Championship to conclude the 2002 season, the Buckeyes were once again one of the top teams in the country, winning the 2004 Fiesta Bowl. Following coach Jim Tressel's philosophy, Ohio State was one of the most conservative teams in the nation, relying on their otherworldly defense and safe offense to win games.
Adding Ted Ginn Jr. to the roster gave Tressel a new toy, immediately became the best athlete in the stadium in nearly every game he played. Even though he was not ready for a major role in the offense as a freshman, he found a way to consistently contribute on special teams.
It took four games to get his first punt return. It came against Northwestern, a contest Ohio State lost in overtime. His first career return went for 12 yards.
The next week, in a match against Wisconsin, he took his second career punt return 65-yards to the house.
Despite electrifying the Horseshoe, Ginn's punt return touchdown was Ohio State's only touchdown of the game. The Bucks received their second-consecutive loss.
Three weeks later against Penn State, No. 7 reached the end-zone for a second time. This time, it was a 71-yard return to open the scoring for the Buckeyes. The following week, Ginn did it again, scoring a third first-quarter touchdown.
In his first game against Michigan, Ted Ginn made sure everyone knew his name. Up six in the third quarter, Ginn's 82-yard return put the game out of reach for the seventh-ranked Wolverines.
Additionally, he put up the best receiving game of his young career, recording five receptions for 87 yards to go with his 123 return yards.
Altogether, Ginn finished his 2004 season with 384 return yards, four touchdowns, an Ohio State record, on 15 returns, good for an average of 25.6 yards per return. His freshman year average is easily the best in program history, dethroning Larry Zelina's 1969 season and his average of 18.7.
Ginn was always an outlier on special teams and the 2004 season was the best of his career. The Cleveland native also holds the Ohio State record for most kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns in a career (two kickoffs, six punts), and his six punt return touchdowns in his career place him at eighth in FBS history. He is second in program history in career punt return average at 14.1 yards per attempt.
Possessing a game-breaker like Ginn helped Ohio State take the next step in future seasons. With quarterback Troy Smith under center, the Buckeyes went 10-2 and 12-1 in 2005 and 2006, earning a place to the BCS National Championship game in Ginn's junior year.