Buckeye Pipelines puts the spotlight each week on a high school program which has had numerous and notable alumni go on to play for the Scarlet and Gray.
This week, we take a look at a school that has produced 21 Ohio State football players since 1990: Cleveland St. Ignatius.
The first of the Wildcats' 21 Buckeyes was quarterback Joe Pickens, who made the 1990 roster. Ohio State has had 17 players from St. Ignatius players since 2000.
LOCATION: CLEVELAND, OH
2021 RECORD 8–5
5 STRAIGHT STATE TITLES IN THE 1990s
11 STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
MADE PLAYOFFS IN FIVE OF LAST SIX YEARS
1ST-MOST PLAYERS ON OHIO STATE'S ROSTER (21)
2ND-MOST ROSTER APPEARANCES (70)
A football powerhouse in the state of Ohio and nationwide, St. Ignatius’ 11 state championships are the most in OHSAA Division 1 history. The Wildcats have also won four national championships. All of those titles have been under the leadership of head coach Chuck Kyle, who has been St. Ignatius’ head coach since 1983.
All-Ohioan Anthony Gonzalez credits his high school for laying the foundation for his success at Ohio State and beyond.
"St. Ignatius is an enormously challenging academic experience. Any grade that you got in a class at Ignatius is one that you earned. There was no free lunch in that respect,” Gonzalez told Eleven Warriors.
“I always felt like I was very fortunate in that my high school experience and my college experience were very seamless. Or at least it felt that way. And a big part of that was the focus on academics, for sure. But also the expectation that you were going to be competing for championships every single year."
Notable Buckeyes from St. Ignatius
C LeCharles Bentley (1998-2001)
Bentley became the best center in college football at Ohio State, winning the Rimington Trophy and earning All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors. He was also named the Ohio State’s Offensive Lineman of the Year as a sophomore and junior, and was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.
Bentley was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 2002 NFL draft. He was named to two Pro Bowls during his NFL career, which was cut short by a knee injury. Bentley is now the NFL’s Senior Advisor of Player Performance and Development, while he also has his own sports agency (AMDG Sports) and trains offensive linemen at his facility, LB O-Line Performance.
At St. Ignatius, Bentley was a three-year starter and an All-Ohioan.
WR Anthony Gonzalez (2003-06)
Gonzalez excelled on and off the field at Ohio State. He was an All-Big Ten wide receiver on the field while his performance in the classroom earned him Academic All-American honors in 2006.
Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes received many of the accolades during Gonzalez' time with the team, but Gonzalez was also a talented receiver that defenses had to account for. His incredible leaping catch in the 2005 version of The Game enabled the Buckeyes to punch in the winning touchdown with 37 seconds remaining on the clock.
For his Ohio State career as a whole, Gonzalez caught 87 passes for 1,286 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Gonzalez was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the final pick of the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. He spent five years with the Colts, in which he caught 99 passes for 1,307 yards and seven touchdowns.
In high school, Gonzalez was an All-Ohioan and The Plain Dealer's Co-Defensive Player of the Year. He finished his senior season with 71 receptions for 1,873 yards and 21 touchdowns.
DT Dre’Mont Jones (2015-18)
Jones started 37 games for the Buckeyes from 2016-18 and was a consistently disruptive defensive tackle, recording 114 total tackles with 22 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
In 2018, Jones became the first defensive lineman in Ohio State history to score two touchdowns in the same season and earned first-team All-American and All-Big Ten honors.
The Denver Broncos selected Jones in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. In his first three seasons in the NFL, Jones has recorded 86 total tackles with 19 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks.
Jones earned All-Ohio honors at St. Ignatius despite playing only two years of high school football. He had 47 tackles, 21 tackles-for-loss, 4 sacks and 4 forced fumbles as a senior.
|POS||PLAYER||YEARS||OHIO STATE CAREER||HS CAREER|
|QB||JOE PICKENS||1990-91||Was a drop-back passer with roll-out ability, played in three games in 1991 and completed one pass for 34 yards.||Won two state titles and went 27–0 during his last two seasons.|
|OL||JUAN PORTER||1992-96||Three-year starting center and captain of the 1996 team.||All-Ohioan and went 14–0 as a senior.|
|DL||JOHN DAY||1993-97||Was Mike Vrabel's backup for 2 seasons and Matt Finkes’ for one, played in 22 games during his career.||Had 23 sacks and was an honorable mention USA Today All-American.|
|OL||ERIC GOHLSTIN||1994-97||Started 2 years at right tackle and was an All-Big Ten center in 1997.||The Wildcats went 28–0 and won two state titles his junior and senior seasons, was an All-Ohioan and All-American.|
|OT||JIM MASSEY||1997-01||Played in five games for 13 minutes in 1999.||All-Cleveland player who started for two years.|
|C||LeCHARLES BENTLEY||1998-01||2001 Rimington Award winner, All-American, All-Big Ten and team offensive player of the year, OSU offensive lineman of the year in 1999 and 2000.||All-Ohioan.|
|OT||JOHN McLAUGHLIN||2001-04||Walk-on who was a 2x Academic All-Big Ten (2002, 2004) honoree.||Only played as a senior and started at tackle and guard on a state championship team.|
|OG||MIKE BOGART||2002||No career stats.|
|OL||MIKE KNE||2002-04||Started his career at Fordham, transferred to Ohio State in 2001 and saw extensive playing time from 2002-04.||Played defense for three seasons before becoming a starter on the offensive line, won a state title as a senior.|
|OL||JOHN CONROY||2002-05||2002 Academic All-Big Ten, walked on in 2002 to follow in his dad footsteps, saw his first game action in 2004 on the FG unit.||Played for two seasons and started at tackle, also was a four-year letterman in lacrosse.|
|WR||ANTHONY GONZALEZ||2003-06||All-Big Ten wide receiver and 4x Academic All-Big Ten.||All-Ohioan and The Plain Dealer's Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.|
|LB||JOHN KERR||2004-06||Played for Indiana in 2002, transferred to OSU in 2003, recorded 40 tackles and 1.5 TFL with the Buckeyes.||2x All-Ohioan won two state titles (sophomore/senior) and was the Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.|
|FB||RYAN FRANZINGER||2004-06||Had one carry for four yards against Illinois in 2005.||All-District at FB/LB as a senior, won state championship in 1999 and 2001, won state title in the shot put as a junior.|
|LB||SCOTT McVEY||2010||Medically retired in 2012 due to shoulder injuries.||All-Ohioan as a junior and senior, Plain Dealer Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.|
|DB||NIK SARAC||2011-14||Walk-on defensive back who turned down a scholarship offer in 2014 so another player could receive one.||Played three years for St. Ignatius, lettered three years in track, has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.|
|TE||BLAKE THOMAS||2012||Medically retired in 2013 due to neck injury.||49 catches for 506 yards and eight touchdowns during his final two years of HS football.|
|LB||KYLE BERGER||2014-15||Had multiple knee injuries and left the team after the 2015 season with a medical hardship waiver.||Did not play his senior season due to a knee injury, considered one of the top defensive players in Ohio as a junior.|
|OL||KEVIN WOIDKE||2015-18||Walked-on in 2015, 2017 Academic All-Big Ten.||Played four years with the Wildcats,|
|DL||DRE'MONT JONES||2015-18||2018 All-American and All-Big Ten, started 37 of the 39 games he played in.||All-Ohioan who only played for two seasons of high school football.|
|OL||JACK JAMIESON||2019-21||Started career as a walk-on in 2018, made the roster in 2019, played 4 snaps in 2020, 2x Academic All-Big Ten.||Was a three-year captain and starter for St. Ignatius, played on the offensive and defensive lines, 2x All-Northeast Lakes District teams.|
|LB||TOMMY EICHENBERG||2019-Present||17 tackles in the Rose Bowl is an Ohio State best, was second on the team with 64 stops in 2021, also had an INT and fumble recovery last year.||All-Ohioan his senior season, led St. Ignatius with 81 tackles his junior year; was 8th in the shot put in 2018.|
More about St. Ignatius
The all-boys’ high school was established in 1886 and was a six-year secondary school. Beginning in 1902, St. Ignatius became a four-year high school and college. The college ultimately became John Carroll University in 1923 and moved to University Heights in the 1930s.
The Wildcats compete as an independent program in Division 1, Region 1. Ignatius was 6–4 in the regular season last year and qualified for the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years. St. Ignatius defeated Mentor and Stow-Munroe Falls before falling to Medina in the regional semifinals.
With 11 state championships in football between 1988 and 2011, St. Ignatius has the most titles in Ohio history. The program won five straight state titles from 1991-1995, which is also an OHSAA record.
Across all sports, St. Ignatius holds 42 OHSAA-sponsored state championships. Football and soccer have a combined 22 titles. Hockey has won seven championships. The baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, track and wrestling teams have also won OHSAA titles. Including rugby and volleyball, the school has won 49 total state championships.
Gonzalez credits the competitive nature of his alma mater for laying the groundwork for his success.
"If you weren’t willing to put in the time to compete, you were going to struggle,” Gonzalez said. “And I think that’s a metaphor not just for academics, but for professional life as well. And so, that preparation is something that has stuck with me. Not just academically, but now professionally and every facet of my life."
The Wildcats’ longtime leader
Chuck Kyle began his football tenure with the Wildcats as an assistant coach in the fall of 1972. In 1983, Kyle took over the reigns of the Ignatius football program. It didn't take long for the all-boys’ prep school to achieve success on the gridiron.
Between 1988 and 1995, the Wildcats won seven Division I state championships, with 1990 being the only season in that stretch without a title. Kyle's squads also won state titles in 1999, 2001, 2008 and 2011. The program was named national champions four times between 1989 and 2008.
Entering the 2022 season, which will be Kyle's last season on the sidelines, he has won 353 regular season games and has a 72-18 playoff record.
Gonzalez said his life has been greatly impacted by the legendary coach, who also coaches track and field at St. Ignatius.
"Coach Kyle, not just for me, but for most of my brothers and my family has always been such an inspiring person,” Gonzalez said. “Such a fundamentally decent human being. I’m so honored to have played for him.
“I can still hear some of his pregame talks and some of his speeches during practice to try to get guys motivated and keep us focused. Beyond that, Coach Kyle was about the total person. Not just building your physical or athletic capabilities, but also making sure that academically you were focused and also spiritually.
“So I always consider myself enormously fortunate to have spent a few years, both on the football field and on the track, with coach Kyle.”
Other famous alumni
In addition to the 21 Wildcats who have gone on to play football at Ohio State, there are many other alumni from St. Ignatius who have achieved success in the sports world and elsewhere, including:
- NFL players Jacob Bell, Brian Dowling (inspiration for B.D. in Doonesbury), Liam Eichenberg, Dan Fox, Chris Hovan, Brian Hoyer, Oliver Luck (Andrew Luck's dad), Scott Mutryn, Dave Ragone and Jake Ryan
- MLB players Mike Buddie, Derek Dietrich, Luke Farrell (not the former Ohio State tight end), Mike Hegan (TV and radio announcer for the Indians), Matt Kata, Nick Margevicius and Garry Roggenburk
- Guardians owner Larry Dolan, Guardians fan John "The Drummer" Adams, Colorado Rockies TV and radio announcer Jack Corrigan
- MLS players Justin Morrow and Barry Rice
- Actors Rory O'Malley and Jack Riley, comedian Dave Hill
Why are Buckeyes prior to 1970 and some walk-on players not highlighted or included in the rankings? Ohio State's official rosters listed the hometown of players, but did not provide their high school on the roster before 1970. The official rosters released at the start of each season were used, due to this, some walk-on players may not be listed as they were not on the season opening official rosters.