We're counting down the days to kickoff with “99 Warriors,” the greatest Ohio State Buckeyes by jersey number, as voted by the staff of Eleven Warriors.
No. 53 Randy Gradishar
As part of one of the final classes to be forced to sit out varsity football as a freshman, Randy Gradishar made the most of his final three years as a Buckeye.
LB Randy Gradishar
b. March 3, 1952 (Warren, OH)
- First Team All-American (1972, 1973)
- First Team All-Big Ten (1971, 1972, 1973)
- Academic All-American (1973)
- College Football Hall of Fame Inductee (1998)
- Big Ten Co-Champion (1972, 1973)
The Warren, Ohio native started every year he was eligible to play varsity football and made a name for himself immediately, being named a first team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore in 1971, collecting 84 tackles in his first year as a starter as the Buckeyes limped to a 6-4 record in which they lost their final three games.
The following season brought with it much more success for the Buckeyes and for Gradishar, who tallied 102 tackles from his linebacker position. Ohio State finished the regular season 9-1 and shared the Big Ten title with Michigan. The Buckeyes were sent to the Rose Bowl that year after beating the Wolverines in Columbus, but were handled by No. 1 USC, 42-17. For his efforts, Gradishar earned first team All-America honors. The loss to the Trojans would be the last time he would taste defeat as a Buckeye.
In 1973, Gradishar collected a team-high 134 tackles as the Buckeyes finished with a 10-0-1 record. That season saw Ohio State get revenge on USC in the Rose Bowl, 42-21, following a controversial decision that sent the Buckeyes to Pasadena, Calif. instead of the Wolverines following a 10-10 tie in Ann Arbor. Once again, Gradishar was named a first team All-American and finished sixth in the Heisman voting as one of three Buckeyes to finish in the top-six (John Hicks finished second, Archie Griffin finished fifth). He went on to become the No. 14 overall pick by the Denver Broncos in the 1974 NFL Draft, which kicked off another successful string of seasons. At the time of his departure from Columbus, his 320 career tackles were the most in school history. That total now ranks 12th in program history.
Gradishar spent his entire NFL career with the Broncos, playing 10 seasons with a great deal of success. He was named a Pro Bowler seven times and in 1978, was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Gradishar appeared in Super Bowl XII, ultimately losing 27-10 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Since his retirement in 1983, Gradishar has been named to the OSU Varsity "O" Athletics Hall of Fame, the Denver Broncos Ring of Honor and in 1998, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame as the first Buckeye linebacker to be inducted.
Photo: Ohio State Dept. of Athletics