99 Warriors: No. 22, Ohio State's First Heisman Trophy Winner and National Champion Les Horvath

By Kevin Harrish on August 10, 2018 at 8:05 am
No. 22 Les Horvath.

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. 22 Les Horvath

Ohio State has a long line of Heisman Trophy winners, tied for the most of any school with seven, but it all started with Les Horvath.

HB/QB Les Horvath

1940-42, 44
b. Oct. 2, 1921 (South Bend, IN)
d. Nov 14, 1995 (Glendale, CA)

  • National Champion (1942)
  • Unanimous All-American (1944)
  • Sporting News Player of the Year (1944)
  • Big Ten MVP (1944)
  • Heisman Trophy (1944)
  • Number Retired

Horvath was not a large guy, standing at just 5-10 and weighing about 170 lbs., but that didn't stop him from becoming one of the most dynamic and dominating players in college football history.

After playing sparingly during the 1941 season, Paul Brown's first at Ohio State, serving a reserve role behind senior fullback Jack Graf and senior halfback Tom Kinkade.

In 1942, Horvath played a much more regular role in the offense and helped the Buckeyes to a 9-1 record and their first-ever national championship.

The 1942 season was supposed to be Horvath's last, as he'd exhausted his eligibility and enrolled in dental school at Ohio State in 1943. However, due to player shortages as a result of World War II, the NCAA passed a rule allowing freshmen, as well as players who had previously been ineligible as freshmen, to play, thus giving Horvath an extra year of eligibility – and he made the most of it.

Horvath did everything for the Buckeyes during the 1944 season – running, passing, kicking, blocking and tackling – and even called his own plays, earning him the nickname "Playing Coach." That season, he led the Big Ten in rushing and total offense and led the Buckeyes to a perfect 9-0 record and a No. 2 final ranking in the polls.

After the tremendous season, Horvath was named a unanimous All-American, the Big Ten MVP, the Sporting News Player of the Year, and of course, the 1944 Heisman Trophy, remaining the only player in history to win the award without playing the previous year.

Following his career at Ohio State, Horvath joined the Navy before playing professionally for the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns. He retired after the AAFC disbanded and moved to California to practice dentistry. He died 1995 of heart failure.

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