Rapp Around: Byars, Ward, Otis Need To Make Hall

By Jeff Rapp, June 11th, 2018

There are 25 former Ohio State football players in the College Football Hall of Fame – and it doesn’t seem like enough.

After all, Michigan and USC have more in the Hall (see chart below) and Notre Dame has a whopping 46. Granted, we are talking about the long and storied history of Notre Dame football here, but still.

After watching OSU churn out standout players, All-Americans and draft picks during the Earle Bruce, John Cooper, Jim Tressel and now Urban Meyer eras – and then combining the hallowed names of OSU greats from generations earlier – it doesn’t seem like a stretch at all that there be at least three dozen Buckeyes enshrined as all-time greats.

This year, there are three Buckeyes are among the 76 former players on the official Football Bowl Subdivision ballot in running back Keith Byars, fullback Jim Otis and offensive tackle Chris Ward. All of them are more than worthy to join the likes of Eddie George, Vic Janowicz and Jim Parker in the College Hall of Fame, which has support from the National Football Foundation.

Byars, for example, already should be in. The Dayton Roth product was an absolute specimen at Ohio State and easily could have won the 1984 Heisman Trophy. He ended up the runner-up as diminutive Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie seemed to capture America’s hearts, especially when he burned Miami (Fla.) with an epic Hail Mary pass on national television.

All the hulking Byars did that year was smash the then-school rushing record with 1,764 yards, set a record for seasonal all-purpose yards (2,441) that still stands and rack up 144 points. All of those marks led the entire nation. Even though he experienced an injury-shortened senior season in 1985, he still racked up 3,200 rushing yards (eighth in school history), 4,369 all-purpose yards (sixth) and 50 touchdowns scored (second).

Although the committee allegedly doesn’t take professional achievement into account, it also has to be noted that Byars became an unstoppable force in the NFL by catching passes out of the backfield. In fact, it could be argued that he and Larry Centers should be credited with changing the attacks of offenses all across the league because of their productivity as receiving backs.

Byars certainly hinted at that capability at OSU. In fact, along with his amazing five-TD, shoe-losing performance in the comeback win over Illinois, I also can picture him running, catching and throwing (he was left-handed with huge mitts) for a score in an important win over Iowa.

The guy was a monster talent and one that baffled defenses. He’s an all-time running back at OSU and it’s time to punch his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Similarly, Otis was the quintessential masher during the Woody Hayes era and helped the Super Sophs to the 1968 national championship. The Celina, Ohio, product was a consensus All-American on that team, arguably the best in school history and one of the best to grace the college game.

Otis, who also had a noteworthy NFL career, is one of only four Buckeyes to lead the team in rushing for three seasons. He ranks 16th at Ohio State in rushing with 2,542 career yards.

Like Byars, he is remembered for performing best in big games. In the famous 50-14 rout of rival Michigan in ’68, for example, he powered in for four TDs.

Ward played and dominated at the end of Woody’s tenure and was the complete package – tall and sturdy but brutishly athletic. In short, he was a sight to behold on the football field, and even though the Buckeyes were beginning to come down a peg after the Archie Griffin days, he was a superstar trenchman.

Ward, who hails from Dayton, helped Ohio State win four consecutive Big Ten Conference championships and was a two-time All-American, including consensus honors in 1976 and unanimous honors in 1977. He was named first-team All-Big Ten Conference three times, beginning in 1975, when he helped Griffin win his unprecedented second Heisman.

Granted, it is not at all easy to make the College Hall of Fame. The list of candidates is flooded with familiar names and reminders of great players and great eras of the past. But Byars, Otis and Ward deserve to receive heavy consideration from the 12,000 NFF members and current Hall of Famers.

Griffin, by the way, chairs the FBS Honors Court as an NFF Board member and always has spoken very highly of the three OSU candidates. Former OSU linebacker Tom Cousineau made the Hall’s 2016 class. The other most recent OSU inductees are familiar names as well: Orlando Pace (2014) and Eddie George (2012).

Criteria for Hall of Fame consideration includes, first and foremost, first-team All-America recognition by a selector organization that is recognized by the NCAA and utilized to comprise its consensus All-America teams (Associated Press, Walter Camp, AFCA, FWAA and The Sporting News). While football achievements in college are of prime consideration, posts-football record as a citizen is also weighed.

The announcement of the 2019 Class will be made Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Ohio State Buckeyes (25) in the College Football Hall of Fame

Player         Position    At OSU……. Inducted
Chic Harley Halfback 1916-17, 19….. 1951
G. Stinchcomb Halfback 1917-20…….. 1973
Wes Fesler End 1928-30…….. 1954
Gomer Jones Center 1934-35…….. 1978
Gust Zarnas Guard 1935-37…….. 1975
Bill Willis Tackle 1942-44…….. 1971
Les Horvath Quarterback 1940-42, 44.. 1969
Warren Amling Guard/Tackle 1944-46…….. 1984
Jim Daniel Tackle 1939-41…….. 1977
Vic Janowicz Halfback 1949-51…….. 1976
H. Cassady Halfback 1952-55…….. 1979
Jim Parker Guard 1954-56…….. 1974
A. Thomas Guard 1955-57…….. 1989
Archie Griffin Tailback 1972-75…….. 1986
Jim Stillwagon Middle Guard 1968-70…….. 1991
Bob Ferguson Fullback 1959-61…….. 1996
Randy Gradishar Linebacker 1971-73…………1998
John Hicks Tackle 1970, ’72-73. 2001
Jack Tatum Def. Back 1968-70…….. 2004
Jim Houston End 1957-58…….. 2005
Rex Kern Quarterback 1968-70…….. 2007
Chris Spielman Linebacker 1984-87…….. 2009
Eddie George Running Back 1992-95…….. 2012
Orlando Pace Left Tackle 1994-96…….. 2014
Tom Cousineau Linebacker 1975-78…….. 2016

Most Players in the College Football Hall of Fame (FBS Schools)
46 – Notre Dame
31 – USC
30 – Michigan
25 – Ohio State
22 – Army
21 – Oklahoma
19 – Pittsburgh
18 – Minnesota
18 – Navy
18 – Alabama

Most Inductees This Century (2000-18)
11 – USC
9 – Notre Dame
9 – Texas
8 – Ohio State
8 – Oklahoma
8 – Michigan
6 – Nebraska
6 – Alabama
5 – Pittsburgh
5 – Penn State
5 – Florida
5 – Georgia