The Talk of Fame Network continues its six-week pre-draft visits to the most productive college programs in America with an examination of Ohio State and its reputation as one of the great sources for NFL linebackers.
Our resident Dr. Data, co-host Rick Gosselin, outlines the Buckeyes’ long history of NFL linebackers and joins fellow hosts Clark Judge and Ron Borges for a conversation with the latest, Pittsburgh Steelers’ fleet-footed linebacker Ryan Shazier.
A former first-team All-America and All-Big 10 selection, Shazier used his incredible speed to overcome a relative lack of size to become a Pro Bowl selection this year and hopes to be someone who changes the game.
“I want to be the Kevin Garnett of football,” Shazier said. “He changed the game for bigs by being more of a shooter. I’m not the biggest linebacker…but I want to be remembered as someone who changed the game. I want to be a name that’s remembered forever. I want to be in the Hall of Fame.’’
Ohio State has produced much more than NFL linebackers, and that includes someone who became what Shazier aspires to. Paul Warfield was part of an incredible Ohio State backfield under Woody Hayes that included All-America Bob Ferguson and future New York Jets’ and Super Bowl star Matt Snell.
Bbut that was not where he would make his mark in the NFL.
Warfield was transformed from a running back into an eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver after he became one of the 77 first-round picks produced by Ohio State. The Cleveland Browns took him with their first pick in 1964 and immediately began the transformation of Warfield into a receiver who would retire 13 years later averaging 20.1 yards per catch for his career.
He averaged over 20 yards a catch for seven straight years in first Cleveland and then on Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins teams that won two Super Bowls and went 17-0 in 1972.
Warfield recalled reading a Sports Illustrated article calling the Dolphins the worst teams in the AFL. Several months later the Browns traded him there.
“I didn’t want to read about them,’’ Warfield recalled. “Now I get a call (that he’d been traded there) and the first thing that popped into my mind was that article. I was quite astonished by that.’’
He was also quite astonishing in his ability to get open deep, something Shula immediately used to help build the Dolphins into one of the great teams of the 1970s. But it all started for Warfield under another legendary coach, Ohio State’s Woody Hayes.
Hayes was known for running a “three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust’’ offense that had little use for the pass and for being a hard-nosed coach with an unpleasant outward demeanor. But the Hayes Warfield knew was far different.
“Coach Hayes was a great teacher of fundamentals in football,’’ Warfield recalled. “And he was a humanist. He was very concerned with values of country and society.’’
With free agency in full bloom, the Talk of Fame Network guys also delve into the early winners and losers and discuss with Hall-of-Fame voter Mark Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer what on earth the Browns are doing with their football version of “Moneyball’’ team construction.
There’s all that and much more and you can hear it all on our weekly two-hour radio show. It’s available on SB Nation radio’s network of over 80 stations, online at talkoffamenetwork.com or you can download the free podcast at iTunes or the radio app at TuneIn. Hope to find you there.