Dan Dierdorf grew up in Canton, Ohio, watched the Pro Football Hall of Fame built on its present site and was a football star at Glenwood High School — now called GlenOak. So it’s only logical that he would attend Ohio State and go on to star there.
Except he didn’t.
Worse, he went to the University of Michigan, Ohio State’s arch rival, and don’t blame him. If you’re going to blame anyone, choose the guy who failed to recruit Dierdorf.
“Actually, I was recruited by Don James, who ended up being the head coach at Washington (and was) a tremendous football coach,” Dierdorf said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “He was the defensive backfield coach, and he was from Massillon, Ohio, which is right next to my hometown of Canton. And he really worked it.
“Secondly, I have a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. Woody Hayes did not offer me a scholarship to Ohio State. So don’t blame me. It wasn’t even a question of me saying, ‘No,’ to Ohio State. They said, ‘No,’ to me.”
So let’s say Hayes did have an interest. Let’s say he did recruit Dierdorf. Then what?
“It certainly would’ve made it interesting,” Dierdorf said. “My high-school football coach played at Ohio State for Woody. Woody spoke at my senior football banquet. So it’s not like he didn’t know who I was or something like that. I guess he thought he had plenty of offensive and defensive line talent.
“It would’ve made it hard. But where I lived in northern Ohio … in Canton … it’s a two-hour drive to Columbus, and it’s only a three-hour drive to Ann Arbor. When I was at Michigan a full 50 percent of our roster was from the state of Ohio. It was certainly nothing unusual to go to Michigan if you were from the state of Ohio.”
It didn’t take Hayes long to find out he committed a mistake. Dierdorf was a two-time All-American who became a Hall-of-Fame offensive tackle for the St. Louis Cardinals. But he never had the chance to make a choice of schools and had no trouble calling out Ohio State when our Ohio State guests — Ryan Shazier and Paul Warfield — last month jokingly had trouble bringing themselves to mention Michigan by name.
“Well,” laughed Dierdorf, a Hall-of-Fame inductee as a broadcaster, too, “the reason they don’t say Michigan is they can’t even spell it. That’s the biggest difference between Ohio State and Michigan.”