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What it Means to be a Buckeye
Urban Meyer and Ohio State's Greatest Players
By Jeff Snook
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Jeff Snook
All rights reserved.
As I look back almost 70 years, I am proud to say that I played foot- ball at Ohio State during a time when two of our greatest traditions were created — the "Gold Pants Club" and "Script Ohio."
I arrived in Columbus from tiny Navarre, Ohio — a little place near Massillon — and nobody knew anything about me. I had listened to Ohio State football on the radio and had heard of all the big names, and it wasn't too long after I enrolled in college and walked on to the team that I was scrimmaging against those big names.
I remember I got into the Tower Club in the stadium and lived there, paying $12 a month for room and board. I always came in late for dinner and got to know the cook pretty well, and she let me eat at about 7:00 every night after practice. The food was pretty good, because I went from 175 pounds up to 218 pretty fast.
It was a great thrill to be at Ohio State. There were something like 60 or 70 players on the freshman team, and about 50 of them were handpicked by the coaches. We would practice in that big field south of the open end of the stadium. I played tackle for my first two years and later switched to end, and of course, we had to go both ways in those days.
As a freshman, one of my jobs was to clean out the stadium after a game. I remember sweeping up after one game with a teammate, Charlie Maag, and he told me, "They promised me the stadium when I came here, but they never told me I would have to clean it!"
But we didn't have scholarships then; we had to work at different jobs to make a few dollars.
Francis Schmidt was a great offensive coach, and he would hold three-hour practices. For the first two hours and 30 minutes, we would practice offense and then save a little time for the defense. I guess he just figured defense would come naturally. He was real profane, though. He spent a lot of time screaming and cussing at the referees. But the reason he had been hired is because OSU was losing to Michigan all those years earlier. People were tired of losing to Michigan.
As the legend goes, when he was hired, he said, "Michigan puts their pants on one leg at a time same as everybody else." That is what he did say. Simon Lazarus, the president of Lazarus' store, and Herb Levy, president of the Union Company, were big, big football fans. They put their heads together and came up with the "Gold Pants Club." They created this charm made of gold that would be given to every letterman who played on a team that beat Michigan.
I am proud to say that I earned three pairs — during the first three years they were given away. Today, my wife still wears a pair on a necklace.
Not only did we never lose to Michigan, but they never scored a point on us from 1934 to '37. We beat them 34–0, 38–0, 21–0, and 21–0. In that final Michigan game, I remember tackling their punter in the end zone for two points on a cold, cold day in Ann Arbor.
It was a big thing then, but now those gold pants have become really big. I get calls every once in a while that somebody wants to buy a pair. I don't even ask how much, because why would I ever want to sell a pair of them? They mean too much to me.
The biggest game we ever played in was the 1935 Notre Dame game at Ohio Stadium. It was called "the Protestants against the Catholics," and I happened to be one of the few Catholics playing for Ohio State. I think there were 90,000 fans there that day, and we jumped to a 13–0 lead at the half. But Francis Schmidt had taken out a few key players early in the fourth quarter, and the substitution rule then meant they couldn't come back in for the remainder of the quarter. In the end, they threw a touchdown pass on the final play to beat us 18–13.
That pass was from Shakespeare to Milner, and the saying went that a Protestant boy threw a pass to a Jewish boy to lead the Irish over the Buckeyes. That was the only loss we had, and it cost us the national championship. Let me tell you that we hated like hell to lose that game.
That also was the year we played the University of Chicago and Jay Berwanger, who was just a great, great player. We beat them 20–13, but Berwanger won the first-ever Heisman Trophy that year.
The next year, 1936, was when the band developed "Script Ohio," but being in the locker room, we never got to see it. I have enjoyed it ever since, however.
This was during the Depression, and nobody had any money. A ticket to the game cost $3.50, and a program was a quarter. When I was a sophomore, we had our training table at Jim Rhodes' restaurant. Jim later became governor of Ohio, but he was a big Ohio State fan before that. Before games, we would bus out to the Columbus Country Club, have a big dinner, and stay in those dorms upstairs. We would watch some film of our opponent and then go to bed.
As a sophomore, I joined the Betas and ended up living in the fraternity house on 15th Avenue the next two years. Funny thing was that Francis Schmidt's house was close by, but he had a reputation for being such a lousy driver that nobody wanted to ride home with him. We would rather walk and get there safely.
Which reminds me, Esco Sarkkinen was in my fraternity. He was my backup when I was a senior. Later on we got to be good friends, and Esco coached all those years under Woody Hayes. He must have had 20 pairs of gold pants.
The strangest thing happened to me later when I played with the Iowa Seahawks in 1942. I was in the service, and Ohio State was on their schedule. Here I was, playing my alma mater — now that was awful strange for me. Still, it was a thrill to go back to Columbus and play them, but I remember they wouldn't let me in the Ohio State locker room. That '42 team was a great one — they lost only one game and won the national championship. Anyway, they whipped us pretty badly that day [41–12]. I remember one of our linebackers would look at me and say, "Who ran by me that time?" That Ohio State team wasn't big, but, boy, were they ever fast.
I don't know if anybody else ever played for Ohio State for a career and then played against them, too. I do know one thing: I've always been proud to say that I played football with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
During Charlie Ream's four seasons, the Buckeyes had a 25–7 record and never allowed a point to Michigan. He died in 2010.
In 1937, I qualified in four events (discus, shot put, low hurdles, and high hurdles) for Willard High School to go to the state track meet in Columbus. I won the low hurdles, and a big, burly guy came up and put his arm around me. It was Francis Schmidt. "Jim, congratulations on your win. I would like you to come to Ohio State University to play football for me, my staff, the university, and for the whole state of Ohio," he said.
That one line was a thrill that I never forgot.
We had some great times and great wins, and I remember one of the funniest things that ever happened at an Ohio State football game, a few years before I played. Stan Pincura was the Buckeyes' quarterback, and he was a great cutup, a big jokester. Back in those days, they would shoot off a gun at the end of each quarter. This one time, he was running in from the sideline, and the official shot off the gun. Stan grabbed his heart, twirled around a few times, and fell to the ground. The crowd was stunned. They thought he had been shot. Tucker Smith, the trainer, and his aides ran out onto the field. "Are you okay?" Tucker said, standing over him. "I am okay," Stan answered, "but how's the crowd taking it?"
When we played Southern California in Columbus in 1938, they beat us 14–7. The winning touchdown came when we punted, and Glen Lansdale returned the punt 70 yards up the right sideline. Ross Bartschy had got trapped inside and didn't stay to the outside as he was supposed to. The next week, Bartschy was dropped to second team for the game at Northwestern. When the game started, the coach was sitting on the end of the bench as he always did. Bartschy saw to it that he would sit next to the coach. Throughout the game, he kept jabbing the coach in the ribs and asking him to put him in the game. He spent the whole game finding fault with his replacement. Finally, in the third quarter, the coach got up and went to the other end of the bench. A few minutes later, he got up and walked back to Bartschy. "Bartschy," he said, "I am coach of this team. You go down to the other end of this bench!"
That 1938 team won only four games, but we won six the next year to win the Big Ten championship. After Michigan's Tom Harmon had won the Heisman Trophy in 1940, he told me, "Jim, I would be happy to give up the Heisman Trophy for what you got at OSU. You played on a Big Ten championship team  and you were elected captain."
Nothing surpassed being named captain of that 1940 team. It's really the greatest honor a guy can have. As the years went by, I sort of became obsessed with the idea of being a captain. I figured that from 1890 through 2002, Ohio State has had 215 captains, and I am proud to say that I was one of them.
By the way, Francis Schmidt is the only Ohio State coach to shut out Michigan four years in a row: 1934 [the last time it wasn't played as the season's final game], '35, '36, and '37.
The greatest player I ever played with at Ohio State was Don Scott. He was from Canton McKinley and was our quarterback. He was about 6'4" and 220 pounds. He could pass, run, and kick ... just a great athlete and a great guy. Sadly, a pilot, Don was killed in World War II.
One of the games I remember most was in 1939, when we beat Minnesota 23–20. I broke loose for an 80-yard run for a touchdown, but the official called it back for backfield in motion. He threw the flag when I was about five yards downfield. The films later showed that no one was in motion. (Ironically, in 1949, I began my officiating career at the high school level and later moved on to the college level until retiring in 1974. I have some great stories from officiating, such as the time at the Sugar Bowl when a big tackle for Notre Dame lost his false eye. We called timeout and started searching the field and finally found it. I asked him, "What would you do if something happens to your good eye." He replied, "I would become a football official!" I have to admit, that was a good one.)
Anyway, having graduated from and played at Ohio State, and having been a captain, I've always supported OSU — win or lose — and that's what a true Buckeye is all about.
James Langhurst was named MVP of the 1938 team. He died in 2008.CHAPTER 2
Cecil "CY" Souders
In 1938 I had planned to go down to LSU and play football there, until Ohio State assistant coach Ernie Godfrey came to Bucyrus and I told him what my plans were. Well, Ernie went to my high school principal and did his research and discovered that I had a steady girlfriend, Jean Hoover, who was a cheerleader.
So what did Ernie do? He visited one of Jean's classes and told her that if I went to LSU, those Southern girls wouldn't let me come back up North. "Not my guy," she told him. But then she told me, "You had better look into Ohio State." Plus, my parents were happy about that. She and Ernie won out, and I decided to head to Columbus.
I met Francis Schmidt, the head coach, and we headed to lunch driving his Caddy on the wrong side of the street, down Neil Avenue with streetcars going full blast. Ernie told him to slow down and watch where he was driving. I thought we were going to have a bad crash before I became a Buckeye. Schmidt was a rough, old cob. He was a wild man, a wild driver, and a wild talker. Every other word out of his mouth was a cuss word.
But I had made my decision. Sorry, LSU. I began my football career at Ohio State in the fall of 1939. They told me they would get me a job there, and it was sweeping the stadium. On Saturdays after games, I had to sweep up all the peanut shells, but I always found a few coins to keep me going.
My freshman year, I was on the taxi squad coached by Ernie, and our job was to go against the varsity offense. One day, I stopped about six straight plays, and Francis Schmidt stopped practice and yelled, "Who in the hell is that kid? Get him the hell out of here right now!"
Later during that fall, Jean and I decided to run off to Kentucky to get married, and we didn't return to school for three years. By that time, we had a young daughter, Sharon. I got back in 1942, and Paul Brown was the head coach. I think Paul was very similar to Jim Tressel — he was strict and a very mature man. He ran a tight ship.
That group in 1942 was a great group of boys. They were all first-class types of people, and school was the major thing for all of us. I played behind Bob Shaw that year, but I played in every game. We lost only one game, at Wisconsin, when everybody got sick. At the time, we thought we got sick from the water at the hotel, but I had read years later they discovered it was from the water on the train ride up there. They said they forgot to change the water, and it became stagnant. Well, I don't know of anybody on that team who didn't get sick that day.
That was our only loss, and as everybody knows, the '42 team became Ohio State's first national champion. Paul Brown left after the '43 season.
I played the first three games of the '44 season, and I reported to the Navy right after the Wisconsin game. It was then that I played for Paul Brown's Great Lakes team. Ironically, in the first game for Great Lakes, we went up against Wisconsin — a week after Ohio State had beaten them in Columbus. This tackle for Wisconsin asked me, "Do you have a twin brother who plays for OSU? You look just like this guy I played against last week in Columbus."
When I got out of the Navy, I was drafted by the Washington Redskins, but I wanted to come back to Ohio State to play one more season. I had a good year in 1946, and I am sure glad I did. The down part of that was that Michigan ran right over us [58–6] that year, but I ended my career with two pairs of gold pants.
I also remember playing the Chicago Bears in the All-Star Game in front of 105,000 at Soldier Field.
Being inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame was a tremendous honor for me and for my family. To me, it was already a great honor just playing football at Ohio State. I was from the little town of Bucyrus and didn't know much about college football. You just work your way along and do the best you can do.
Well, Jean and I celebrated our 63rd anniversary when Ohio State won the national championship, and the whole family was in Phoenix to see it. We'll always be Buckeyes.
Cecil "Cy" Souders, the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player in 1946, was inducted into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.
The first time I headed to Ohio State, I took a bus from my hometown of Fremont. It was the fall of 1943, and I rode the bus all the way to downtown Columbus, not realizing it could have dropped me off near campus. So then I had to find my way back. ... I was just a young kid lost in the big city. I was kind of homesick right from the start, and my uncle was very sick once I got there. He passed away a short time later, so I returned home. I was only 17, and I wasn't turning 18 until that October. The team was a bunch of kids that year; the season after that they won the national championship, because everybody else was in the war.
Bill Willis was playing and so was Gordon Appleby, but the rest of us were just kids. We weren't old enough to be drafted yet.
We had 33 guys on that '43 team, and I got to play a little bit, but most of the starters played both ways in those days. I remember hitting Elroy Hirsch once that season, and he bounced off of me and just kept going. I think he may have been the greatest player I ever saw.
The next year, I enlisted and headed overseas.
Excerpted from What it Means to be a Buckeye by Jeff Snook. Copyright © 2012 Jeff Snook. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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