Pace Embraces Change, Supports Fickell

Orlando Pace may no longer be playing football, but he still follows his college team. The two-time Lombardi Trophy winner recently spoke to BSB about his induction into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame and gave his thoughts on former teammate and new OSU football coach Luke Fickell.

For the first time since 1997, former Ohio State football great Orlando Pace was not on an NFL sideline when the 2011 kicked off this past weekend.

Instead, Pace was in Columbus last weekend along with 10 other Ohio State honorees as part of the university's Athletics Hall of Fame weekend festivities. Arguably the greatest collegiate lineman of all time has put football in the past and is embracing a new role – full-time father to his four children: sons Justin, Jalen and Landon and daughter Kendall.

"I may have to go back to work because they keep me running," Pace joked Friday night before his official induction into the hall at the Ohio Union. "My wife and I run a taxi service."

As a Buckeye from 1994-96, Pace was the first sophomore to win the Lombardi Award as the nation's best college lineman. He did it again as a junior and added the Outland Trophy, given to the best interior lineman, to his mantle. During that season in 1996 he was also named the Football News Offensive Player of the Year, took home the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football as the Big Ten's most valuable player and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

The two-time Big Ten offensive lineman of the year did not allow a sack in either his sophomore or junior year and made "pancake blocks" household words in the Buckeye state. He capped his collegiate career by helping lead Ohio State to a co-Big Ten title and a victory against Arizona State in the 1997 Rose Bowl.

Following his collegiate career, Pace was selected first overall by St. Louis in the 1997 NFL draft and played 13 seasons, including 12 with the Rams. Pace was a five-time All-Pro and a NFL champion after helping the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999.

Now he has added OSU hall of famer to his impressive résumé.

"Whenever you can be inducted into a hall of fame, especially at a school that you love and cherish, it's always a good deal," Pace said.

With his playing career over, Pace is fully wrapping himself into following the current Ohio State football team.

"I'm a die-hard fan at home on my couch watching the games," said Pace, who stays busy with a radio station, sports magazine and ticket company he owns in St. Louis. "My three boys love the Buckeyes to death and we watch games together."

Prior to the Hall of Fame weekend festivities, Pace visited a pair of former teammates at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel. The trio played together in and ended their collegiate careers after the 1996 season.

Meeting with Fickell and Vrabel put all of the offseason changes at Ohio State sink in for Pace.

"I was thinking, ‘Man, I played with these guys. Now Luke's the head coach at Ohio State.' That's a big deal," Pace said. "I'm real happy for him and his success. Hopefully he does well."

"We are grown men now," Pace added. "When we played we were just young boys coming into a situation and playing football. Now you're the head, and it's not like this is a small university. This is a major, major university. That's a pretty good job to have."

His advice for Fickell was simple.

"Just win," he said. "That's the only advice you can give him. Just win. That's the key to it."


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