It didn’t take Ron Maciejowski very long to realize the Buckeyes might be on to something special with the class of 1967.
A quarterback out of Bedford, Ohio – the same school as current Buckeye safety Tyvis Powell – Maciejowski had gleaned through word of mouth that some of his fellow recruits were terrors on the football field.
“It wasn’t like today when everyone was a 5-star, 4-star or whatever they might be,” he said. “You heard about these certain guys in Ohio, and we had a lot of good players in Ohio. The guys we didn’t know about were guys like Bruce Jankowski, Jack Tatum and John Brockington, who were all from New York and New Jersey.”
It took only a few days for those evaluations to be proved correct. After showing up on a Monday or Tuesday, as Maciejowski recalls, the freshmen – who were ineligible to play because of a conference rule – scrimmaged the full varsity in Ohio Stadium that Saturday.
“The first two times we had the ball we scored, and it was tied at the half. That’s when we knew,” Maciejowski said. “We had to put names on the top of our helmets so the coaches knew who we were. Tiger Ellison was the freshman coach, and he would hold up the play card for us to look at. That’s how we knew what to run, because we had never practiced the plays once. I think the coaches got a little concerned.”
The varsity went on to win in the second half, but the legend of the group that would become the Super Sophs was only beginning.
The 1967 season was one of the rare ones back then in which the Michigan game fell on the weekend of Thanksgiving. Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes had a Wednesday night practice before all the local players were dismissed to their families, and again the freshmen caused trouble for the upperclassmen as snowflakes fell from the sky.
“We were down on the goal line running Michigan’s goal-line offense against Ohio State’s varsity offense, and we kept scoring,” Maciejowski said. “Lou McCullough, the defensive coordinator, would say, ‘Run the exact same play again,’ and we’d run the exact same play and score again. We probably scored on the same play three or four times in a row.”
The class of 1967 got to play in games that actually mattered the following year, including Maciejowski, who backed up fellow Super Soph Rex Kern but still saw plenty of time under center.
The Buckeyes tore through their first eight games with a spotless record, and the typically volatile Hayes instead resembled a jockey on a horse with a 20-length lead. The whip finally came out for the rivalry week, however, and appeared in vintage Woody fashion.
“We had such a good year and we were young and Woody never blew up all year long – until Michigan week,” Maciejowski said.
On a freezing night early in the game week, Kern was struggling and his back was hurting. Hayes eventually asked his starter what was wrong and called upon Maciejowski. The backup had been standing on the sideline shivering for an hour and a half, and his first pass was high and outside – “Not a bad throw, just not complete,” he remembered – and bounced off the fingertips of Bruce Jankowski.
“As I turned to walk back to the huddle, Woody has thrown all his play cards in the air and they’re all floating to the ground,” Maciejowski said. “He goes, ‘Damn you guys! You just don’t understand it!’ Everybody just formed a circle around him, and he goes, ‘I just don’t understand why you guys don’t understand what this game is all about.’
“He tears his t-shirt down the center. He takes his watch off and grinds it into the ground. He takes his glasses off and jumps up and down on them. Then he tries to break his whistle cord – well you can’t break a whistle cord. He can’t break it, so he looks at us, stops, and hits himself in the eye with his left fist, and he’s bleeding. We’re all standing there with our jaws down on our chests. And this all happened in 10 seconds, 15 seconds.”
The act, while surreal and shocking to the sophomores, apparently worked pretty well.
“By game time it was 67 degrees, a beautiful Saturday, and we just killed them,” Maciejowski said of the 50-14 win against the Wolverines. “It was great. There’s nothing better than that.”