Over the weekend I published some numbers covering Ohio State’s history in the NFL draft. Stuff you’ll want to keep in mind as you’re watching what could be an historic week depending on how many Buckeyes have their names called Thursday night and then by the time it’s over.
As a sports history nerd, there was one note I thought deserved to be fleshed out this week:
Ohio State could have two former quarterbacks (Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller) drafted in the same year, something that perhaps surprisingly has some precedent. In 1971, the Baltimore Colts chose Rex Kern and the Chicago Bears took Ron Maciejowski.
While Kern is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Maciejowski’s story is interesting in its own right.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing both multiple times for different stories over the years, and those talks yielded some real nuggets.
A Bedford native, Maciejowski was more like Miller’s Kenny Guiton than Miller’s version of Jones. From 1968-70, Maciejowski frequently filled in for Kern, who was sidelined by several different injuries during his All-American career.
In an interview a few years ago for a BSB story, Maciejowski revealed things might have turned out differently if his mother had felt differently about a recruiter from the Naval Academy.
“My mom really liked (then-Ohio State assistant) Bill (Mallory) because he was so straightforward and honest, and on the other hand Lee Corso was recruiting me at the Naval Academy and my mom didn't trust Lee Corso,” Maciejowski said.
Corso later became head coach at Indiana but has gained his greatest fame providing analysis and comic relief on ESPN’s “College GameDay” morning show.
“You can imagine him back when he was in his mid-30s,” Maciejowski said. “He was about as cocky as they get with the sunglasses and the dark wavy hair and the natty sports jacket. He was quite the package back then.”
And, yeah, negative recruiting against other schools is nothing new it turns out.
“I came in and Lee Corso did say to me you don't want to go to Ohio State they've got Mike Sensibaugh and Rex Kern going there. I said, ‘I don’t know. Maybe the Naval Academy has Roger Staubach again. I’m not going to worry about who’s going where and what their notoriety was.’ ”
It turned out Corso might have had a point, though.
“I went to Ohio State, and I didn’t know how things were going to turn out,” Maciejowski said. “As it turned out, I was a sophomore in '68 and Bill Long was a returning quarterback who had been starting for two years, and by the time the fourth or fifth game rolled around, Bill was the third quarterback.”
Kern had won the starting job with Maciejowski backing him up for three seasons.
"For me it turned out great,” he said. “Could I have gone somewhere else? Did I think about it? Very briefly, but I realized I wanted to be at Ohio State, and it worked out great for me. It would have been nice to play at least a year as a starter on my own, but I played with a bunch of great guys.
“Rex Kern was a great friend, still is a great friend, and the relationships are a lot more. Woody was right. You're going to play football for three years at Ohio State and then the rest of your life you’re going to have to do something else unless you’re a professional, but back then that wasn’t very lucrative.”
Maciejowski closed out his career working with a pretty unbeatable foursome of coaches.
From Columbus and Woody Hayes he went to Chicago, where he went through training camp for a Bears team still coached by George “Papa Bear” Halas.
The next year he found himself in Cincinnati, where his coaches were arguably the two most influential men in the history of offensive football: Paul Brown and Bill Walsh.
Maciejowski had positive things to say about all of them. Mostly.
“It was very different,” he said. “Bill Walsh was a great teacher, very calm. Paul Brown was not unlike Woody. He was just more surgical in his tearing up of you. Where Woody was a butcher, he was a surgeon.
“(Brown) was a little colder.”
The economic realities of the NFL in the early ‘70s helped Maciejowski move on quickly when he got caught in a numbers game in Cincinnati, where Brown and Walsh were high on the potential of youngster Kenny Anderson and needed a veteran to pair with him rather than a rookie.
Brown told him, “ ‘You tested great… and you’re going to just do great out in the business world,’ and he was right. I've done fine.”
Sure enough, Maciejowski described being told by perhaps the greatest coach in football history his playing career was probably over as the best thing that ever happened to him.
“He was very nice, very generous with his praise, and I’ll never forget that. It was great,” he said.
“I went to work for Worthington Industries and my first full year working there as a sales guy I made twice as much money as I would have my third year in the NFL. Then you go, ‘What in the heck was I thinking about?’
“I mean, everybody misses the fact you’re not going to play anymore, but when you get a distance between playing and what else is available, it's not like today where if you're smart you never have to work another day in your life other than what you wanted to do, which is not the way people handle it, but that’s the option. Back then it just meant you had a pretty good job for half the year.”
As it turned out, neither of Ohio State's 1971 quarterback draftees played that position in the NFL.
Kern spent four years with the Baltimore Colts as a defensive back.