We're preparing a piece on the 1954 Ohio State national championship team for the upcoming edition of Bucknuts the Magazine. Several interesting comments didn't make the cut for the story, but we didn't want them to go to waste.
The quarterback of the 1954 team was Dave Leggett - probably one of the most underrated players in the history of OSU football. He was a smooth, option quarterback - a precursor to Rex Kern.
Leggett led arguably the best drive in OSU football history in '54 when he directed the Buckeyes to a 99-yard, go-ahead drive in the 21-7 win over Michigan.
The score was tied 7-7 in the fourth quarter prior to the drive. The Buckeyes' defense just held Michigan on a goal line stand. Michigan had a first-and-goal at the four, but were left six inches short of the goal line after four consecutive running plays.
The Buckeyes went on to beat USC 20-7 in the Rose Bowl to clinch the national championship - Woody Hayes' first national title. Leggett was named Rose Bowl MVP.
Here are some of the comments that we thought you might be interested in:
Leggett on playing in the 'single platoon' era (offense and defense):
"We had to play both ways back then. It was interesting how they kept track of you. If you start the game, you can come out one time and come back in that quarter. If you take a guy like (former OSU placekicker) Tad Weed, if we score a touchdown in the first quarter and he comes in and kicks the extra point, he cannot come in the game again until the second quarter. If you scored four touchdowns in one quarter, that's four guys that have to come in and kick. Woody had a special bench set up. Once Tad Weed kicked, he'd go sit on the bench of ineligible players until the quarter was over.
"Or let's suppose Hoppy (Hopalong Cassady) got a stinger or something and he came out of the game in the first four, five minutes. Someone would go take his place. But when Hoppy would come back in after two minutes, whoever took his place would have to go sit on the ineligible bench until the second quarter. We would get 15 guys on that bench sometimes. Bobo was our punter, so we didn't have that problem.
"They didn't make exceptions. Everyone had to play both ways, or not play at all. I think I played something like 95 percent of the plays during the '54 season. I really enjoyed playing both ways."
Yes, Leggett was on the field for the defensive stand against Michigan, then turned around and directed the winning drive.
Leggett on Jim Tressel:
"I have not met him yet. I've read about him for years and I've seen him on TV. He just seems to be to be a down to earth guy who is interested in Ohio State and interested in the players. That's the way Woody was. He'd let guys take care of their classwork. We had one guy in medical school and a couple in dental school and he'd say, 'Hey, if you need to go to labs, go to labs. Come to practice later, or don't come if you can't make it.' And I don't know Jim Tressel, but from everything I've heard, that's the way he is. I just feel that in my bones."
Leggett hopes to meet Tressel at the 1954 reunion party the weekend of the homecoming game against Indiana this year. The players have a 50th anniversary party planned for Friday, Oct. 22.
Leggett on what he did after his OSU career:
"I was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals as a quarterback/defensive back, and I went to the Cardinals and played six games. I was in ROTC and went on active duty and played football in the Air Force for a year and then got out after 21 months, went back to the Cardinals and lasted until the first game in 1957, and then I went up to Canada and finished up with Regina-Saskatchewan Roughriders until they got knocked out of the playoffs and then I came home. Then I took a job as the sports director for the Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs. Then, after being there from 1958-65, I got transferred overseas and played football for three years just outside of Frankfurt, Germany.
"When I came back to the States, I coached football at the Air Force Academy from 68-71. I became a stock broker after that. I enjoyed my football career in high school, in college at Ohio State and in the Air Force. I have no regrets."
Leggett on Woody Hayes:
"Our '54 team was his first national championship and he went on to become one of the most successful coaches in the history of college football. My theory on football coaches is that there aren't too many that can beat you with their team and also beat you with your team. There are guys like Woody, and Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech, and Bear Bryant at Alabama, and you see it in the pros with Vince Lombardi and guys like that. There are certain coaches that know how to get the most out of their players and Woody was one of those. Woody was one of those guys."
* Frank Machinsky was an All-Big Ten tackle on the 1954 and '55 teams. He also had some interesting comments that needed to be passed on.
Machinsky on celebrating the 50th anniversary of the '54 national
"After the homecoming game I'm going to have some of the guys stop by our tailgate and have a beer right outside the stadium… if we're still allowed to do it. They wouldn't dare put us all in jail, would they?"
Machinsky on playing both ways and being undersized:
"We played two ways. I was a better offensive player. I liked defense, but I was too small, really (6-0, 205). Back then, guys weren't very big, but most linemen were a lot bigger than 205. I was a pee-wee compared to some of those guys."
Machinsky on Ohio State's 2002 national title:
"We spend half the year down in Florida, and we have a lot of people from central Ohio in our community and we all get together to watch the games. The Miami game (2003 Fiesta Bowl), I'm watching that thing just saying, 'Man, just make it close, just make it close.' All of a sudden, we were winning. We held on and that was something else. In fact, our party broke up about 3:30 in the morning, and for old people, that's really something. Usually people down there get up early. But jeez, that night went on and on and on. We had a bunch of White Castles flown in and had a hell of a time.
"Anyway, that was a great season and I think '54 was a little like that because we had some tough games."
Machinsky on Jim Tressel:
"What a quality guy he is. What a class act. We're real fortunate to have him. He's a good person; he's concerned about the kids.
"We were having an outing for ex-football players recently, but it was rained out. So, instead of playing golf and having dinner at the Ohio State golf course, we went over to the stadium at the Huntington Club and they had lunch over there and he had Earle (Bruce) and John Cooper there, because a lot of the players were their players. The guy isn't threatened by anything or anyone. He just does his thing and does it real well."
Machinsky comparing Tressel to Hayes:
"Tressel's really truly concerned about the kids - reminds you a lot of Woody. Making you study; beating on you about behaving yourself. He's the same type guy.
"From talking with some of the guys, we've decided Tressel's a cross between Woody and Paul Brown. Imagine Paul Brown practicing on the sideline, and Woody in terms of off-the-field and concern for the kids for their grades and behaving themselves and that type of thing. There's no doubt about the impact he's had and will continue to have.
"To get that team to go down and sign Carmen Ohio after the games, jeez, I mean, who would've ever thought about doing something like that? But those kids love it. We're really lucky.
"Of course, I think I played for one of the greatest guys ever in Woody. Scared as hell of him while we were playing. After we got out, I really got to know him a lot better. He used to come over to the house a lot for dinner. We had a lot of fun."
Machinsky on how much players respected Hayes:
"Here's a good Woody story: Woody found out I had a beer distributing business and called me up and said, 'You've got to be kidding me.' During my playing days, he called me in a couple times about drinking beer. So, even years later, he said, 'Jeez, for all the things for you to be in to.' But Woody was a special guy. All the guys had so much respect for him. When we would get together - again this is years after our playing days were over - guys would go get a beer and kind of hide behind the house or something so Woody wouldn't see them drinking. It's things like that."