One particular honor also has been bestowed on 12 former players, including Buckeye quarterback Rex Kern, and two legendary coaches: induction by the National Football Foundation into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind.
Induction ceremonies for those 14 giants of the sport will take place later tonight in New York City.
"It's a tremendous honor to be here," Kern said Tuesday at a press conference for the inductees in the Big Apple. "I'd like to congratulate all the other honorees who are receiving the award. I think of my university, I think of my teammates and that's the reason I'm here."
Kern, originally from Lancaster, Ohio, led Ohio State to a 27-2 record from 1968-70, a time period that saw the Buckeyes beat Michigan two of three times, advance to two Rose Bowls and win three Big Ten titles.
He was named the most valuable player of the 1969 Rose Bowl, a win over No. 2 USC that earned Ohio State the national title. Kern was a team captain in 1970 and an All-American in 1969.
For his career, Kern completed 188 of 364 passes for 2,444 yards. He also had four 100-yard rushing games and is the first Buckeye quarterback to be picked for the hall of fame (Les Horvath, inducted in 1969, played both quarterback and halfback).
Kern is joined as a quarterback receiving the honor this year by former Boston College signal caller Doug Flutie, who threw for 10,579 yards in his career, none more famous than the 48 yards he compiled on one pass to Gerald Phelan to win a 1984 game against Miami (Fla.). Flutie had his time at the microphone before Kern and mentioned that the honor showed he threw more than one pass in his career.
Kern, however, didn't have many more than that compared to Flutie's 1,271.
"Doug, you talked about one pass – I think we threw two at Ohio State in my years combined," Kern joked. "Ten thousand yards throwing – I thought that was on my odometer."
Kern is the 21st former Buckeye player make the Hall of Fame and the 12th to have played for Hayes. Kern is the third "Super Sophomore" to be named for induction, joining two 1968-70 era teammates in safety Jack Tatum and middle guard Jim Stillwagon.
He led the Buckeyes to an undefeated record in 1968 and a national title thanks to a 50-14 win over Michigan and a 27-16 triumph over USC in the Rose Bowl. That year, Kern finished with 972 yards passing in 10 games and threw seven touchdowns against six interceptions while rushing for 534 yards and eight touchdowns on 131 tries.
During his junior campaign of 1969, he threw for a career-high 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns and set what was then the school record for total offense in a single season (1,585). He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind winner Steve Owens of Oklahoma and runner-up Mike Phipps of Purdue.
A year later, Kern finished fifth in the voting the year Jim Plunkett of Stanford took the honor. Tatum finished seventh in the voting.
After receiving his bachelor's degree, Kern twice returned to his alma mater to further his education and ultimately earned his Ph.D. in Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
The Hall of Fame honor for Kern is not his first from the NFF. A recipient of the NFF's National Scholar-Athlete Award, Kern earned All-Big Ten Academic Team accolades in 1970 and an NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship the following year.
"It is a great honor for me to represent The Ohio State University and my teammates and my family and be part of this," Kern said. "I can think of no higher honor because of who is honoring us. The organization I think stands head and shoulders above all the organizations because of the integrity and the values of the National Football Hall of Fame."
Dave Brown of Michigan, linebacker Jeff Davis of Clemson, Flutie, defensive back Johnnie Johnson of Texas, running back/wide receiver Ahmad Rashad – then Bobby Moore – of Oregon, running back Anthony Thompson of Indiana, defensive tackle Wilson Whitley of Houston, linebacker Reggie Williams of Dartmouth, linebacker Richard Wood of USC and defensive tackle Chris Zorich of Notre Dame are the other players to be receiving induction.
The coaches to be inducted are Herb Deromedi of Central Michigan and Joe Paterno of Penn State. Paterno was set to be inducted last year but was forced to miss the ceremonies because of injuries suffered in the Nittany Lions' loss to Wisconsin.
"Number one, I apologize for being one year and 20 minutes later," Paterno said. "It's hard to put into words what football has meant to me. I've been playing football, counting my high school days, and I've been coaching it about 64, 65 years, so it's really been my life."
This year's class of Hall of Famers will be officially enshrined at the hall in South Bend, Ind., during ceremonies in the summer of 2008.