Uhlenhake A Buckeye All The Way

Jeff Uhlenhake has spent his entire life as a Buckeye, so much so that he's returned to his alma mater to coach after a 10-year NFL career. That's why it's fitting that he's received the high honor of being up for induction into the OSU Athletics Hall of Fame. In this piece, Uhlenhake talks about the achievement and we look back through the pages of BSB to remember his career.

It's easy to say that Ohio State holds a special place for Jeff Uhlenhake. Now, the former Buckeye offensive lineman and NFL standout will receive one of the highest athletic honors the university can bestow when he is inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in September.

After the press conference yesterday in Ohio Stadium in which the 2008 group of 12 inductees was announced, Uhlenhake was asked about his love for the school at which he spent four years as a starter and has returned to as a member of the football team's strength and conditioning staff.

"I obviously went here, my sister and brother went here and my parents come to every game," he said. "I first came to an Ohio State game when I was in third grade. This is awesome. This is the most exciting thing. I work here. I put my time in every day here. I love this place."

Those words pretty much echo what Uhlenhake, who grew up outside Columbus and attended Newark Catholic High School, told BSB upon becoming a starter on the offensive line as a freshman in 1985.

"That was my whole life," he said in the Oct. 12, 1985, issue of BSB of Ohio State football as he was growing up as a youngster. "Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin and all those great people.

"All along, I knew I was coming to Ohio State. When they offered, I mean that was the place to go for me."

So after a vagabond coaching career that included stops in the high school ranks in Sidney, Ohio, in the college arena and in the NFL, Uhlenhake returned to Ohio State to work under Eric Lichter as the coordinator of strength and conditioning come the 2007 season.

"It's been a little bit of a coaching carousel for me, being in high school, college and the NFL," he said. "I've enjoyed every place I've been; in particular, Ohio State holds a special place in my heart just because I grew up in Columbus. I ended up going to high school in Newark, but I've been around Ohio State and the Ohio State campus my entire life."

Perhaps that's why joining the list of elite athletes to be chosen by Varsity "O" for the Hall of Fame had such an effect on the former guard and center.

"I got on the website and scrolled through there," he said. "It's an amazing list, and there are still a lot of people that have been great players and people here before that are left off. I'm sure everyone can't fit, and I'm very grateful to be on that list."

Uhlenhake twice earned All-Big Ten status as a Buckeye and was an All-American as a senior in 1988 when he was also the Buckeyes' most valuable player during the first year under head coach John Cooper.

After leaving Ohio State, he had a 10-year career in the NFL, spending five years with Miami, two with New Orleans and three with Washington during a career in which he started 112 games.

He listed a number of influences that helped him achieve such heights during his career.

"Obviously, Chris Spielman and I played together at Ohio State," he said. "Tom Tupa was my roommate for four years. We had some great athletes like William White that were there with me. Chris was going to drive you every day, so Spiels was a guy that made you a better player every day of the week.

"My high school coach, J.D. Graham at Newark Catholic, he's a legend. He's a great coach. He drove me to greater heights as a better player and person. Obviously here Coach Bruce had a tremendous impact. Coach Cooper my senior year came in with Jim Colletto as our offensive coordinator. We were more of a pro-style offense, and he helped me get better as a football player and enabled me to have success early on in the NFL and start my rookie year.

"I got to play under Coach Shula, some legends in the NFL like Coach Mora in New Orleans. I really am blessed and honored to have played for some great people."

Uhlenhake and his wife Angie recently had their second child, Ben, to join their other son Jake.

What follows is a look back at Uhlenhake's career from the pages of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. All quotes are from the BSB issue identified.

Oct. 12, 1985: Uhlenhake received a feature in BSB after taking over the starting guard spot before the second game of the season, a nonconference game at Colorado.

"Going into the game, I was nervous as can be because I didn't want to make any mistakes," he said of the game at Colorado. "I was a little hesitant and I had a bad first series. Then I settled down and did a pretty good job the rest of the game."

Uhlenhake, who redshirted his first season after coming to OSU at 230 pounds, had moved over to the offensive side of the ball during the preseason after Tim James left the team.

Oct. 11, 1986: Uhlenhake's double dipping at two positions earned him notice in another BSB feature. He was still starting every game as the left guard, but he had begun to play center as well after learning the position during the spring.

"They (OSU coaches) said in the future that I might be able to play the position," Uhlenhake said, "I guess it shows they have a lot of interest in what I can do for the ball team."

Sept. 12, 1987: Uhlenhake's move to center was complete as the team prepared to start its season with a home game against West Virginia.

"I like being in the middle of things," he said. "It gives me a chance to use my quickness and speed and other attributes I didn't use at guard."

Uhlenhake underwent the change despite missing spring practice and summer workouts because of arthroscopic surgery on both knees during January. Now healthy, the 6-4, 250-pound Uhlenhake was getting ready to fill the shoes of Bob Maggs (6-5, 287).

Sept. 10, 1988: Uhlenhake went into the first year under John Cooper having started 33 of the 36 games over his first three seasons in scarlet and gray. Now at 270 pounds and able to bench press 420 pounds, Uhlenhake had caught the eye of the first-year head man.

"He's as good a center as I've ever been around," Cooper said. "Jeff is one player that we will definitely push for all-conference honors as well as national recognition. We think he'll be an outstanding player for us this fall."

Nov. 5, 1988: Uhlenhake discussed his play, which had him in the running for what would eventually be All-Big Ten and All-America honors despite the Buckeyes' struggles in Cooper's first year.

"I think I've played real well in a few games – Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota," he said. "I had an average game against Illinois and Pitt. I think for the most part I've done a fairly good job. I know I can do better but I'm not displeased."

The Buckeyes were sitting at 3-5 thanks to losses to Pittsburgh, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Michigan State.

Nov. 26, 1988: Even though the Buckeyes ended Cooper's first season with a heart-wrenching 34-31 loss to Michigan, Uhlenhake earned plenty of hardware in this issue of BSB.

First, he was named BSB's Big Bear Buckeye of the Week for neutralizing Michigan's sophomore nose guard T.J. Osman and for a rousing halftime speech he gave that allowed OSU to come off the mat after going into intermission trailing U-M 20-0.

Then he received the football team's MVP award, the Archie Griffin Award (outstanding offensive player of the year) and the Jim Parker Award (outstanding offensive lineman) at the postseason banquet.

"I guarantee you I've never been around an offensive center as good as he is," Cooper said.

Nov. 24, 2001: Earning his turn in BSB's popular "Michigan Memories" series, Uhlenhake, now coaching at Sidney (Ohio) Lehman Catholic, discussed his role in getting the team to wear the famed "EARLE" headbands against Michigan in 1987 for the deposed coach's final game.

"I know that (ex-teammate Joe) Staysniak likes to say it was his idea, but it was mine," said Uhlenhake, who appeared in BSB wearing a polo shirt adorned with the winged helmet of Lehman Catholic. "We just tried to think of a way to say what was on our minds because we didn't think what happened was fair."

That 23-20 win over U-M would be the only one Ohio State had in Uhlenhake's four seasons.

Sept. 27, 2003: Though Uhlenhake's football accomplishments preceded him as he returned to Ohio State to serve as a video intern on head coach Jim Tressel's staff, many of his new charges recognized him for a different reason: a bit part he and some of his Miami Dolphins teammates had in the 1994 movie "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective."

"Every one of them knows," Uhlenhake said. "I had a little more hair back then, but somebody picks up on it – always."

Uhlenhake had joined the Buckeye staff in March 2003 after running into then-defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio at a high school coaching clinic one month prior.

"It's just a dream being back here," he said.

Feb. 27, 2004: Shortly after saying hello to Ohio State again, he said goodbye when Dantonio, now the head coach at Cincinnati, hired Uhlenhake to be his offensive line coach.

"To become a full-time offensive line coach at a Division I-A school, and still be able to remain in Ohio and work for a great coach like Mark, is a tremendous opportunity," he said.

Uhlenhake spent just one season with UC then moved on to Cleveland to spend two more with the Browns before his return to Ohio State.

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