A two-time All-American, Kelley played for the Buckeyes from 1963-65 during a turbulent time for the program. OSU lost at least two games in each of those seasons as some Buckeye boosters began to wonder if Woody Hayes' mastery of the game had passed him by. But Hayes continued to recruit a vast array of talent and Kelley was one of the best during that era.
A native of tiny Bremen, Ohio, a town of about 1,200 near Lancaster, Kelley was reportedly torn between playing his college football at Ohio State or Michigan. But his decision was made easy during a recruiting trip to Ann Arbor on a November day in 1961. It was the same day that the Buckeyes blew into town and blew back out again after destroying the Wolverines, 50-20.
"I knew then that I wanted to play for the Buckeyes," Kelley said in the book, "What It Means To Be A Buckeye."
Usually pictured with a nasty scowl on his face, Kelley – who picked up the nickname "Ike" from his teammates after former President Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower – began his OSU career as a center on the offensive line. But he came into prominence as a sophomore linebacker when he led the team in fumble recoveries and was second in minutes played.
He really hit his stride as a junior in 1964 when he led an OSU defense that allowed opponents just 76 points during a nine-game season. In fact, the Buckeyes pitched three shutouts that season including a satisfying 26-0 win at Illinois when the Illini were the No. 2-ranked team in the country.
"They had about 18 or 20 returning lettermen," Kelley remembered about the Illini that year. "(All-American lineman) Dick Butkus was quoted as saying, ‘Ohio State's my meat because they run straight at me and that's what I love.' Well, Woody was aware of this. He got up in front of us and said, ‘Hmm, hmm, that son of a bitch won't know where we are coming from!' He had us so sky-high for that game, we were throwing up before it (and) we beat them 26-0."
The following season, Kelley again spearheaded the Ohio State defense, this time as a team captain. Again, the Buckeyes were a stingy group especially down the stretch. After splitting their first four games of the season, the team won its final five games in a row, never allowing more than 10 points in any of those contests. Kelley and his fellow seniors marked the end of their careers with another satisfying win, a 9-7 decision at Michigan.
Kelley won his second All-American mention after the 1965 season making him the first Ohio State linebacker in history to earn two such honors. He also won consecutive first-team All-Big Ten honors in 1964 and '65.
In addition to playing linebacker, Kelley was also an outstanding member of the Buckeyes' special teams units. In fact, the team continues to present the Dwight "Ike" Kelley Award each year at its annual banquet to the most outstanding special teams player.
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