All-Time Greatest – No. 44: Mike Sensibaugh

BuckeyeSports.com counts down the days until Ohio State's 2008 season opener with its list of the 50 greatest Buckeyes of all-time. The series continues today with No. 44: defensive back and punter Mike Sensibaugh.

Ask the average fan who their vote for the most valuable member of the vaunted Super Sophomores were and you might get a host of names from Rex Kern and Jim Otis to Jack Tatum and Jim Stillwagon. Poll those on the team and you might come up with an unusual choice: Mike Sensibaugh.

One of the first OSU players to exclusively excel at the cornerback spot, Sensibaugh was a vital member of the Super Sophs who helped lead the Buckeyes to the 1968 national championship, three straight Big Ten championships and a 27-2 record from 1968-70.

Evidence of Sensibaugh's value is etched all over the Ohio State record books. His nine interceptions during the 1969 season was later equaled by Craig Cassady in 1975, but his career mark of 22 picks has never seriously been threatened nearly four decades after he played his last game in the scarlet and gray. Sensibaugh shattered Fred Bruney's school record of 17 interceptions, a mark Bruney set during his career in the early 1950s, and only William White with 16 has come even remotely close in the last 20 years.

Sensibaugh also holds the OSU record for most interception return yards in a career, taking his 22 picks back for 248 yards.

But Sensibaugh wasn't only a valuable member of the Buckeyes on defense. He was also the punter during those years. In fact, he holds the Ohio State bowl record for punting yardage, with 319 yards against Southern California in the 1969 Rose Bowl, and still sits tied for second in school history for most punts in one game, booting 11 in his first career contest in 1968 against Southern Methodist. That is second only to the 21 punts Vic Janowicz had to kick against Michigan in the 1950 Snow Bowl.

That SMU game provided other early career highlights for Sensibaugh. He also grabbed the first of those career interceptions as the Mustangs, coached that day by Hayden Fry, put the ball in the air 76 times. After the game, OSU secondary coach Lou Holtz told Sensibaugh that he couldn't grade him because he couldn't find him on the film. "I guess I was lining up pretty deep at free safety," he said later in the book, "What It Means To Be A Buckeye."

Born Jan. 3, 1949, in Cincinnati, Sensibaugh was a prep star at Lockland High School but nearly didn't become a Buckeye. In fact, he wanted to get away from home and took visits to Georgia Tech, Maryland and Florida. But when he discovered that Woody Hayes was putting together a star-studded group of talent that included Kern, Otis, Tatum, Stillwagon, John Brockington, Jan White, Bruce Jankowski and several others, Sensibaugh decided that 100 miles was far enough away.

After earning All-Big Ten honors in '69 and '70, Sensibaugh graduated from Ohio State with a degree in mathematics. He was an eighth-round selection in the 1971 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.

He spent most of his rookie year as a kickoff and punt return man before leading Kansas City in INTs with eight in 1972. He played for the Chiefs for five seasons before being traded to St. Louis where he became a mainstay at cornerback for that organization and still ranks fifth in career interception return yardage in franchise history, trailing only such Cardinal greats as Larry Wilson, Aeneas Williams, Dick "Night Train" Lane and Pat Fischer.

His 79-yard interception return against the Giants in 1977 still ranks as the fifth-longest in franchise history.

Sensibaugh was inducted into the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.

Yesterday: No. 45 Will Smith

Tomorrow: No. 43


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