All-Time Greatest – No. 43: Cornelius Greene

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. 43: quarterback Cornelius Greene.

Perhaps no other Ohio State player in history – and maybe all of college football for that matter – ever lived up to his nickname more than Cornelius Greene. Called simply "Flam" by his teammates because of his flamboyant nature on and off the field, Greene was one of the most electrifying players ever to man the quarterback position for the Buckeyes.

Born Jan. 21, 1954 in Washington, D.C., Greene was a high school All-American in football, basketball and baseball at Dunbar High School, but he was considered too small to play Big Ten football.

He came to Ohio State in the fall of 1972 as a scrawny 6-foot, 168-pounder, part of an illustrious recruiting class that included Archie Griffin, Brian Baschnagel and Tim Fox. But head coach Woody Hayes wasn't exactly sold. Greene wasn't even listed in the team's media guide that season and failed to win a varsity letter.

When he returned as a sophomore in '73, he wasn't much bigger and had to take on incumbent Greg Hare, who started several games for the Buckeyes the previous year when they went 9-2, won the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl.

"But that year of spring ball, Cornelius stood out," Griffin told Buckeye Sports Bulletin in 2005. "He made a difference and Woody realized it. Woody had to make a tough decision. How do you bench the starting quarterback who was a captain elected by his teammates and also led us to a Big Ten championship? That was a tough decision, and I always admired Woody for making the decision that he made."

Actually, the decision was made easy for Hayes. Hare was to be the starting QB in the fall, but pulled a hamstring in fall camp. That gave Greene the chance to show what he could do in the opener against Minnesota. After leading the Buckeyes to a 56-7 whipping of the Gophers, there was little doubt as to who would be the starter. The rest was history.

Part of that history included Greene, who became the first black starting quarterback at Ohio State. Operating in a backfield with Griffin, Baschnagel and fullback Pete Johnson, Greene took over the offense for the 1973 season that began a streak during which Ohio State went 31-3-1, went 2-0-1 against Michigan, won three Big Ten championships and went to the Rose Bowl three straight times.

With Greene at the controls and Griffin piling up record yardage totals, the Buckeyes averaged 35.3 points per game over that three-year span from 1973-75.

Only 10 other players in Ohio State history have ever accounted for more total yardage than Greene, but when he finished his career in scarlet and gray, his 4,414 yards were second only to the Griffin. Additionally, Greene is the only Buckeye ever to finish his career with more than 2,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing.

He earned All-Big Ten honors in 1974 and '75 and earned team most valuable player honors as a senior despite playing on the same team as Griffin, who won his second Heisman Trophy that year. Griffin cast the deciding ballot for Greene even though it cost him an unprecedented third straight team MVP award. Greene topped off his senior season by being named the Big Ten's most valuable player.

After leaving Ohio State, Greene was an 11th-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1976 NFL draft. The Cowboys released him late in training camp that year and he was picked up the next day by Seattle. But when the Seahawks cut him five days before the season-opening game, he knew his professional career was going to be short-lived. He returned to his hometown of Washington, D.C., and spent several years as a sales representative for the Xerox Corp.

Most recently, he has become a counselor for teens, serving as a mentor for several organizations that mentor teens. He is involved in the United Black Fund and returned to Columbus in March to receive special mention from the Majority of One Foundation, one of the many youth developmental groups he has helped pilot.

Yesterday: No. 44 Mike Sensibaugh

Tomorrow: No. 42


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