All-Time Greatest – No. 41: Paul Warfield

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. 41: offensive, defensive and special teams star Paul Warfield.

He didn't put up a bunch of offensive or defensive numbers, but there was perhaps no more dependable athletic talent at Ohio State during the early 1960s than Paul Warfield. Before Chris Gamble played on offense, defense and special teams during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Warfield was the last Buckeye to be featured on all three units.

Born Nov. 28, 1942, in Warren, Ohio, Paul Dryden Warfield was a multi-sports star at Warren G. Harding High School who scored 30 touchdowns during an era that was dominated by defense. When it came time to decide upon a college, Woody Hayes put on a furious charge for Warfield's services and just nipped out Iowa on national signing day.

Unknown to Hayes, it wasn't exactly the Buckeyes and their tradition that swayed Warfield. He wanted to stay close to his then-girlfriend, so he chose Ohio State.

The prep All-American became one of the fastest players ever signed by Hayes at the time. In fact, before he ever practiced at OSU as a freshman, Warfield was timed indoors at 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash.

When he got to OSU, Hayes wasn't sure exactly how best to use Warfield's many talents. In fact, Warfield got his first action in spring drills as a quarterback but was quickly moved to left halfback to better take advantage of his speed. Hayes was positive he had made the correct decision after Warfield caught a short screen pass in the 1961 spring game and took it 80 yards for a touchdown.

As a sophomore, Warfield immediately began to make an impact for the Buckeyes. On defense, he played in the secondary and was assigned to shut down the opposing team's best receiver. On offense, he would line up at a variety of spots out of his halfback position and ran and caught the ball with equal proficiency. On special teams, he was one of the team's top punt returners along with fellow sophomore Matt Snell.

Though most of his sophomore season yielded modest numbers, the Buckeyes excelled. They rebounded from a 7-7 tie against Texas Christian in the season opener to reel off eight consecutive wins topped off by a 50-20 pounding of Michigan.

In that contest, Warfield had a 69-yard touchdown run and a 48-yard reception that set up one of Bob Ferguson's four touchdowns on the day. Warfield's 69-yarder is still the second-longest scoring run in the 100-year history of the series.

The win capped a perfect 6-0 conference season for the Buckeyes that normally would have resulted in a trip to the Rose Bowl. But fearing that athletics was overtaking academics, the Ohio State Faculty Council decided it would make a statement and not allow the team to travel to Pasadena. Instead, second-place Minnesota – who had not played the Buckeyes that season – got their second straight invitation and rolled to a 21-3 victory over UCLA. The Gophers haven't been back to the Rose Bowl since.

Warfield and the rest of the '61 Buckeyes never tried to hide their disappointment over being denied that Rose Bowl and a shot at playing for the undisputed national championship. Instead, they had to console themselves with a piece of the national title, given to them by the Football Writers Association of America.

During Warfield's junior and senior seasons, the Buckeyes didn't fare nearly as well. They faltered to 6-3 in 1962 and a tie for third in the Big Ten and 5-3-1 in '63 and a second-place tie. Even so, the Buckeyes achieved one of their goals – beating Michigan. In fact, Warfield is one of the few Ohio State players who can say they never lost to the Wolverines in their career.

In his senior season, the OSU-Michigan game was postponed a week after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And while most of the players simply went through the motions, Warfield was able to play through his emotions and capped his college career with an excellent game.

During the Buckeyes' 14-10 victory, he gathered in a 35-yard touchdown pass and nearly had another scoring grab that was disallowed by the officials.

Once Warfield completed his three-year career for Ohio State, he became a fourth-round selection in the 1964 draft by the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League. But Warfield didn't want to play in the AFL, and instead signed with the team he followed as a youngster – the Cleveland Browns, who had made him a first-round selection that year in the NFL draft.

He played six seasons in Cleveland before being traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1970, a deal which still has Browns fans scratching their hands. Warfield played for the Dolphins for five years, then played one season for the Memphis Grizzlies of the World Football League before returning to the Browns in 1976 and playing for two more seasons before retiring.

His 13-year NFL career numbers feature 427 receptions for 8,565 yards and an all-time record average of 20.1 yards per catch. Also, his ratio of one touchdown per 5.0 catches ranks second in league history to the legendary Don Hutson's ratio of one TD per 4.9 receptions.

Warfield was dangerous at all times and demanded constant double-team attention, which kept teams from stacking the line. But he was used more often as a blocker, a job the 6-0, 188-pounder handled with surprising efficiency.

"I became one of the best blockers in pro football because I learned how important it was at Ohio State," Warfield said in the book What It Means To Be A Buckeye. "Remember, I blocked for such backs as Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Larry Csonka. Sometimes, you just have to take an unselfish position, and that is becoming a lost concept in team sports today."

Most of all, Warfield was a winner. In his first six seasons with the Browns, they posted a 59-23-2 record and won one NFL championship. Miami was 57-12-1 with consecutive Super Bowl winners and three AFC championships during Warfield's five seasons there. He was also an eight-time Pro Bowler.

Warfield, who received his degree in education from Ohio State in 1966, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. He spent several years as a member of the Ohio State broadcasting network, providing color analysis for WOSU-TV's re-broadcast of games and also spent some time as a scout and in the front office for the Dolphins.

Five years ago, he returned to the Browns as a scout and career planning consultant. His responsibilities include scouting college players, evaluating talent for the NFL draft and special projects. Warfield previously worked in Cleveland's front office as player relations director from 1985-87.

Yesterday: No. 42 Tim Spencer

Tomorrow: No. 40


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