All-Time Greatest – No. 32: Tom Skladany

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. 32: punting and kicking specialist Tom Skladany.

In Ohio State's long and storied history of football, there have been kickers and there have been punters – but there has been only one Tom Skladany.

Born June 29, 1955 in Bethel Park, Pa., Thomas Edward Skladany is one of only seven Buckeyes in history to earn All-American honors three times, helping his teams to three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, and is acknowledged as the first kicking specialist ever to earn a football scholarship from Woody Hayes.

Before Skladany came onto the scene, Hayes was known for turning linemen into placekickers and defensive backs and receivers into punters. But Skladany was so good, the old coach had to spend one of his precious scholarships to keep him away from opponents.

He proved his worth immediately, landing the job as the Buckeyes' No. 1 punter and kickoff duties as a freshman. As a sophomore, he led the country in punting with an average of 45.6 yards per attempt and earned his first All-America honor from the Football Writers of Association of America.

As a junior and senior, he earned consensus All-American honors when he added field goals and PATs to his kicking duties.

In 1975, Skladany upped his average to a then-school record of 46.8 yards per punt and finished his career with an average of 42.7 yards per punt, then an OSU record and still third-best in school history to Andy Groom (45.0, 2001-02) and Tom Tupa (44.7, 1984-87).

As good as Skladany was punting, his placekicking sometimes is overshadowed. But he possessed one of the strongest legs in college football history. He made only 14 field goals during his career, but some of them were the longest ever kicked by an Ohio State player. In fact, he still holds the record for longest field goal ever by a Buckeye kicker, booting one 59 yards against Illinois in 1974.

For his four seasons at OSU, Skladany helped lead the Buckeyes to a 40-5-2 record. As a freshman, he went to the Rose Bowl as Ohio State pounded Southern Cal 42-21. But an earlier 10-10 tie against Michigan kept the Buckeyes behind Notre Dame in the final poll to determine that season's national champion.

Skladany and the Buckeyes went to the Rose Bowl each of the next two years as well, but came home losers – to 18-17 to USC following the 1975 season and 23-10 to UCLA after the 1976 campaign.

"Three times we had (national championship) rings in our hands and we let them drop," Skladany told Buckeye Sports Bulletin in 2004. "That's why I was thrilled for the team and the national championship it won in 2002."

When he was a senior, the Buckeyes fell to a 9-2-1 record, but beat Colorado 27-10 in the Orange Bowl. That was to be Hayes' final postseason victory.

After his four-year career at OSU, which produced a record of 40-5-2 and four Big Ten titles or co-titles, Skladany was a second-round selection (46th overall) by Cleveland in the 1977 NFL draft. However, Skladany and the Browns could never agree on contract terms. On the advice of agent Howard Slusher, Skladany sat out the 1977 season and signed with Detroit the following year.

Skladany spent five seasons with the Lions between 1978 and '82, and remains among the career top 10 in most of the team's punting records. His best season was in 1981 when he averaged a career-high 43.5 yards per kick and made his only Pro Bowl. That season, Skladany also completed 3 of 3 pass attempts on fake punts for a total of 43 yards.

He finished his pro career appearing in four games with Philadelphia in 1983 before leg injuries caused him to retire. Skladany's career stats included an average of 42.1 yards on 295 punts.

After retiring from football, Skladany returned to the Columbus area and opened a successful printing business. Today, he remains president and CEO of Skladany Enterprises.

He was inducted into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991.

Yesterday: No. 33 Gary Williams

Tomorrow: No. 31


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