All-Time Greatest – No. 31: Ted Ginn Jr.

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. 31: receiver and punt/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr.

Ted Ginn Jr. was one of those rare talents who could single-handedly change the momentum of a football game – usually in the blink of an eyelash. He raced across the landscape at Ohio State and in three short years returned more kicks for touchdowns than any other player in the long and storied history of the Big Ten.

Born April 12, 1985, in Cleveland, Theodore Ginn Jr. began running almost before he could walk. He was a grade-school phenom in every athletic endeavor he attempted, and finally concentrated on football and track by the time he reached high school.

Playing for his father, Ted Sr., at Glenville High School, Ginn saw time at quarterback, receiver, running back and cornerback for the Tarblooders and also returns kickoffs and punts.

During his senior season in 2003, he ran and threw for 1,777 yards and 29 TDs, and was named Ohio Division I co-offensive player of the year. He was every bit as good on defense and special teams, grabbing eight interceptions and returning five of them for touchdowns – one which went for a state-record 102 yards – and adding five other touchdowns on kick returns – four punts and one kickoff.

As a result of his superlative senior season, Ginn was named Mr. Football in Ohio, earned consensus prep All-America honors and took home the national defensive player of the year award from USA Today.

As good as Ginn was in football, he may have been even better on the track. He was a world-class hurdler who held several national records for his age class in the 110-meter high hurdles, and he helped Glenville to the Division I state track title as a senior.

He even contemplated putting off his college football career for a shot at making the U.S. team for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

But Ginn opted to stay with football and signed with Ohio State over Southern California, Michigan, Miami (Fla.) and Pittsburgh.

He eased his way into things during his first season with the Buckeyes in 2004, appearing in all 12 games, including six starts at flanker. He finished the season with 25 receptions for 359 yards and a pair of touchdowns, barely scratching the surface of his potential.

Where Ginn really excelled, however, was returning punts. During a midseason contest against Michigan during which he scored touchdowns on a 17-yard reverse and 58-yard reception, Ginn also broke off a 60-yard punt return for a score. It was one of four punts he returned for touchdowns that season, shattering the Ohio State record for most in single season and a career.

That season, he led the nation in individual punt return average with a dizzying 25.6 yards on 15 returns.

After his freshman season, opposing coaches devised new ways to keep the ball out of Ginn's hands on returns. Some tried kicking the ball close the ground in a rugby style while others simply booted it out of bounds intentionally. Still, the OSU speedster managed two more punt returns for touchdowns over the next two seasons and added two scores on kickoff returns.

Meanwhile, he was improving as a receiver. During his sophomore year in 2005, Ginn more than doubled his first-year output with 51 catches for 803 yards and four TDs. He also proved invaluable during the Buckeyes' 33-7 win over Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. When starting QB Justin Zwick was briefly sidelined with an ankle injury, Ginn took direct snaps and scored on a 5-yard run midway through the third quarter.

One year later, Ginn teamed with fellow speedster Anthony Gonzalez to give the Buckeyes one of the most potent one-two punches in all of college football. With Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith at the controls, Ginn wound up the team's leading receiver with 59 receptions for 781 yards and nine touchdowns – all career-high totals.

He also threw a touchdown pass that season, a 38-yard pitch to tight end Rory Nicol during a 44-3 win over Indiana, and tacked on another kickoff return for a touchdown. That was a 93-yard scamper to open the BCS National Championship Game against Florida. Unfortunately, Ginn injured his ankle in the post-touchdown celebration and things went downhill from there for the Buckeyes in an eventual 41-14 defeat.

Opting to forgo his senior season of eligibility, Ginn finished his three-year college career with 135 receptions, good for 1,943 yards and 15 TDs. Each total ranks among the top 10 all-time for Ohio State receivers.

In terms of returns, though, Ginn has no equal. His six career punt returns are twice as many as anyone else in school history and one more than any other Big Ten player. Iowa's Tim Dwight (1994-97) held the previous record with five.

The Miami Dolphins selected Ginn with their first pick of the 2007 NFL draft, taking him with the ninth selection overall. Despite the Dolphins' dismal season that produced a 1-15 record, Ginn continued to do what he does best.

In 16 games, including nine starts, he grabbed 34 receptions for 420 yards and two touchdowns. His first scoring pass came on a 21-yard pass from quarterback Cleo Lemon during a 13-10 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in week seven. His second TD catch was a 5-yarder from Lemon in the season finale, a 38-25 loss to Cincinnati.

On special teams, he returned 63 kickoffs for an average of 22.7 yards and averaged 9.6 yards on 24 punt returns, including his first career return for a touchdown. That came on an 87-yard bolt in the second quarter against Philadelphia in week 11. It tied the franchise mark for longest punt return, matching an 87-yarder by Tommy Vigorito in 1981.

All told in 2007, Ginn totaled 2,086 combined yards on rush attempts, receptions and returns, a figure that established a new club record for a rookie. It broke the previous mark set by Wes Welker in 2004, and was the fourth-highest single-season figure overall by a Dolphin.

Yesterday: No. 32 Tom Skladany

Tomorrow: No. 30


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