Born April 25, 1960, near tiny Bloomingburg, Ohio, Arthur Ernest Schlichter was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in state high school history, completing 264 of 478 passes for 4,397 yards and 46 touchdowns for Miami Trace High School.
His team went 29-0-1 during his final three seasons, the only blemish being a 6-6 tie against Wilmington and future OSU teammate Gary Williams. Schlichter also ran for more than 1,600 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Panthers during his prep career.
Schlichter was named Ohio's high school football player of the year in 1977 and also was an all-state guard on his prep basketball team, getting them to the state finals where they lost to a Kettering Alter team that featured Jim Paxson, formerly general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers and currently a consultant with the Chicago Bulls.
Recruited by nearly every major college program in the country, Schlichter narrowed his final choice to between Penn State and Ohio State, and had pretty much made up his mind to play for Joe Paterno, who was pretty much guaranteeing that the quarterback phenom could start for the Nittany Lions as a freshman.
Woody Hayes was reluctant to make the same promise since he had Rod Gerald returning in 1978 as the incumbent two-year starter. Gerald was also coming off an offensive MVP performance in the Buckeyes' 27-10 Orange Bowl win over Colorado.
But Hayes simply couldn't allow Schlichter to get away – especially when OSU was hosting Penn State in the '78 season opener. So he promised the young QB he would get a chance to start as a freshman. The atmosphere around preseason camp that fall consumed itself with who would start at quarterback.
Hayes never tipped his hand, and when the Buckeyes moved onto the field for their first offensive series in the opener, Gerald trotted onto the field to a loud ovation. But when Schlichter followed him into the huddle to a thunderous ovation, the question was answered – the freshman took over at quarterback and the senior co-captain moved outside to a receiver position.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes – and Hayes himself – were not ready to fully utilize Schlichter's talents. A hard-charging Penn State defense harassed the freshman throughout the afternoon, limiting him to just 12 completions in 26 attempts for 182 yards. He was also pressured relentlessly and pitched five interceptions, establishing an Ohio State single-game high that remains on the books.
As a result, the Nittany Lions scored a 19-0 shutout, a loss that remains the Buckeyes' most recent defeat in a home opener.
The following week, Hayes returned to his tried-and-true ground game as Schlichter attempted only seven passes, completing three for 57 yards in a 27-10 win at Minnesota.
That first season featured a lot of ups and downs. One of the ups was a 20-for-34 performance against Purdue that featured 289 yards, the fourth-highest single-game total in school history at that point.
And obviously one of the lows was a last-minute interception against Clemson in the Gator Bowl. Tiger linebacker Charlie Bauman picked off the ball to preserve his team's 17-15 victory, but as he went out of bounds on the OSU sideline, Hayes threw a forearm into his chest. The longtime coach was fired the next day.
The following season, Earle Bruce took over as head coach of the Buckeyes and things fell into place. After throwing 21 interceptions and just four TDs as a freshman, Schlichter relaxed into his role as field general and finished the season with 1,816 yards and 14 touchdowns against just six INTs.
Most importantly, he guided the Buckeyes to a perfect 11-0 regular season finish that included a thrilling 18-15 victory over Michigan and a trip to the Rose Bowl. He completed 11 of 21 passes against Southern Cal for 297 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn't quite enough as the Trojans stopped Schlichter on a fourth-and-goal sneak and captured a 17-16 win and the national championship.
Schlichter finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a sophomore, trailing only winner Charles White of Southern Cal, running back Billy Sims of Oklahoma and quarterback Marc Wilson of BYU.
During his junior and senior seasons, the Buckeyes could not match their success of 1979, finishing 9-3 in both 1980 and '81.
As a junior, Schlichter threw for 1,930 yards and 15 touchdowns, then capped his career in 1981 by establishing single-season marks with 2,551 yards and 17 TDs. During that final season, he also established a single-game mark of throwing for 458 yards in a wild 36-27 loss to Florida State. That mark still stands as the highest yardage total ever in one game for an Ohio State quarterback. The closest anyone has come since was Joe Germaine, who threw for 378 yards against Penn State in 1997.
When Schlichter finished his career, he had three of the four best single-season yardage totals in school history and the four top single-season total yardage figures.
In a Buckeye uniform, he completed 497 of 951 passes for 7,547 yards and 50 touchdowns. More than a quarter-century later, the attempts and yardage remain tops in OSU history while the completions are second only to Bobby Hoying, who had 498 during his career from 1992-95. The touchdown total remains fourth behind Hoying (57), Germaine (56, 1996-98) and Troy Smith (54, 2003-06).
Schlichter was also a winner. His 36 victories as a starting quarterback are more than any other OSU signal-caller.
Schlichter was fifth in the Heisman balloting as a senior, finishing behind winner Marcus Allen of USC, running back Herschel Walker of Georgia, quarterback Jim McMahon of BYU and quarterback Dan Marino of Pittsburgh. Schlichter also earned his second All-Big Ten nod and was selected the conference's most valuable player.
He was a first-round selection in the 1982 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts, but saw action in only three games as a rookie behind starter Bert Jones. Schlichter managed to complete 17 of 37 passes for 197 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions that first season.
Before the 1983 season began, news of Schlichter's gambling addiction began to surface. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended him for the entire '83 season, but Schlichter was back with the Colts – who had moved to Indianapolis – in 1984 and played in nine games. He was erratic, however, and completed only 62 of 140 attempts for 702 yards, three touchdowns and seven INTs.
He remained with Indianapolis for the 1985 season, but was released when whispers began that he had resumed his gambling habits. The following year, he was close to signing a contract with Buffalo, but the Bills instead signed Jim Kelly when the USFL folded and Schlichter failed to latch on with another NFL team.
In 1988, he went north to play for Ottawa of the Canadian Football League. Two seasons later, he returned to the U.S. to play in the Arena Football League. He played two seasons with the Detroit Drive and one with the Cincinnati Rockers. He led the Drive to back-to-back Arena Bowl championship games, including a title in 1990 and league MVP honors. His three seasons in the arena league produced totals of 442 completions in 851 attempts for 6,067 yards and 105 touchdowns.
Schlichter made a last-ditch effort to rejoin the NFL in the early 1990s, but never again played pro football. His NFL career lasted a mere 13 games, during which he completed just 91 of 202 passes for 1,006 yards, three touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
His gambling addiction got the better of him in the mid-1990s and he spent most of the next decade in prison on a variety of charges ranging from money laundering to ticket scams.
Schlichter was paroled for good behavior in 2006 and returned to his hometown. He currently lectures to schools, churches and civic groups on gambling addiction.
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