But the prototype for All-Americans such as Orlando Pace and Korey Stringer was Jim Parker.
Born April 3, 1934, in Macon, Ga., James Thomas Parker was a fairly unknown commodity in the North during much of his high school career. But when his family moved to Toledo and he played at Scott High School as a senior, it didn't take long for OSU head coach Woody Hayes to notice.
Parker, however, didn't seem to understand how much talent he had. "I think I was only fourth-team all-state," he said later, "so I was delighted to get a chance to go to Ohio State." Hayes took such an interest in his prized line recruit that the coach had Parker stay at his home during his freshman season.
Playing at 6-2 and 200 pounds during an era when most linemen were in the 5-11, 185-pound range, Parker was a tremendous athlete, one of the first interior players who combined power and quickness. It was a common sight to watch Parker play on special teams, block his man, run downfield and hurl himself head-long into the kick returner.
But he excelled as an offensive lineman, especially at the guard position. Starting as a sophomore and retaining his position for the next three seasons, Parker was one of the best pulling and run blocking offensive linemen the Buckeyes have even produced, and his blocking helped Howard "Hopalong" Cassady set a new school record in 1955 with 958 yards rushing on his way to the Heisman Trophy.
During Parker's three seasons as a starter, the Buckeyes won 23 of 28 games, including a perfect 10-0 mark in 1954 that earned OSU the national championship.
The following year, the Buckeyes lost twice during a 7-2 regular season, but were a perfect 6-0 in the Big Ten. The team's only two losses that year were a 6-0 decision at Stanford and a 20-14 defeat at the hands of Duke, which was ranked No. 11 in the country at the time.
During Parker's senior season, the Buckeyes were a bit of a rebuilding cycle as Cassady and several other stars from the 1954-55 teams had graduated. But he continued to get better, blowing open holes for halfback Don Clark, who rushed and passed for 885 yards in '56.
After that season, Parker was snowed under with awards, including his second straight first-team All-Big selection and a second first-team All-American honor in a row. He was also named the OSU most valuable player in a vote by his teammates, then topped off his career by being named winner of the Outland Trophy, the first Buckeye ever to win that award.
Parker was a first-round selection by the Baltimore Colts in the 1957 NFL draft and went on to have an outstanding professional career.
Although he specialized in run blocking during his OSU days, Parker took great pride in establishing himself as one of the NFL's best pass protectors and Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas thrived in back of him.
"It didn't take me long to learn the one big rule," Parker said. " ‘Just keep them away from John,' Coach (Weeb) Ewbank told me at my first practice. ‘You can be the most unpopular man on the team if the quarterback gets hurt.' I never forgot that."
With Parker anchoring the line and players such as Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry on the offense, the Colts flourished during the late 1950s and early 1960s, winning back-to-back NFL championships in 1958 and '59.
He spent 11 years in the league – dividing his time almost evenly between the left tackle and left guard spots – and earned eight trips to the Pro Bowl, four at tackle and four at guard. After never missing a game in 10 years, Parker was limited to just three during the 1967 campaign and retired following the season. The Colts later retired his No. 77 jersey.
Six years after his retirement, Parker was given the ultimate accolade with a first-year induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the first full-time offensive lineman to earn enshrinement. A year later, he became the 12th Buckeye player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
And in 1977, Parker was one of the original inductees into the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame, joining such other all-time greats as Cassady, Les Horvath, Vic Janowicz, Bill Willis, Wes Fesler and Chic Harley.
Upon his induction, Hayes remarked, "Jim Parker was the greatest offensive lineman I ever coached. I'm not sure there has ever been a better offensive guard. He was everything an offensive lineman should be."
Parker died July 18, 2005, after battling a number of diseases. He was 71.
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