For most of its history great running backs are thought as part of the Ohio State lore, but the number of great Buckeye linebackers are now rivaling their offensive counterparts.
Picking the best from consensus All-Americans like Randy Gradishar, Tom Cousineau, Marcus Marek, Andy Katzemoyer, Matt Wilhelm, AJ Hawk and James Laurinaitis is an impossible task. But one could not go wrong in selecting Chris Spielman.
Spielman was a star even before he arrived in Columbus. As a high school player in Massillon, Oh., he was featured on the cover of a Wheaties box.
Despite his great ability, Spielman was not a starter in his 1984 freshman season. He cracked the starting lineup the next year as the Buckeyes went 9-3, beat top-ranked Iowa and won the Citrus Bowl. Chris was named a first-team All-America.
He became a consensus All-America pick in 1986 and placed 10th in Heisman Trophy voting. Before the Illinois game, he visited an injured high school player in the hospital and made and kept a promise to make an interception. Spielman closed a 10-3 season with a Cotton Bowl win and the game’s MVP Award.
While his final season in Columbus was a disappointing 6-4-1, he was at his best in his final collegiate game, as Ohio State upset rival Michigan with Spielman recording an incredible 29 tackles. His individual awards that year included the Lombardi Award, his third consecutive All-American honors and a sixth place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Spielman was the 29th selection in the NFL Draft. He played eight seasons with the Detroit Lions, two with the Buffalo Bills and one with the Cleveland Browns. Chris was selected to four Pro Bowls before retiring as Detroit’s all-time leader in tackles.
Chris missed the 1998 season to care for his wife, Stefanie who was battling cancer. With her illness and passing in 2009, he became actively involved with fund raising for breast cancer research. Since 2001, he has been a game analyst for ESPN. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Kent Stephens is the curator and historian at the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience. Kent has been a part of the Hall staff since 1990 when it was located in Kings Island, Ohio. He relocated with the Hall to South Bend, Ind., and moved to Atlanta in 2013, becoming the only member of the staff to serve at all three locations.