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September 25, 2012

Time and Change: Tom Skladany

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In this edition of Time and Change we have the chance to visit with the greatest combination punter/kicker in Ohio State history, Tom Skladany. Skladany was an All-American for the Buckeyes from 1974-1976 and played six years in the NFL for the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.

During Skladany's career with the Buckeyes the team went a very impressive 40-2-5. Skladany is also mentioned throughout the Ohio State record books in the top five of most kicking and punting categories but in my opinion the most impressive record that still stands is the longest field goal of 59 yards versus the University of Illinois in 1975.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Tom regarding changes that he has seen in college football and more specifically the Buckeyes, he was quick to identify three or four changes that in his opinion have made significant differences.

The first change that came to the forefront with Skladany was the changes with the media, having a real impact on college players today.

"When I played in the 70s, there were only three media sources that we really dealt with and those were ABC, NBC and CBS," Skladany said. "Today there are at least 91 different media vehicles that cover the Buckeyes. If a player sneezes, it's on the internet before they wipe their nose. If a kid goes out to dinner, it's on the nightly news."

That visibility and media coverage contributes to what Skladany thinks is a significant increase in pressure on the Ohio State players today.

"Those kids play before 105,000 fans in the stadium today and millions watch and listen to their every move on the field," Skladany added. "It is incredible that what they do on Saturday afternoon affects 1.5 million people and the entire city of Columbus. If they get that "W" everything is great, if it's an "L", it is doom and gloom until they play the next Saturday game. That's a lot of pressure on an 18 -22 year old kid."

Certainly NCAA rules have affected special teams play over the years since Skladany played. One of those special teams' changes involves to placement of the ball after a missed field goal. Today, when a field goal is missed, the opposing team takes possession at the line of scrimmage where the kick was attempted. Back in Skladany's day, if the field goal was missed, the opposing team took possession of the ball on their own 20-yard-line.

Skladany believes that is why we aren't seeing longer field goals today.

"I had a 59-yarder that still stands today as the record for the longest field goal," Skladany said. "Today they are scared to try them that long, unless there are only a few seconds on the clock. I guarantee you, we've had kids who could kick them from 63 or 64 yards, but they never got the chance".

Another change that Tom identified was the difference in punting styles from the 50-yard line.

"I wish punters today would work at kicking the ball out of bounds inside the ten yard line or go for the coffin corner," Skladany said. "It's a lost art. We line up at the 50 and boot it into the end zone. Statistics look better, but it's not helping the team."

Since his playing days have ended, Skladany has become a successful businessman in the Columbus area as the owner and operator of Skladany Printing. He is quite active in the Columbus community, Ohio State Athletics and Varsity "O" Alumni Association. Tom donates his time to multiple charities and has been quite the auctioneer at many Ohio State related charity golf outings.

While writing Time and Change, I speak to many of the former players about their greatest memory in all of football and it always amazes me, especially among the players who played in the NFL, that their greatest memories were always at Ohio State. In that respect, Skladany was no different than any of the other players I have spoken to.

"First off, my days at Ohio State were the greatest of my life," Skladany said. "If I had to pick one moment, it would have to be the Ohio State Michigan game of 1974.

"It was late in the fourth quarter and the score was close like most of the Ohio State Michigan games were back then. We were leading 14-12 and we had fourth down on our own seven-yard line. 90,000 people in the stadium were at fever pitch and I had to punt from eight yards deep in the end zone. If I have a bad punt, they would get a chance at a field goal to win the game. "I go into the game and I couldn't feel or hear a thing. I caught the snap, I made the punt and thought it might have been blocked because I didn't even feel it come off my foot. I didn't come to until I felt my team mates slapping me on my helmet and shoulder pads on the sideline.

"I had hit a 63 yarder and we went on to win the game. One of the writers wrote after the game that, 'Ohio State won 14-12, by two feet… Tom Klaban (four field goals) and Tom Skladany's'."

Skladany is one of the greatest in a long line of outstanding former Buckeye punters and kickers. While he is critical of some of the rule changes and styles of play regarding special teams today, he is fiercely supportive of our current Buckeye players and incredibly loyal and active within the Ohio State Football Family. The way I see it, Ohio State and college athletics in general needs more Tom Skladanys.

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