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April 2, 2013

Time and Change: Tim Fox

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

Many of you may remember from my past writings that I have a fairly extensive Big Ten football background, with my uncle and cousin both playing for Wisconsin, my brother playing for Illinois and yours truly moving on to The Ohio State University Buckeyes.

Growing up in those times in the 70s, I had the distinct pleasure to watch legendary college teams with players such as John Capelletti of Penn State, Pat Hayden, Lynn Swann, Sam "the Bam" Cunningham of USC, Sonny Sixkiller of Washington, Chuck Muncie of Cal, Scott Studwell of Illinois and certainly Archie Griffin of The Ohio State University.

I will never forget watching many of my brother's games and noticing the demeanor of many of those teams as they entered Memorial Stadium in Champaign to play the Illini. Some teams had swagger, some were undisciplined, some were cocky, but one in particular came to do business and in my opinion performed in a classy sportsman like way and left the stadium as they had planned, with another college football victory. That team was the Ohio State Buckeyes.

One of the most memorable games was Ohio State at Illinois in 1975. As I have said in previous pieces, my brother was team captain for the Illini and had worked all off-season and pre-season with this game in his sights.

In today's installment of Time and Change, I have another pleasure of re-introducing you to Tim Fox, who was one of the key players of that 1975 game.

I will never forget that game. Uncharacteristically the Buckeyes came out slow, trading field goals with the Illini during the first quarter, with Illinois field goal kicker, Dan Beaver kicking a 53-yard field goal to put Illinois ahead 3-0.

The second quarter was just as lackluster as the first, with the only highlight being Archie Griffin's 30-yard touchdown run. Before the half with time running down the Buckeyes later were driving. The half was drawing to a close when Woody sent in kicker Tom Skladany who boomed a 59-yard field goal to put the Buckeyes ahead 10-3

As the second half began the Illini had the ball and Jim Kopatz dropped back to pass. He threw a long pass out near the 50-yard line that was intercepted by none other than Tim Fox. Fox returned the interception 50 yards for a touchdown, doing a head over heels front flip, never breaking stride as he crossed the goal line. The score was now 17-3, Buckeyes. But the message had been sent and certainly delivered and the Buckeyes went on to win, 40-3

Woody Hayes was always known for despising end zone celebrations. He used to urge players to hand the ball to the referee and celebrate with your teammates on the sideline. Woody used to say, 'act like you've been there before'.

In 1975 quarterback Cornelius Greene, who scored many touchdowns running the option play, would ultimately celebrate with an end zone shuffle that always irritated Woody.

When talking with Fox, I asked him how Coach Hayes reacted to his full front flip as he crossed the goal line against the Illini. Tim said that Woody was not too pleased, but that in the post-game film review sessions, Woody said, 'Fox, you know I hate end zone celebrations, but that was one hell of an athletic move son.'

Larry Romanoff, former Director of External Relations for Ohio State Football, once told me the story of Fox at the 1976 Rose Bowl, doing flips off of the bridge of the Huntington Sheraton Hotel into the pool. Woody was again incensed.

As a high school senior at Canton Glenwood high school, Fox was not heavily recruited. He had a knee injury his senior year as well as a ruptured kidney that kept him out of six games his senior year and most schools that were recruiting him were either Division-II schools or schools like Kent State and other MAC schools. That was until Tim's girlfriend introduced him to Harry Meyer, who was personal friends with Woody Hayes. Tim accepted the last scholarship offer of the Buckeyes' 1972 recruiting class.

The Fox family lineage has produced football talent in later generations with two nephews playing Big Ten football. Derek played safety for Penn State from 1996 through 1999 and Dustin played cornerback for the Buckeyes from 2000 to 2004.

Dustin Fox originally committed to Ohio State, but when John Cooper was fired Joe Paterno convinced Dustin to change his commitment to Penn State over the telephone. Jim Tressel was a relative unknown on the big stage at the time.

Tim would have no part of it. He called Dustin and convinced him to visit Ohio State with him and his daughter Haley, who was a current Ohio State student and field hockey player. Dustin reconfirmed his intent to attend OSU and went on to play four years for the Buckeyes. He was a starter and team captain of the 2002 National Championship team and like his uncle, played for three teams in the NFL.

As always, I spoke with Tim about changes he sees in college football versus the days when he played and he was quick to point out that today's college football player needs some financial compensation for their time and effort.

"When I played, we had pre-season camp, the season and spring football," Fox said. "We had plenty of time during the summer to have a summer job and earn some spending money. Today, it is a year round job. The kids have pre-season camps, the regular season, winter conditioning and virtually 100% summer workouts and 7 on 7 competitions. "They don't have the ability to work summer jobs and earn any spending money. Many of them can't afford pizza money or to go out on a date and just be a college kid. The NCAA needs to figure this one out because it is just totally unfair to today's college athlete."

As I have often talked about, 'Who's Your Bob Fenton', that one person that went out of their way for you; Tim identifies and individual in his life that helped him succeed during his developing years at Ohio State. It was the same Harry Meyer who helped Tim receive a scholarship to play football for the Buckeyes.

"Harry went out of his way for me many times," Tim said. "Harry owned a Terminix Pest Service franchise and I worked for him in the summers. If anyone thinks this was a 'cush job', given to me because I was a football player, try spraying bugs and trapping rats for eight hours a day five days a week. I earned every penny."

I am one to believe that Tim Fox was one of the greatest safeties to ever play for the Buckeyes. He played in four Rose Bowls and was actually one of only two players to ever start in four Rose Bowls. The other was none other than Archie Griffin. Fox was a two-time All American and was drafted in the first round by the New England Patriots. He played 14 years in the NFL for the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams.

Having earned all those accolades and accomplishments, I asked Fox to share his greatest memory of his football playing days as I often do in these Time and Change columns. Tim was quick to point out two memories.

"One was being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots," Fox said. "I had no expectations of being drafted anywhere near the first round.

"I wasn't even home that day; I was out shopping and hanging out with some friends. They broke the news to me when I got home. That was a terrific memory and I went on to have a really good NFL career."

The other memory Fox had was also one of his greatest losses.

"When I speak to young kids and youth organizations today, I always tell them you learn more from the losses than the wins," Fox said. "I will never forget our 1975 Rose Bowl loss to UCLA. We had already beaten them by 21 points earlier in the year and then lost to them 23 to 10 in the Rose Bowl. I could have played better and we all could have played better and we would have won the national Championship. I think about it to this day and it has helped me persevere and succeed in life.

"Despite that, I also have great memories of Ohio State. We only lost five games in four years and we were one of the winningest classes in Ohio State History."

One of the great goals of terrific recruiting classes at Ohio State is to finish among the winningest class. Some things will never change.

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