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April 24, 2013

Time and Change: Pete Cusick

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"(Ohio State) defensive tackle Pete Cusick cannot be blocked."

Those were the words in the Fighting Illini scouting report and game plan which my brother allowed me to read AFTER the 1973 game was over and Illinois had lost once again to the Ohio State Buckeyes.

In all my football experiences I have never seen a scouting report that said 'someone cannot be blocked'.

But in all honesty, they were words that I somewhat expected having previously watched the 1973 ABC Sports College Football Preseason Football special.

In that preseason show, Ohio State was featured as the No. 1 team in the land and I will never forget a video clip, filmed in the Ohio State weight room, specifically showing Pete Cusick with 315 pounds on the bar for the bench press. Not necessarily an impressive lift, but what made it impressive was that Archie Griffin was also standing on that bar as Pete benched the bar, up and down, multiple times.

Archie at the time weighed 189 lbs. Do the math.

The 1973 Ohio State Defense was one of the most talented in college football history, with players such as Randy Gradishar, Rick Middleton, Doug Plank, Tim Fox, Neal Colzie, Van DeCree and yes, Pete Cusick. All went on to the National Football League.

There is no doubt in my mind, or the minds of many Ohio State historians, that Cusick was one of the most physical defensive tackles ever at Ohio State. As a member of that star-studded defense Pete and the 1973 Buckeyes led the Big Ten in rushing defense while holding eight of eleven opponents to one touchdown or less, delivering four shutouts and holding opponents to an average of four points per game.

But Pete stood out on that team, earning captain honors and first-team All-America laurels as a senior in 1974. The defensive tackle was a first-team All-Big Ten choice in '73 and '74 and finished with 242 career tackles before moving on to an NFL career.

I had the opportunity to speak with Pete recently as he was preparing for an upcoming move to the Big Island of Hawaii and we discussed some of the changes occurring in college football.

"College football has become such a big business today," Cusick said. "There are a lot more regulations and over site than in the past. They oversee practice hours and time with athletes. Woody used to works us hours and hours at a time and today they can't do that quite the same way."

"Kids also have a lot more distractions today. They have media, Internet, texting, summer camps, passing camps, junior days and preparation has become a year round thing. The game has become much more complex at a younger level."

Obviously it was a very deserving honor for Cusick to be inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame last fall as a member of the 2012 class.

While speaking with Pete recently, the Hall of Fame induction was still fresh in his mind and a huge sense of pride for him.

"The Hall of Fame was a tremendous honor," Cusick said. "It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I am still on cloud nine. It was a great compliment to my Ohio State career, but also an honor to be in the same class with people like Mike Vrabel, Ray Griffin, Jessica Davenport and Dick Schafrath."

Despite all the accolades and being a member of a team that went 29-4-1 over three years Cusick remains humble about his career at Ohio State.

But who does Cusick feel makes the list of the best defensive tackles to ever wear the Scarlet and Gray? "I was pretty good, but I look at players like Dan Wilkinson, Mike Vrabel, Jim Stillwagon and Johnathan Hankins as being some of the best ever."

Cusick remains modest, after all he was a 1974 All-American, a team captain, played in three Rose Bowls and played for the New England Patriots in the NFL.

"Given all that, the greatest experience I had at Ohio State was absolutely playing for Woody Hayes," Cusick said. "I loved the way he was all business and coached us to play great defense. Woody also taught us to 'Pay Forward' to other people. It has always come back to me in spades 20-30 years later. I became successful inherently from being a part of the Ohio State Program. No gray area. It made me the best in the business world."

"The other great memory of my Ohio State playing days were playing every year in the Ohio State/Michigan Game and going on to play in the Rose Bowl. You come to Ohio State to win the big games. We did and it was awesome. At Ohio State, it's about the tradition, the excellence, the winning, and the respect. Winning the right way. We come back year after year and we do it again. I am so proud of Ohio State."

Pete closed his Hall of Fame induction speech with the following… "I love this place, I love all of you and thank you, it's been wonderful."

It sure has, Pete.

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