Time and Change: Lessons from the past
In the spirit of "Time and Change, I thought it would interesting for all BuckeyeGrove.com readers to hear from some of my past teammates as well as other former "Buckeye Greats", in terms of their views and perceptions of the changes (both positive and negative) to college football and more specifically, Buckeyes football. In the coming days, I plan to feature stories and information from Doug Donley, Archie Griffin, John Hicks and Randy Gradishar, just to name a few.
Doug Donley was the starting wide receiver for Ohio State and the leading receiver for the Buckeyes from 1978-80. He is the sixth leading Buckeye receiver of all-time and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round in 1981.
This was in the era of Buckeyes football where there was very little passing, yet Doug was an extreme talent. He was one of the fastest players ever on Ohio State rosters, clocking consistent 4.3 (second) 40-yard dashes consistently rivaling Rod Gerald, Ron Springs and Ty Hicks as the fastest Buckeyes on those teams, hence the nickname of "White Lightning".
Doug was recruited in 1976 and had the opportunity to attend every big name university in the United States. Doug's recruitment did not come without some serious scrutiny however as he endured shoulder surgery immediately after his senior football season at Cambridge High school leading into his next season as the starting guard for the Bobcats basketball team.
He had lost about 20 pounds and weighed in the neighborhood of 160 pounds. Woody Hayes and other big-time college coaches were coming to watch Doug play in a key Friday night game and the assistants told Woody, 'Coach, when you look at this kid, you're not going to want him. But when you watch him play, please know he is going to recover and grow and we believe he will be a terrific Buckeye.'
That night athletic trainers taped and wrapped Doug's right arm around his torso and despite being right-handed, Doug had 18 points as the starting guard for the Cambridge Bobcats...left handed! Woody immediately said, 'I want him.'
On a subsequent night Woody came over to the Donley home for dinner. Doug was nervous as expected as his recruitment had come down to just three schools, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan. Obviously, Doug did not want things to go poorly. During dinner the phone rang and Mrs. Donley came to the table and said, 'Doug, the call is for you, but you should probably take this in the back bedroom.'
Doug left the table and went to take the call. The caller was none other than Bo Schembechler, the head coach of that school up north. Doug was cordial, but understandably short with Coach Schembechler. He then returned to the dinner table, very nervous about the situation, hoping it would not come up during the conversation with Coach Hayes.
No sooner had Doug sat down at the table, Woody asked, "Who was that on the phone young man?"
Doug answered, "Well Coach Hayes that was Bo Schembechler who called." Woody, stood up, walked to the head of the table and thrust his hand out to the young Donley saying, "Young man, I want your commitment and handshake that you will accept a full scholarship to play football and attend The Ohio State University. Doug shook Woody's hand and the rest is history.
Doug went on to a great Ohio State career and a good career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite playing for only four years with the Cowboys, Doug understood the unique privilege he was able to experience at Ohio State and, what an anomaly it truly was to be able to play in the NFL.
When asked recently, what differences Doug sees in players from the days when he played at Ohio State, until now, Doug said, "Players these days are still the same good kids that we were when we played for the Bucks, but the differences I see today, is that college football has become such big business.
"I don't remember all the spots on all the National networks like ESPN and Fox Sports, let alone the Facebook, Twitter and the texting that goes on today."
We never thought of selling our jerseys or rings or gold pants, because it was not that big of a deal back then. Another difference that Doug sees is the general goal of high school kids entering into their early college careers.
"Back then, we were looking to play for an awesome college program and play for championships and bowl games every year," Donley added.
"Today, I see many of the kids that look at their college careers as stepping stones to the pros. I was able to speak to the team last year and I told them two things. The first being, 'you have a better chance of walking outside and getting hit by a meteor, that you do of making it to the NFL'.
"Secondly, 'you're going to have an opportunity to play close to 50 games together as a team in front of 100,000 people. Those are 50 once in a lifetime opportunities. Most of you will not get this opportunity again. Take advantage of it and enjoy it.'" Donley went on to add.
This 2012 Ohio State Buckeye Football team operates under an entirely different set of team and personal expectations than the teams in recent years. Team is emphasized in everything they do.
Everything I see today from my perspective resonates around teamwork, discipline, hard work, camaraderie and winning. In the new era of Ohio State Football, under Urban Meyer, I truly believe as Doug told the team, that these kids will learn to value and enjoy these once in a lifetime opportunities, valuing teamwork, tradition, performing their best and winning championships. The rest will take care of itself and we will be a proud "Buckeye Nation."