Obituary: John HIcks, Ohio State’s 1973 Outland Trophy winner

John Hicks won the FWAA’s Outland Trophy in 1973. He is one of four Ohio State players to claim the Outland Trophy. Jim Parker (1956), Jim Stillwagon (1970) and Orlando Pace (1996) are the others.

October 30, 2016


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Buckeye Family Loses a Legend: All-Time Great John Hicks

Woody Hayes called Hicks “the greatest interior lineman I have ever coached”

COLUMBUS, Ohio – John Hicks, a two-time All-American and major award winner and undeniably one of the most outstanding Ohio State football players of all time, died Saturday after a long illness. Hicks’ wife, Cindy, contacted the Department of Athletics with the news. He was 65.

An offensive guard from Cleveland’s John Hay High School, Hicks was a three-year starter for Woody Hayes-coached teams that won Big Ten Conference championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973 and advanced to the Rose Bowl in each of those seasons. Hicks was the first player to start in three Rose Bowls and in 2009 he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

“I was stunned and saddened to hear the news of John Hicks’ passing,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He was truly one of the all-time greats for this university who was always good to this football program and the community. He will truly be missed and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Freshmen were ineligible in 1969, Hicks’ first year on campus, but in 1970 he helped the Buckeyes to a 9-1 record, a 7-0 mark in the Big Ten, including a 20-9 win over Michigan, and the national championship as awarded by the National Football Foundation.

Ohio State was 3-1 in 1971 before a knee injury sidelined Hicks and caused him to miss the final six games of what would become a 6-4 campaign.

Hicks would come back stronger than ever. In 1972 he was a first-team All-American for an Ohio State team that went 9-2 and 7-1 in the Big Ten with a 14-11 victory over Michigan. This was the year he began paving the way to greatness for a freshman running back from Columbus named Archie Griffin.

In 1973 the Buckeyes were 10-0-1 with Hicks earning unanimous All-American honors. The Buckeyes were awarded the Rose Bowl berth after a 10-all tie with Michigan, and Hicks’ last game as a Buckeye was a 42-21 dismantling of USC in the 1974 Rose Bowl game.

Hicks made history in 1973. Not only was he a unanimous All-American, but he won both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in the nation and he finished second – second! – in the Heisman Trophy voting to Penn State’s John Cappelletti. Teammates Griffin and linebacker Randy Gradishar were fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Heisman voting that year.

Hicks would go on to become a first-round NFL Draft pick of the New York Giants, who he played for from 1974 to 1977.

Hicks was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Ohio State Sports Hall of Fame in 1985. His careers after football included running his real estate development company and “paying forward” through community service initiatives such as the Boys and Girls Club of Central Ohio and the Central Ohio Diabetes Association.

Obituary: Lynne Draper, founder of the Thorpe Award

Lynne Draper, a member and supporter of the Football Writers Association of America for many years, died Thursday Oct. 27. He was one of the founders of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) of which the Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award are members.


Spotlight on the Outland Trophy: Clemson’s Carlos Watkins

Freshman football players will often ask their older teammates why they redshirted.

Carlos Watkins is happy to explain, but he doesn’t need to say much. Clemson’s fifth-year senior defensive tackle can simply raise and curl his right arm, displaying a forearm that’s thicker than most men’s biceps, and show a dozen scars caused by shattered glass.

Those are the only physical reminders of a harrowing experience Watkins will never forget. The deep bruises on his legs have faded away, and his football attributes have returned. Watkins is one of four Tigers with three sacks this season.

Mentally, Watkins says it took a year and a half to fully come to grips with surviving the fatal car accident that took the life of his cousin. But it’s evident now that the wreck did not dampen Watkins’ desire to play football.

CLICK HERE to read the entire story about this Outland Trophy candidate by Aaron Brenner of the Post and Courier.


Finalists for Armed Forces Merit Award revealed

armed forces merit awardFORT WORTH, Texas — Led by 2015 runner-up Steven Rhodes of Middle Tennessee State University, four individuals and the Kansas State football program have been named as finalists for the 2016 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Other finalists for the 2016 AFMA are Fran McMenamin, a Marine veteran playing  on the offensive line at East Stroudsburg University, Naval Academy outside linebacker coach and Marine Robert Green as well as Texas Tech strength and conditioning coach and Army veteran Rusty Whitt.

The partnership between the K-State football team and the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team brought Soldiers and players together at Fort Riley June 17 for a joint physical readiness training event.  Kansas State has been involved with Fort Riley since 2008.

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group with a military background and/or involvement that has an impact within the realm of college football.”

The award’s selection committee is made up of five FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.  The group reviewed 16 “candidates” for the 2016 honor where Rhodes, McMenamin, Green, Whitt and the K-State football program were confirmed finalists for the award.

Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) was honored as the 2015 recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA.  Rhodes, who was also considered for the Armed Forces Merit Award in 2013 and 2014, played in the 2013 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl

This year’s recipient will be announced this Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11.  The announcement of the 2016 recipient will be made jointly by Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl Executive Director Brant Ringler and FWAA President Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on an 11 a.m. (CT) teleconference.

Nate Boyer of the University of Texas was named the initial recipient of the award in 2012, Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas topped the AFMA list in 2013 and Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University was honored in 2014.

Guest column: ’45 Aggies over Army? Coaches’ revisionism slap to Cadets, writers 1

Editors Note:  Bob Hammel, former award-winning Sports Editor of the  Bloomington  (Ind.) Herald-Times, was the FWAA’s President in 1992 and the 1996 Bert McGrane Award recipient. In the following  column, he throws a red flag on the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) for its recent move to retroactively name Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) the 1945 National Football Champion.  

By Bob Hammel

Throw a flag, for heaven’s sake. It’s time to introduce the Statue-of-Liberty world to the statute of limitations.

The American Football Coaches Association announced in early October it has awarded the 1945 national championship to Oklahoma A&M, which now is Oklahoma State. How and why are questions raised and unanswered by the ludicrous AFCA move.

A&M had a nice team in ’45. Unbeaten. No. 5 in the season-ending Associated Press poll.

No. 1 that year, and ranked as one of the best college teams of all time, was Army.

Blanchard and Davis. The Touchdown Twins. “Mr. Inside” and “Mr. Outside.” That Army.

The one that in early November that year squared off with No. 2-ranked Notre Dame and won, 48-0, then three weeks later closed against the new No. 2, Navy, and won, 32-13.

It’s too bad the AFCA’s only five-time national Coach of the Year, Joe Paterno, wasn’t still around to dress down this modern group with an “Are you serious?” rebuke. Because he would have.

Fifty years after Blanchard and Davis entered the scene, Paterno had a high-scoring national power at Penn State and was asked on a Big Ten telephonic press conference when the modern game began to emerge, when the high-powered change came? With Blanchard and Davis and those great Army teams?

Over the telephone you could feel Paterno smiling.

“My high school coach took me up to the Polo Grounds to watch them play Duke,” he said. “They beat Duke 19-0 and Blanchard hit the second or third play from scrimmage and ran the whole distance.

“But I don’t know whether that combination changed football. The Army thing was just a matter that all the great athletes were located in one place, and they were playing against people who weren’t as great as they were.

“That’s not to say that Davis and Blanchard were not great players. They were.

“But what they were doing was not different from what anybody else was doing at that time. They just happened to be better.”

Than anybody.

The recent nonsense came about because somebody noticed that the AFCA was in business for almost 30 years before anyone gave coaches a voting voice in picking the national champion — back in the times when champions were picked by polls, not playoffs. In 1950, United Press started a weekly poll of coaches and the leader of the last one was UP’s — hence, the coaches’ — national champion. That was 14 years after the rival Associated Press had begun a national sportswriters’ poll. It certainly wasn’t the best way to pick a champion, but coaches and administrators and eventually the gigantic TV dollar wrangled for years about the right way to conduct a playoff, or if even to have one. We’re into just the third year of their common-sense solution, and someone at the AFCA recently decided coaches should select the real national champion from all those years — 1922 through 1949 — when there was an AFCA but no coaches’ poll.

The 1945 selection should be enough to end that folly.

There was an AFCA in 1945. It named an 11-man All-America team and four were from Army, two more from teams Army beat. Bob Fenimore, an outstanding back, was on there from Oklahoma A&M — with, it’s a good bet, fewer votes than Blanchard or Davis. One AFCA All-American was from a team the Aggies beat.

That final 1945 AP poll had Army (9-0) No. 1, Navy (8-1, the loss to Army) No. 2, Alabama (9-0) No. 3 and — imagine that! — Big Ten champion Indiana (9-0-1) fourth. Yes, the final vote was taken before the bowl games. Army and Navy — like Notre Dame and the Big Ten — did not go to bowls then. Oklahoma A&M (8-0) did and beat No. 7 St. Mary’s in the Sugar Bowl, 33-13. But, perfect-record Alabama won the much more prestigious Rose Bowl over No. 11 Southern Cal, 34-14. In the poof that made Army and Navy vanish, what happened to ’Bama, not to mention Indiana — which won at Michigan, at Minnesota, at Illinois, at Iowa and at Pitt (and 54-14 over Nebraska)?

Old data can look different, crunched into one of today’s computers. But nobody computes football data better than Jeff Sagarin, and the news from the AFCA made him gasp. He has run the ’45 season, too. He pulled it out and found his numbers had Oklahoma A&M 24th — calculated to lose by three touchdowns to Army.

The 1945 Associated Press poll had votes from 116 writers, coast-to-coast. Army was a unanimous No. 1, which undoubtedly meant that a qualified voter or two or three from Oklahoma — fully versed in Oklahoma A&M’s virtues — went for Army.

There’s a group called the Football Writers Association of America, which has been around almost as long as the AFCA. Its membership was the heart of the AP poll, and that group — through to its modern-day membership — has just been given a 71-year-late slap in the face.

But a weak one. The AFCA has entered a courtroom in which it has no case.

Outland presentation dinner plans announced

outland-semi-finalist-reception-2OMAHA — For the 20th consecutive year, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the Greater Omaha Sports Committee will combine to host the Outland Trophy Presentation Dinner.  It will occur on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Omaha.

The 71st winner of the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman on offense or defense) will be revealed on Dec. 8 on The Home Depot College Football Awards. The show, on ESPN, is broadcast from the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

The 2016 Outland Trophy winner will then appear in Omaha and receive his trophy. This tradition dates to 1997 when Nebraska offensive lineman Aaron Taylor became the first Outland Trophy winner to be honored in Omaha.

The Outland Trophy Presentation Dinner will have an Oklahoma flavor to it this season, which coincides with the 45th Anniversary of the Nebraska-Oklahoma Game of the Century, won by Nebraska, 35-31, in 1971.

The Sooners’ Greg Roberts, the 1978 Outland Trophy winner, will receive his trophy because only plaques were given by the FWAA during the era in which he was the winner. The 1988 winner, Tracy Rocker of Auburn, was the first player to receive an Outland Trophy. The Downtown Rotary Club of Omaha for many years has graciously sponsored the project of supplying former Outland winners (from 1946-1987) with their trophies.

Additionally, former Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer will claim the third annual Tom Osborne Legacy Award. Switzer coached two Outland Trophy winners, Roberts and the late Lee Roy Selmon, the 1975 Outland Trophy winner. Both Osborne and Switzer were assistant coaches on the Nebraska and Oklahoma staffs, respectively, in 1971, when the Game of the Century was played, before later becoming long-running head coaches at those schools.

The Legacy Award, named after the legendary Osborne, goes to a person who predominately played, coached and/ or made extraordinary contributions to the interior line of college football and/or made contributions to the Outland Trophy. The winner must exhibit the characteristics of integrity, sportsmanship and fair play associated with Tom Osborne.

The winners of Nebraska’s three football senior awards also will be presented at the banquet .

The Tom Novak Trophy is awarded annually to the senior who “best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds.” The Guy Chamberlin Trophy goes to the senior “who by his play and off-field contributions has added to the betterment of the Nebraska football squad in the tradition of Guy Chamberlin.” And the Cletus Fischer Native Son Award,  is given annually to the senior who “best exemplifies good work ethic, competitiveness, leadership, pride and love of Nebraska.”

For more information on the Outland Trophy Presentation Banquet contact Bob Mancuso Jr., Greater Omaha Sports Committee, 402-346-8003,   or at

Spotlight on the Outland Trophy: Ohio State center Pat Elflein

outland trophy bwFormer FWAA President Lee Barfknecht writes that Ohio State center Pat Elflein, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten pick and a second-team All-American last year, is a strong candidate for the Outland Trophy, presented by the FWAA to the nation’s best interior lineman.

CLICK HERE to read the entire story at


Maisel gets place in NFF’s Bert McGrane display 2


Ivan Maisel, the 2016 Bert McGrane Winner, recently was presented the plate with his name on it to be placed in the Bert McGrane Award display which is housed at the National Football Foundation offices in Irving, Texas. Maisel, the 1995 FWAA President, was presented a larger commemorative plaque last January at the FWAA Annual Awards Breakfast. He will be featured in a story in the NFF Banquet Program in December. Each year the FWAA honors a member in recognition of contributions to the association and college football in the name of the former FWAA Executive Director. The honoree is also recognized in the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. (Photo Courtesy of NFF)

Ivan Maisel, the 2016 Bert McGrane Winner, recently was presented the plate with his name on it to be placed in the Bert McGrane Award display which is housed at the National Football Foundation offices in Irving, Texas. Maisel, the 1995 FWAA President, was presented a larger commemorative plaque last January at the FWAA Annual Awards Breakfast. He will be featured in a story in the NFF Banquet Program in December. Each year the FWAA honors a member in recognition of contributions to the association and college football in the name of the former FWAA Executive Director. The honoree is also recognized in the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. (Photo Courtesy of NFF)