Of the 76 possible players from the Football Bowl Subdivision to make it on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot, only three of them come from Ohio State—and each one of them left a lasting legacy in Columbus.
Running back Keith Byars, fullback Jim Otis and offensive tackle Chris Ward made the national ballot, announced by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame on Monday morning. All three of these Buckeye greats passed the district screening to become eligible to be put on the national ballot. Additionally, the maximum number of representatives a school can have on the national ballot is three.
Byars was at OSU from 1982-85, and was a unanimous All-American and runner-up to Doug Flutie for the Heisman Trophy in 1984. The Dayton, Ohio, product ranks No. 8 in school rushing yards at 3,200, sixth in all-purpose yards at 4,369 and is second in touchdowns with 50. Coached by Earle Bruce, the ‘84 campaign saw Byars lead the nation in rushing yards with 1,764, as well as setting a still-standing school record of 2,441 all-purpose yards.
Otis was part of the 1968 national championship team, and, like Byars, was an All-American selection. The Celina, Ohio, native led the Woody Hayes ground attack for three seasons—and is only one of four Buckeyes to hold that honor. In the OSU record books, Otis comes in 16th for most rushing yards (2,542).
Rounding out the trio is Ward. Like Byars and Otis, the OT racked up All-American accolades, including a consensus honor in 1976, and a unanimous honor in 1977. But All-American recognition wasn’t the only thing Ward walked away with from his OSU playing days. He was named first-team All-Big Ten three times, was part of four consecutive Big Ten championship teams, and helped open holes for Archie Griffin’s Heisman campaign of 1975.
If any of these Ohio State greats gets the call to the Hall, then they’d be in good company. Twenty-five former Buckeyes are already in the HoF, with linebacker Tom Cousineau being the latest selection in 2016. OSU sits firmly in fourth place with the most members in the HoF, only trailing Notre Dame (46), USC (31) and Michigan (30).
To be considered, the criteria centers around first-team All-American recognition by an outlet that compiles consensus All-American teams (i.e. AP, Walter Camp, AFCA, FWAA and The Sporting News). On the field production isn’t the only thing considered; the post-football record on the civilian circuit also is taken into account for a potential candidate.
The announcement for who’ll be inducted in the 2019 class will come on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.