Shortly after I began contributing to Land Grant Holy Land, I realized that I was already struggling to come up with good content for the offseason/summer months. Hell of a start, right? But unfortunately, once the NFL Draft takes place, the content well tends to dry up unless you’ve already dialed in on one of the spring sports or the NBA Draft (but as Buckeye hoops fans... you get it). Ohio State football and basketball – our most popular topics – are still part of the news cycle, but they have taken a back seat. And recruiting... well, there are people at LGHL who do a hell of a job covering it, so I wasn’t about to swim with those sharks.
I needed to think outside the box. I thought: Football is months away, basketball is months away, recruiting is speculative and subject to change... many of the topics being covered now revolve around future events or predictions. But what about former players? And I’m not talking recent or soon-to-be draftees, because those athletes are still being talked or written about.
I am referring to unheralded and underappreciated Buckeyes from decades ago, that have been forgotten by some (or most) since they last donned the scarlet and gray. And there it was: Forgotten Buckeyes. Other OSU fans and media types have taken a similar approach to recognition, but this is my personal way of appreciating those who left an indelible mark at Ohio State.
Welcome to Volume II.
Defensive linemen from Ohio State have received plenty of love lately, thanks to the likes of Joey and Nick Bosa, as well as Chase Young. That being said, the list of Buckeye All-Americans and/or NFL success stories has been rather top-heavy since those guys first arrived in Columbus. Quality over quantity has been the theme, dating back at least a handful of years. Hopefully the likes of Zach Harrison, Jack Sawyer, J.T. Tuimoloau, and others can restart the assembly line of defensive linemen that the school used to produce and prepare for the NFL.
But for a period of nearly 30 years (if not more), OSU was developing defensive ends and tackles just as well as any other college football blueblood. “Big Daddy” Dan Wilkinson became the second Buckeye ever to be drafted first overall, when he did so in 1994. He was followed by the likes of Mike Vrabel, Ryan Pickett, Will Smith, Vernon Gholston, Cam Heyward, and others — many of whom were either drafted highly or went on to experience very successful NFL careers. The recent studs (Bosa, Bosa, and Young) are well on their way(s) to checking off both boxes, but names have been fewer and farther between for the past decade.
20 years ago – in the middle of Ohio State’s impressive run of developing stars up front – the Buckeyes won a National Championship, led by Jim Tressel and with a roster comprised of many underappreciated players. And while I’m sure fans will celebrate the special anniversary as we get closer to Sept. 3, I chose this week’s edition of Forgotten Buckeyes to recognize and celebrate one of the most physically-imposing players on that ’02 championship team. Tim Anderson was an aggressive interior mauler, as well as a respected leader who helped the program reach unexpected heights.
Anderson attended Clyde High School in tiny Clyde, Ohio, home of the world’s largest washing machine manufacturer. I’m going to be honest, that was mentioned on the city’s website, but I don’t think they have a large team of people keeping it up-to-date, so let’s just assume the source is accurate. Moving on.
Anderson was a standout in both football and wrestling — as is the case with most successful lineman, am I right? All joking aside, he was a back-to-back state wrestling champion at 275 pounds, and received All-Ohio and All-American (honorable mention) recognition for his play on the gridiron. In addition to his impressive list of accomplishments, he was named as a top-100 national recruit and a top-10 player in the state of Ohio (football). Anderson chose to attend Ohio State, and committed to the Buckeyes as part of John Cooper’s 1999 recruiting class.
’99 was a redshirt year for Anderson — not exactly a surprise, given the physicality of his position. Ohio State struggled throughout the season, limped severely to the finish, and ended up with a 6-6 record... probably not what Anderson had in mind for the beginning of his OSU experience. He earned playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2000, even registering two sacks, but opportunities were still hard to come by, and he finished the season with just six total tackles. The Buckeyes improved to 8-4, but the writing was on the wall. Cooper was out, Tressel was in, and the tide began to turn... slowly.
Still held back by poor quarterback play, Ohio State actually regressed under “The Vest” in 2001, finishing with a 7-5 record. But the defense continued to hold up their end of the bargain, surrendering 20.3 points per game. Anderson entered the starting lineup at DT, and hit the ground running. He contributed 38 total tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. Listed generously at 6-foot-4, 290 (I don’t question the height), he was solid against the run, regularly took on double teams, and more importantly, began to form a strong partnership with Darrion Scott, Will Smith, Kenny Peterson, and David Thompson. All five would return the following season, and help form the nucleus of a championship defense.
Led by the veteran front seven and a playmaking secondary, the Buckeyes’ defense was dominant in 2002. They allowed just 13.1 PPG, and did not give up more than 21 until the Fiesta Bowl against Miami (24 in double OT). Anderson had another strong season, but Mark Dantonio rotated his DL consistently. Anderson finished with 36 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and 2.5 sacks, which was surprisingly fifth in most categories among his peers. Smith, Peterson, Scott, and Thompson also excelled – and Simon Fraser flashed as a situational pass rusher – giving Ohio State one of the most dominant position groups in the country. Anderson was still voted Second Team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
So you likely remember the Cinderella run OSU made, which resulted in a National Championship, but do you remember anything about the Illinois game that nearly derailed their season? Anderson surely does, as he made arguably the biggest and most important play of his career against the Fighting Illini. After struggling to find offense on the road, Ohio State found itself in a scary overtime situation — the first of its kind in program history. Illinois forced OT with a field goal as time in regulation expired, but the Buckeyes scored first in the extra period, creating a do-or-die situation for the home team.
After nearly connecting on a touchdown pass on the previous play, Illini quarterback John Beutjer was pressured on 4th-and-goal. He managed to spot a receiver and get rid of the ball, but his last-ditch effort was batted down by none other than Anderson, helping to preserve the perfect season. The rest is history, and the fairytale ending would not have come to fruition without efforts made by the big man from Clyde (OH).
Anderson returned in 2003, and had his best statistical season as a fifth-year senior — for which he was voted as an All-American by PFW. He was also named one of the four Ohio State captains, signaling the respect he had earned throughout the program. He anchored the interior of the defensive line with 45 total tackles, an impressive 11 TFL, and 3.5 sacks. The OSU defense was great once again (17.6 PPG allowed), but allowed 35 points to TTUN in a game that eliminated the Buckeyes from title contention. Anderson and his guys were forced to “settle” for a 10-2 regular season record, but added a Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State. Anderson finished his collegiate career with 125 tackles and 11.5 sacks, but it was his physical presence and overall leadership that made him an even bigger asset.
The Buffalo Bills drafted Anderson in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft, making him the 74th overall pick. He would go on to have a rather odd professional career, one which ended after just four seasons. He played sparingly as a rookie, accruing no stats. But as a second-year player in 2005, Anderson appeared in all 16 games for the Bills, starting 12 of them. He totaled 42 tackles and a sack, which could lead one to believe that his career was off and running.
However, Anderson started just five games in 2006, and was released in October of 2007. The Atlanta Falcons picked him up, but after finishing the season and re-signing with the team in March of 2008, he was a training camp casualty in September (’08). Anderson gave it another go with the Dallas Cowboys in 2009 and the UFL’s Hartford Colonials in 2010, but his football career was officially over.
Anderson eventually settled into teaching and coaching, but not the sport in which he competed professionally. According to the ol’ interweb, he is now an assistant wrestling coach at Perry High School in Massillon (OH), where he also teaches. He is able to pass along what he knows and what he has learned as a former star in two sports, which has to be pretty cool for his students and athletes.
Anderson was never the highest-profile Buckeye, and his stats might not jump off the pages of the OSU record book, but his physicality, toughness, and leadership made him a great football player. His contributions to an unforgettable ’02 team should not be undersold, and neither should his legacy. Here’s to Tim Anderson, Ohio State captain and national champion.