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Forgotten Buckeyes: Eric Kumerow

Kumerow had a fascinating football career at Ohio State; but not nearly as fascinating as his family tree. This former hybrid defender was a sack artist, and likely taught his future Buckeye nephews a thing or two.

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

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.

Ohio State defensive ends have moved on and terrorized the NFL for years, perhaps none more so than the “Brosas”, also known as Joey and Nick Bosa. Their father John was a first round pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, so he was well-equipped to help them train and practice their craft. He also passed down firsthand knowledge which he obtained at the highest level.

However, John Bosa was not the only family member with an ability (and the experience) to impart wisdom to the brothers. His brother-in-law was also a feared pass rusher, and he got after the quarterback in Columbus years before Joey and Nick donned scarlet and gray. But Eric Kumerow is more than “just the uncle” of this dynamic OSU duo. He is also an NFL dad, a former first round pick himself, and this week’s Forgotten Buckeye.

Prior to his time at Ohio State, Kumerow was an all-world athlete in Chicago. He was an all-state honoree in both football and basketball, the former being the sport in which he became a professional. His performance on the gridiron even earned him high school All-American recognition. While likely to succeed in sports on his own – due to his natural athleticism, size, work ethic, etc. – Kumerow also benefitted from genetics. His biological father and uncle both played in the NFL, which will start to become a common theme.

Kumerow played quarterback in high school, leading Earle Bruce (and staff) to recruit him as such. Despite eventually growing to 6-foot-7, he had all the makings of a future Buckeye QB — at least in the eyes of the OSU staff. He committed to Ohio State as part of their 1983 recruiting class, but redshirted his first year on campus. Due to depth at the QB position, Kumerow transitioned to defense during that time, and ended up being listed as an outside linebacker.

At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Kumerow was a special athlete on the defensive side of the ball. Most players his size were accustomed to playing defensive end or linebacker (in the 80’s), but very few had an offensive/skill position background. The redshirt freshman made his transition seem relatively easy. He contributed right away, totaling 36 tackles in 1984, along with 5 TFL, and 3 sacks. Kumerow quickly developed and displayed an ability to get to the QB, which became his calling card in future seasons. The Buckeyes finished ‘84 with a 9-3 record.

Flanked by Chris Spielman and Pepper Johnson (among others), the dynamic pass rusher began to be unleashed in 1985. Although he was listed at OLB, Kumerow was very much a hybrid player. He could have just as easily been listed as a DE. In fact, he would eventually receive All-Big Ten recognition as a defensive lineman, even though Ohio State listed him at OLB throughout the entirety of his college career.

As a redshirt sophomore, Kumerow was credited with 10 TFL and 6 sacks, leading the team in both categories. He also totaled 54 tackles and scored the first and only touchdown of his OSU career. Despite his emergence, and the presence of Spielman and Johnson – as well as Cris Carter on the other side of the ball – the Buckeyes once again finished... you guessed it: 9-3, for a sixth consecutive season!

Kumerow continued to wreak havoc in 1986, as he and Spielman (205 tackles!) led a stout defense. Ohio State allowed just 13.8 points per game, which equates to 179 total points surrendered in 13 games played, 40 of which came on the road at Washington. Despite their defensive prowess, the Buckeyes finished with three losses for an amazing seventh season in a row. But with with an extra game on the schedule, the team at least improved their record to 10-3.

Kumerow finished with 66 total tackles, 9 TFL, and 6 sacks. He was named Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten for the first time. His ’86 season totals might not scream “dominant”, but Kumerow’s presence was felt on nearly every play. He stepped it up in 1987, but the team did not follow suit.

Ohio State returned Kumerow, Spielman, and others on defense in ‘87, but the offense fell off a cliff. The Buckeyes scored 20.4 PPG, and finished with a 6-4-1 record. Despite the pedestrian team record, Kumerow did become dominant, improving upon his ’86 stats across the board. Now a team captain, he finished with 73 total tackles, 15 TFL, and 8 sacks — all career-highs. He was beat out for Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, but did earn First Team All-Big Ten recognition. Kumerow’s OSU teams finished with a cumulative record of 34-13-1, and he still ranks inside the program’s top-10 for career sacks (23 sacks – T7).

More importantly, he shot up NFL Draft boards, and caught the eye of one team in particular. The former Buckeye was expected to be a second or third-rounder in the 1988 NFL Draft, but the Miami Dolphins surprised many by taking him 16th overall. Having grown to 6-foot-7, 250 pounds (listed), the Dolphins were betting on his freakish upside.

Unfortunately, Kumerow did not reach his ceiling. He moved to DE on a full-time basis in the pros, but could not get to the QB with any sort of consistency. He never even cracked the starting lineup for the Dolphins, and was let go by the team after three seasons. He totaled five sacks in Miami, which ended up being the only five of his NFL career. Kumerow tore his Achilles after signing with his hometown Chicago Bears in 1991, causing him to retire from football. It was an unfortunate ending, but any Achilles injury was a potential career-ender 30 years ago, and that turned out to be the case for the Chicago native who badly wanted to play for the Bears. But football would remain a big part of his life.

In 1987, the year before the Dolphins drafted Kumerow 16th overall, the team drafted John Bosa with the exact same pick. The two developed a strong bond, and eventually became relatives. Bosa married Kumerow’s sister, creating a football super-family. Kumerow’s family tree is particularly fascinating, even going back to his biological grandfather. As far as it relates to recent football, I will summarize it quickly and let you read about the totality: Eric Kumerow’s son, Jake, put up video game numbers at Wisconsin-Whitewater and signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an UDFA in 2015. He has bounced around the NFL ever since, briefly become BFF’s with Aaron Rodgers. John Bosa, of course, had sons Joey and Nick make it to the league as highly-drafted superstars.

Kumerow has seemingly made a nice life for himself back in his hometown of Chicago. 30 years removed from his own playing days, he still has ties to the game, and presumably enjoys watching his son and nephews. While Kumerow’s name might come up as part of a trivia question, or in relation to his unique family free, the former quarterback turned pass-rushing menace should be remembered as something near and dear to OSU fans’ hearts: a great Ohio State Buckeye.