We conclude our look at the 1998 Buckeye football team by examining the team’s legacy and trying to figure out what most of that team is up to these days.
There’s certainly a strong argument to be made that the 1998 team was the most talented Buckeye squad of the past quarter century. True, the 2002 squad closed the deal, but stop for a minute and think of what Tressel would have accomplished at the helm of the 1998 team. Take nothing away from Cooper—his recruiting operation took the program to a new level—but he’s no Tressel.
1998 was not only Cooper’s best team, it was his last good team for that matter. The 1999 opener would see his ninth-ranked Buckeyes soundly beaten by Butch Davis and the Hurricanes in the Kickoff Classic. The defining play came on the Buckeyes’ first possession when Michael Wiley was run down from behind by Miami linebacker Al Blades.
The Canes would go on to earn a 23-12 victory, but the score wasn’t even that close. Miami was back on the map and used that game as a springboard to three years of dominance, while the Buckeyes sputtered to a 6-6 finish. Sixteen months later, after an 8-4 season and an Outback Bowl embarrassment, Cooper was jobless.
Today, some coaches and players from that 1998 team are still involved in football, while others are off the radar. Cooper never coached again but will be formally enshrined in the College Football Hall of fame in four weeks.
Offensive coordinator Mike Jacobs served a stint at Oklahoma State and is now the interim head coach at Mesa Community College. Defensive coordinator Fred Pagac parted ways with Ohio State upon Tressel’s arrival and spent time with the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Minnesota Vikings in 2006, where he’s still employed as the team’s linebacker coach.
Upper Arlington native John Tenuta, the defensive backs coach on the 1998 team, is currently the assistant head coach at Notre Dame after a successful run as the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech.
Quarterback Joe Germaine is lighting up the AFL for Danny White and the Utah Blaze. He had the misfortune of going to the Rams right when the Kurt Warner Experience was coming online, but will probably be an AFL first-ballot Hall-of-Famer if such a thing even exists. Michael Wiley spent three years in with the Cowboys and is now something of a nightclub impresario in Columbus.
Wide receiver David Boston left after his junior season and was an Arizona Cardinals first-round selection in 1999. He would lead the NFL in receiving in 1999, and greatness appeared to be around the corner until a rash of injuries and the steroids bug landed him out of the NFL.
He’s currently attempting a comeback with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL, but injuries may be throwing a curve into his plans once again.
Dee Miller has his own insurance agency in Hilliard and does analyst work for 1460, while Ken-Yon Rambo is making somewhat of a name for himself in the CFL as well. Tight end John Lumpkin is currently a Chase branch manager in the Dayton area and wants to add you to his network.
Left tackle Tyson Walter was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL draft, but is now out of the league. He’s most famously remembered for suing former teammate LeCharles Bentley for $2 million dollars for punching him in the face in 2000. He was awarded $6,000.
Rob Murphy is another former Buckeye playing in the CFL and was recently named the league’s top lineman for the second consecutive season.
Defensive end Rodney Bailey was drafted by Pittsburgh in the sixth round of the 2001 NFL draft. He’s currently listed as a backup defensive tackle with the Arizona Cardinals. Ryan Pickett is a Packer and end Brent Johnson is playing with Rob Murphy on the BC Lions of the CFL.
Andy Katzenmoyer, the guy most thought was the can’t miss prospect on the ‘98 defense, is currently coaching at his alma mater Westerville South after a neck injury forced his early retirement from the NFL. He recently launched a fitness website and had his first child in April.
Meanwhile, fellow backer Na’il Diggs has enjoyed a productive career at the next level and is currently playing for the Carolina Panthers. Jerry Rudzinski is currently working as an analyst for Bucknuts and “still maintains his relationship with the Ohio State program and staff.”
All five members of the 1998 team’s nickel package went on to play in the NFL, cementing the unit as one of the finest in school history. Nate Clements, or Lockdown 22, earned a couple of Pro Bowl selections in Buffalo before signing a fat contract with the 49ers.
Antoine Winfield is still doing his thing for the Vikings—leading the team in tackles by a defensive back despite missing six games last season—and Ahmed Plummer spent five years with the 49ers before injuries forced his retirement. Strong safety Damon Moore spent four years in the NFL, three of them with the Eagles, and may or may not be selling cell phones in Grove City these days.
Ten years removed, the 1998 team still holds up. The talent collection on that team rivals any to have come before or after, and although they were part of one of the saddest days in Buckeye football history, time and a decade of excellence has helped heal old wounds. If anyone has additional updates on the whereabouts of members of that team, we’d love to hear them.