As we all know, our boys work very hard out on that field every year, in practice, games, bowls, and training camps. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook some of the key players and units when there are superstars like Chris “Beanie” Wells on the field.
Because I often forget to give proper accolade to some of the integral players of the game, I thought I would take a look into the way that Coach Tressel and the rest of the coaching staff reward their players for a job well done.
First off, I wanted to start by figuring out what exactly goes in to each of those little stickers that cover the helmets of our Buckeyes at the end of the season.
Ohio State Trainer Ernie Biggs started the Buckeye Leaf sticker tradition in 1968. Team members earn Buckeye Leaves throughout the season based on their performance as a team and as individuals.
Ernie Biggs served as Head Athletic Trainer at OSU from 1945 to 1972. While at OSU, Biggs worked with both football and basketball players and still had time to patent athletic equipment such as an innovative knee brace that he designed for use in football.
Biggs also served as the head athletic trainer to the 1964 Olympic Swim Team. He is renowned in the world of athletic training for really bringing a sense of prestige and esteem to the profession.
According to a USA Today article, Woody Hayes and Ernie Biggs are credited with creating the idea of the college football helmet sticker, which has now been adopted by such schools as Georgia, Purdue, UL Lafayette, Clemson, and schools like Arizona, Pitt, and others have used the tradition in the past.
The concept was originally designed as an act of pride for the players, something to strive for, which I believe it remains still today, avoiding a sense of competition and rivalry between players.
Hayes and Biggs introduced the Buckeye Leaves in 1968 along with a total revamp of the Ohio State uniform that included adding names to the back of the jerseys and the famous “Buckeye stripe” to the sleeves, which was also novel to the look of football uniforms.
The 1968 team went on to have a very successful season, going 10-0 (7-0 Big Ten) and concluding with a National Championship victory in the Rose Bowl against No. 2 USC.
The Buckeyes played No. 4 Michigan in Ohio Stadium that year and dealt the Wolverines a resounding 50-14 loss.
Though the criteria for receiving the leaves has changed overtime, the joy and pride in filling up one’s helmet has not. Along with the public display of stickers on game helmets, Buckeye Leaves are also kept track on a chart in the Woody Hayes facility and on www.coachtressel.com.
The current criteria in the Tressel era include categories for the Entire Team, Kick-Off Team, Punt Team, Kick-Off Return Team, Rangers, Field Goal/Extra Point Team, Field Goal/Extra Point Block Team, Defensive Unit, and Offensive Unit.
Accomplishments that merit a sticker include: returning a punt for over 20 yards, successful fake punt for first down, holding opponents to 13 points or less if OSU wins, forcing three turnovers, and converting all short yardage situations among others.
A full list of criteria and awards can be found at http://www.coachtressel.com.
Along with the Buckeye Leaves, there is a second tradition meant to instill pride and honor in successful Buckeye teams.
Ohio State Head Coach Francis Schmidt founded the “Pants Club” in 1934. Schmidt coached the Buckeyes from ’34-’40 with an overall record of 39-16-1 and two Big 10 championships.
During the ’34 season, Schmidt had been asked how the Buckeyes would fare against Michigan and his reply was that “They put their pants on one leg at a time, the same as we do!”
This simple statement brought the Wolverines down to a simple level in the mindsets of OSU players and fans, a level at which the Buckeyes could terrorize and defeat their rivals.
Every year since 1934 that Ohio State defeats Michigan, each player and coach receives a miniature pair of gold football pants that can be worn as a lapel pin. The pants are engraved with the recipient’s initials, the year, and the score of the victorious rivalry game.
In 1934, Ohio State defeated Michigan when they played in Columbus with a message-sending score of 34-0. The next year when the Buckeyes traveled up north, they shut out the Wolverines again with a score of 38-0. In both ’36 and ’37 the Buckeyes prevailed in the rivalry game 21-0.
The combined four-year point margin was 114-0.
So here is to hoping we have helmets over-flowing with Buckeye Leaves and a pair of gold pants on the lapel of every Ohio State team member at the conclusion of the anticipated 2008 season.
This article was originally published at www.buckeyecommentary.com.