OHIO IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF SEVEN U.S. PRESIDENTS and countless football precedents. From the first NFL game to one of the longest-running high school rivalries to the finest trophy in college sports, the Buckeye State has been the backdrop for many memorable moments. Here are 13 Ohio cities that have been major players on the nation's football landscape.
Wherever the game—be it in your backyard or at the Horseshoe—if they're tossing a pigskin, chances are it was made here and carries the Wilson brand. The Chicago-based company's 50,000-square-foot factory laces up about 5,000 footballs a day.
Jim Tressel learned something about coaching here from his dad, Lee, the longtime coach of Division III Baldwin-Wallace College. In his 23 seasons on the sideline, Lee led the Yellow Jackets to a 155-52-6 mark and the national title in 1978. He died of cancer three years later, at 56.
The American Professional Football Association (APFA), the forerunner of the NFL, was founded in Canton in 1920, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame has called the city home for the past 43 years. Of the Hall of Fame's 241 enshrinees, 21 hail from Ohio, the third most of any state. The Hall's Fawcett Stadium also serves as the home of the Canton McKinley High Bulldogs.
Home of the Bengals, who were first coached by Paul Brown from 1968 through '75. Brown led the team into the playoffs in just its third season, and he hired and shared innovative thoughts on the passing game with a young assistant named Bill Walsh. The Bengals now play in Paul Brown Stadium, and Walsh went on to win three Super Bowls with the 49ers.
Before his tenure with the Bengals, Brown led the Buckeyes to an 18-8-1 mark in three seasons and to their first national championship, in 1942. He left in '43 to build the Browns, a new team in a new league, into a power, going 167-53-8 with four All-America Football Conference titles, three NFL crowns and only one losing season from '46 through '62.
In 2006 Troy Smith became the seventh Buckeye (including two-timer Archie Griffin) to take home the Heisman Trophy, putting Ohio State in a three-way tie for first with USC and Notre Dame. In 117 years of football the Buckeyes have won eight national titles, 32 Big Ten titles and sent more than 300 players to the NFL—67 as first-round draft picks. More than 20 future Division I-A head coaches, including Bo Schembechler and Lou Holtz, have served as OSU assistants.
The Dayton Triangles played in the first NFL (originally APFA) game, beating the Columbus Panhandles 14-0 on Oct. 3, 1920. The 14-team league also had teams in Akron (Pros), Canton (Bulldogs) and Cleveland (Indians).
Woody Hayes got his start here, at Denison University. A tackle, he played from 1932 through '34, then coached the team after a tour of duty in World War II. Hayes won only two games in his first year as a coach before ticking off 17 straight victories—a streak he rode all the way to Miami University. Denison's other big contribution came in 1912 as the Big Red became one of the first teams to adapt to a new rule and use the forward pass as a major part of its offense.
NFL Hall of Famer Jack Lambert headlines an impressive list of Kent State alums that includes defensive back Nick Saban and star tight end Gary Pinkel, both of whom later became coaches.