Cassady hopped over competition

As soon as Howard “Hopalong” Cassady stepped onto the field, he was a difference-maker.“He was the guy that could make the big play when you needed it the most,” said Jack Park, author of The Official Ohio State Football Encyclopedia.That is exactly what the running back did in his first game at Ohio State, as he recorded three touchdowns in a win over Indiana.Cassady played for OSU from 1952-55, which was unusual at the time because most players only played three seasons then.Cassady also played for the baseball team. He led the team in home runs in 1955 and in stolen bases in 1956.He graduated from Central High School in Columbus.When he came to OSU, he played offense and defense for under legendary coach Woody Hayes.Cassady won the Heisman Trophy and the Maxwell Award in 1955 in his senior season. To top it off, he was named the Associated Press “Male Athlete of the Year” in 1955, beating out boxer Rocky Marciano and quarterback Otto Graham of the Cleveland Browns.This was monumental, considering a pair of Hall of Fame center fielders — Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle — won it in 1954 and 1956, respectively.Cassady excelled on defense as much as he did on offense. As a cornerback, he never allowed a reception to be caught on him in a Big Ten game, Park said. He also said that when Cassady was on the field, OSU never allowed a big play on defense.But what made Cassady famous was his elusive running style, which earned him his nickname from sportswriters. He would hop all over the field.“Hopalong was fast and good at getting around the corner,” Park said.The play that determined Cassady’s career was an 88-yard interception return against the No. 2 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in 1954. A close game in the third quarter, Cassady intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown. This was symbolic because it changed the atmosphere of the game and saved the season, leading to the Buckeyes’ second national title.“This [showed] the real mark of a champion,” Park said.After college, Cassady spent six years with the Detroit Lions and also played a season each with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns. He returned to the Lions for his eighth and final season before retiring.In 1979, Cassady was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. On Nov. 18, 2000, at halftime against Michigan, OSU retired Cassady’s No. 40 in Ohio Stadium.Outside of football, Cassady became an entrepreneur and formed a company that manufactured concrete pipe, steel and ships. More recently, he has served as a scout for the New York Yankees, and has spent summers in Columbus as the first base coach for the former minor league Columbus Clippers. He now resides in Tampa, Fla.

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