Remembering one of the good guys

Recently through my high school class web site, I learned of the car-crash death of Dick Walker, the head football coach at Bishop Watterson in Columbus when I was in school there.

That though is not really the story here, although at Watterson, I knew coach Walker strictly as a history teacher since I wasn’t on the football team.

Anyway as a sophomore, I really screwed up bad somewhere along the line on one of those aptitude tests, because the next fall I found myself in the so-called ”dummy” or slow-learner American history class taught by Walker.

After a couple weeks and a few tests in the class though, he knew I shouldn’t be in his class either. But we both knew nothing could be done about it then, shrugged it off and went on.

Walker, however, was a heck of a high school coach and the fall after I graduated, he won a state championship at Watterson in 1966, using that as a springboard to a college coaching job. After stints at Toledo and Navy, our paths crossed again in 1969 at Ohio State when he was hired to replace Lou Holtz – who left for William & Mary after the 1968 national-championship season – as defensive backs coach for the Buckeyes.

Coming down the hall the first day of spring practice in 1969, I heard a voice I knew bellow out ”Hemmelgarn, I have to put up with you again?” My first thought was, ”Well, at least he remembered me.” But we talked, plus there were three more Watterson guys on the team, so we were all able to reminisce with each other about our time there.

I graduated from OSU in 1970 after three years as a football manager, but Walker continued on with Woody Hayes for eight years through the 1976 season as the Buckeyes won seven Big Ten championships in his time in Columbus. He then opted to move on to the NFL, first with the New England Patriots and then at Pittsburgh, where he got two Super Bowl championships rings with the Steelers, and finally ended his coaching career in the USFL and CFL.

But something in the obit for Walker, who died at age 79 in January, rang true for me about him. ”He devoted his career to the development and betterment of young men, and people in general. The experiences he gained, people he met, and those he influenced during his lifetime are his legacy. With regard to this legacy, he died one of the wealthiest men on the planet.”

  • In the final sports staff Grid Picks standings that finished with the BCS national-championship game, Jay Bennett came out on top, 13-9 in the bowl games for an overall 269-82 record. I followed at 265-86, also 13-9 in the bowls, with sports editor Dave Poe next, 15-7 for a 264-87 mark, Jim Butta 11-11 for 263-88, Kerry Patrick 15-7 for 251-100 and Eddie Thomas 11-11 for 225-126.
  • Eddie George, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, is returning to his alma mater as assistant vice president for business advancement.

The former Tennessee Titans star running back played in the NFL for nine years (1996-2004), the first eight with the Titans and his final season with the Dallas Cowboys.

His duties at OSU will include helping with fundraising and alumni relations, and mentoring student-athletes about professional development.

A class act he’s always been, and I’m sure will continue to do so in his new position at Ohio State.

  • Two more football players have enrolled at OSU early to be able to take part in spring drills, which begin Wednesday, March 5.

Fullback Devin Hill, a transfer walk-on who played at Columbus Northland, attended Purdue University the past two seasons, red-shirting in 2011. A running back and linebacker at Northland, he was a high school classmate of OSU All-American cager Jared Sullinger, who saw his first NBA season come to a halt last week after back surgery.

Fullback William Houston, from Dublin Scioto, joined the team as a preferred walk-on. Houston rushed for 1,158 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last fall, and had 75 career prep receptions for 804 yards. Houston’s dad was a three-year Ohio State letterman in the 1990s.

Another early entry deserves a mention. Defensive end Tracy Sprinkle, from Elyria, was the 2012 Associated Press All-Ohio co-Defensive Player of the Year, recording 19 sacks and 30 total tackles-for-loss among his 103 tackles as a senior, after a 94-tackle, eight-sack season as a junior.

Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at