Ohio State Buckeyes mascot celebrates a win over Michigan State Spartans after a game at Spartan Stadium. Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes are one of college football’s true bluebloods. Their list of national championships, Heisman Trophy winners, and Big Ten titles are up there with the very best.

The Buckeyes’ winning tradition started long before Woody Hayes and Urban Meyer, tracing back to the earlier days of the Big Ten and even the origins of college football.

This list of the 10 best Buckeyes of all time was hard to whittle down given how many memorable players there were to choose from, but we found the ten Ohio State football stars that we think stand head and shoulders above the rest.

10. Fred Patterson, end, halfback and quarterback

Fred Patterson may not have been an All-American or a national champion for the Buckeyes, but, he was a pioneer. Patterson was the first Black man to ever play for the Buckeyes, doing so during a time when integration had not taken place. Patterson played with the Buckeyes as a junior in 1891. You read that correctly. He went on to become one of the first African-American car manufacturers but his contribution to the integration of college football should never be forgotten.

9. Terry Glenn, wide receiver

Terry Glenn wasn’t offered a scholarship to Ohio State but loved the program so much that he decided to walk on. By the time his freshman season was set to begin, he’d earned himself a scholarship. By his junior season, he was First-Team All-Big Ten, a consensus All-American, and a Biletnikoff Award winner. That season, Glenn garnered over 1,300 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. In 32 career college games, he ended up with 79 catches for 1,677 yards (fifth in school history), a 21.2-yard average. He also clocked 18 kickoff returns for 399 yards (22.2-yard avg.). A first-round pick by the New England Patriots, Glenn made a Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl. Sadly, his life was cut short in 2017 when he died in a car accident at the age of 43.

Ohio State’s Chris Spielman (36).

8. Chris Spielman, linebacker

If there is one player on this list who epitomizes what it means to be a Buckeye, it’s Chris Spielman. Spielman wanted to go to rival Michigan but his father was not having it. He told his son, “You traitor. I’ll tell you where you’re going. You’re going right down 71 South and you’re going to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes… Better not go there [Michigan]. Don’t ever come home if you do.” And that was that. Spielman would go on to be a two-time All-American, a Lombardi Award winner, and the first-round choice of the Detroit Lions and later became an executive with the team. In 2009, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. 

7. Joey Bosa, linebacker

Joey Bosa was a monster at Ohio State. Named an All-American as a freshman by several outlets, he followed it up with being a unanimous All-American as a sophomore and a consensus All-American in 2015. He finished his sophomore year with 13.5 sacks and 55 tackles, which garnered him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Bosa also anchored a Buckeyes’ defense that led the school to a national championship in 2014. Bosa would go on to be a first-rounder with the Los Angeles Chargers and would become NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016.

Ohio State beat Penn State Saturday, boosted by Chase Young's return to the lineup.
Nov 23, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young (2). Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

6. Chase Young, linebacker

Chase Young picked up the mantle when Joey Bosa left for the NFL. Like Bosa, Young was dominant for the Buckeyes. In 2019, he won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Ted Hendricks Award, was named first-team All-Big Ten, and was a unanimous All-American. He was also named Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year after garnering 16.5 sacks. The following year he was the second-overall pick by the Washington Commanders and, like Bosa, would go on to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020.

C.J. Stroud
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7).

5. CJ Stroud, quarterback

CJ Stroud is one of the most prolific passers in Ohio State and Big Ten history and he only played for essentially two seasons. In 2021, he racked up 4,435 yards and 44 touchdowns, garnering first-team All-Big Ten and third-team All-American honors, and finishing fourth in Heisman voting. He followed that up with a season in which he passed for 3,688 yards and 41 touchdowns. This time he was first-team All-Big Ten, second-team All-American, and finished third in Heisman voting. Now he’s in the NFL where he’s already proving that he could be the face of the Houston Texans for years to come.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, running back

Ohio State has its fair share of amazing running backs, but the most recent elite runner has to be Ezekiel Elliott. In 2014, he ran for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns, including a 246-yard, four-touchdown performance in the championship game as the Buckeyes won a title. The following year he ran for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns, garnering first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American honors. He finished his OSU career second in career rushing yards with 3,961 and yards per game with 101.6. He and Eddie George are the only Ohio State running backs with five 200-yard rushing games while there.

3. Cris Carter, wide receiver

If you are going to talk about the greatest Buckeye wide receivers, you have to start with Cris Carter. Coming out of high school, Carter was heavily recruited in both basketball and football but chose to play football for OSU. In his junior year, he recorded 69 catches for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns, including nine receptions for 172 yards in the Rose Bowl. He was named consensus All-American for his efforts. His senior season had serious Heisman aspirations but Carter would be ruled ineligible after secretly signing with an agent. Despite that, he still held the school record for receptions when he left (168) and garnered 2,725 yards and 27 touchdowns in his college career. He has since been named a member of the Ohio State Football All-Century Team and inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame.

Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George (27) of Ohio State is dragged down by a trio of Tennessee defenders during the Citrus Bowl game in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 1, 1996.

2. Eddie George, running back

Eddie George followed in the footsteps of the great Archie Griffin and is widely considered the second-best Buckeye running back of all time. Like Griffin, George would win the Heisman, doing so in 1995 after rushing for over 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also was a unanimous All-American that season and won the Doak Walker Award for the best running back in the country, among other honors. By the time he left Ohio State, he was second in school history in career rushing yards (3,768) and third in rushing touchdowns (44). Overall, he finished with 4,284 all-purpose yards, 45 touchdowns, and a 5.5 yards per carry average. George would then be drafted by the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) where he became NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1996. In 2011, George was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Ohio State Buckeyes running back Archie Griffin (45) during the 1974 season. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

1. Archie Griffin, running back

Archie Griffin might just be the greatest running back in college football history. He is the only player in the history of the sport to win two Heisman Trophies (1974 and 1975). In those seasons, he rushed for 1,695 and 1,450 yards, respectfully. Even his non-Heisman sophomore season was stellar (1,577 yards and seven scores). He finished his college career with 5,589 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns while also helping Ohio State to win the Big Ten all four years he was there. A three-time All-Big Ten and first-team All-American, he came to define what it meant to be a Buckeye running back. While his NFL career didn’t lead to the same success, his legendary status is intact. Ohio State retired his No. 45, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986, and he was even inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame.

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.