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Friday, December 1, 2017

Interview With Buckeye Legend Cornelius Green, Part Two

Q:  Now you played defensive back a little bit in high school?

A:  I played both ways. My tenth-grade year I played both ways the whole game pretty much. My coach didn’t want me to get hurt. I didn’t play safety as much as I did previously, but my senior year I had about 10 interceptions and 28 touch downs.

Q:  How would you describe your style as a QB if you played today?

A:  I think my style now fits today’s style of ball. Maybe I might have been before my time. Now, most offenses don’t have a fullback. We ran the I-formation so you only had one back. I know I’d have been throwing much more than I would have with Coach Hayes. I know I would’ve been passing more and running the ball more too. I could’ve been like the kid at Louisville, which reminds me a lot of how I played. 

Q:  Now when I watched film of you, you look fluid out there. A lot of QB’s look like they are thinking.

A:  My thing is I ran for touchdowns, and I didn’t run for first downs. I sit at home watching players today and think I’m in the end zone by now. I’d make you pay buddy.

Q:  Were you starting as the scout team QB your freshman year?

A:  As a freshman, I was the scout team QB and hated it because I wanted to be up with the rest of the guys. Later on, after I finished my career, and talking with the defensive coordinator, I didn’t realize what a good job I was doing to give the defense a great look. Once I moved up, and started, then I had to go against the scout team. In my mind, I didn’t care who I faced I had to punish them and just do the right thing and just be dominant.  The scout squad was that team that I was playing. If it was Minnesota, you had to dog them. You had to do them just like the team that you were going to play.

Q:  Talk a little bit more about you and Archie. Archie seemed like someone who would give the shirt off his back.

A:  We both share the same personality traits. We both were the 4th child out of 8.  Having the nickname of flamboyant and stuff coming up, seemed like I had a little more out there than he did, but I was very insecure. You know sports kind of puts you out there to make you a big person, but Archie and I were very insecure. We kind of liked staying in the background. We probably knew the answer to the question, but we weren’t the ones that would raise our hands.

Q:  What was Coach Hayes like at the start of your career?

A:  From the beginning, Woody got on my nerves. It was hard for me to kind of get to him, or like him, or want to be around him. He was just very tough. My freshman year it was evident that he was getting to me because I had to get examined by the team doctor and he told me I was number 5. I’d say, “Nah, Doc. I’m number 7,” and he’d say, “Nah, you’re the 5th quarterback Woody is giving the offense to.”

Q:  Now Woody seems to me to be colorblind, and that he ran a meritocracy; that if you are good enough to play you will play.

A:  Right. I think Coach Hayes went through a change of heart during the Martin Luther King era. People were protesting for civil rights, and equal rights and it just wasn’t African-Americans out there protesting. It was a little bit of everybody and I think Woody got caught up in that as well. I think he got caught up in the humanity of life, of how people were treated and that they weren’t treated properly. Obviously, he broke the color barrier because there never had been an African-American quarterback. There had never been an all-black backfield ever in Ohio State’s history when he played me, Pete and Archie at the same time.

Q:  Were you the first QB to break the color barrier in the Big Ten?

A:  Dennis Franklin was a year ahead of me at Michigan. Sandy Stephens quarterbacked in the mid 60’s for the University of Minnesota, so I knew I wasn’t the first one. I knew Jimmy Raye quarterbacked at Michigan State in 1966, so I knew my history. Jimmy Raye recruited me and I really wanted to go to Michigan State. My mom used to send me to Flint, Michigan every summer and when Michigan State recruited me I thought that was a sign; but I had a horrible recruiting trip at Michigan State and that really turned me off.

Q:  Now I read somewhere that you went to Rod Gerald’s dad’s church in Dallas. 

A:  This was amazing too. When we recruited Rod, I found out that Rod’s father and I had almost the same name. His name is Cornelius Howard Gerald, and I’m Cornelius Howard Green. How can that happen? Mr. Gerald ended up baptizing me. My Dallas Cowboy teammates, when we were down there in Dallas used to visit Reverend Gerald’s church as well.

Q:  Talk about your faith and what it means to you?

A:  My faith is everything. I was with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Ohio State. We made Coach Hayes conscious of our spirituality. We wanted to have 10 minutes before a game so that we could meet. He was all for it. We used to have maybe about twenty players. We would have special meetings where we would just share our faith and pray and we were very proud of that.

Q:  Now you dropped the “E” from the end of Green?

A: 10 percent of my family had “E” on the end of their names. Of course, that became a family issue when I became famous and put the name out there. So, I dropped it when I was 30 and my kids have never seen “E” on the end of their names.

Q:   Talk about the 40th reunion and what it meant to you.

A:  Any time you get back with your guys, you kind of relive your life again. It’s amazing how you fall back in line, where if I was sophomore that year, then I act like a sophomore. What a joy it was. As we get older we’ve lost a lot of our teammates, so its just a blessing to be above dirt and be able to attend and be one of the guys still representing your team.

Q:  What do you think happened in the Iowa game this year?

A:  I think we just outclassed ourselves. Run that ball and it can keep the crowd out of the game. We just outdid ourselves; got behind then tried to play catch up. Look how we came out against Michigan State. Yes, we are in a passing era, but come on. We are known for thee yards and a cloud of dust, and I think we should never get away from that, especially since we’ve got such great running backs.

Q:  Finally, what are your thoughts on JT and his legacy in particular?

A:  I got to meet JT right before he made his first start, and we talked about it. I told him that the year Braxton got hurt was very similar to my first year. My sophomore year I didn’t think I was going to be starting before the season because Greg Hare was our team captain. I found out that I was going to start ahead of him just like JT found out he was going to start ahead of Braxton because of injury. I just told him you’re going to be a great quarterback and whatever you need I’m going to be behind you, and I’ve kept my word. I mean I love JT. Here is a kid that gives his all, does everything for the university, and he has one bad game and you want to tear him down. It just shows you the kind of kid he is, that he doesn’t let outside criticism get to him. He comes right back and just plays his heart out. What a great leader he is. I’m very proud of JT.

Cornelius continues to follow Coach Hayes teaching of paying it forward at the St. Alban's school in Washington, DC where he is the 8th grade coach for basketball, baseball and football.

Interview With Buckeye Legend Cornelius Green, Part One

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

Permission to reprint article required from author
Nick’s email:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Interview with Buckeye Legend Cornelius Green, Part One

On Tuesday night, Cornelius Green spoke about what it meant to be part of the greatest rivalry in all of sport at the 3rd Annual John Hicks Unlimited Love Event to benefit the Unverferth House, which houses families of  heart transplant surgeries. I caught up with Cornelius by phone where he discussed the rivalry, breaking the color barrier as the 1st African-American QB at Ohio State, and much more.

Q:  Talk about your upbringing in DC and your childhood.

A:  I was adopted and my biological father’s oldest sister, she and her husband raised me; which I ended up calling them my mom and dad, so it was actually my aunt and uncle that raised me from six months until I was a grown man. They passed on now, but they were pretty much my everything.

Q:  Did you have any role models growing up?

A: One of our neighbor’s nephews happened to be Willie Wood, who ended up being in the Hall of fame and was a DB for the Green Bay Packers. This neighbor used to always tell me as a kid that I reminded me of his nephew Willie Wood, so that was pretty inspiring.

Q:  Did Woody recruit you specifically as a QB?

A:  Yes, QB only. That’s what I wanted too. That was probably what I was a little nervous about because I was good on both sides of the ball, but my love was quarterbacking. Back in the day they didn’t have many black quarterbacks at all in college, so what was happening a lot of times was that once an African-American would go to a major big school, they ended up changing their positions to defensive back, and I didn’t want that to happen to me.

Q: What did being the QB at OSU teach you about leadership and life in general?

A: I was the pitcher of my baseball team, point guard on my basketball team and was the quarterback on my football team, so being a great leader was already instilled in me. I think that if you are going to be a good leader then show good leadership skills by being at practice and not missing practice. No matter what happened during that game on Saturday and no matter how beat up I was, Monday morning I was out there with my lineman and my team practicing. We used to tease Archie a lot because the difference between Archie and I, is that we were both beat up, but Coach Hayes would tell Archie that he needed to rest to recover. He’d tell me that I needed to go out there and I needed to work.

Q:  Being the first African-American QB at OSU, did you think about the significance of this at the time?

A:  One of my reasons for going there was that I could become the first African-American QB at Ohio State. I always thought about it and then once I got here it wasn’t a big deal until I think the town made it a big deal. I was receiving letters from the Klan and would get death threat calls over the phone my freshman year, so it was pretty devastating. It was tough but I persevered and survived. Once I started against Minnesota, and we won 56-7 the calls and all the letters just stopped all of a sudden. It’s amazing what winning can do.

Q:  Talk about your relationship with Archie when you were at OSU and what he meant to you?

A:  He meant the world to me. I was from Washington, DC being in Ohio, and here was Archie from Columbus, and I ended up being a member of his family and just like a brother. His mom and dad kind of adopted me as a son. What a great joy that was. My dad had drinking problems and stuff and then my uncle that raised me was blind when I was in the 8th grade so neither one had come to see me play a game.  Mr. Griffin would always be there for me after every game. I’d look up and he’d have his arm around me as well as having his arm around Archie, telling us both how great we did.

Q: What did the Team Up North rivalry mean to you?

A:  I got here my freshman year and I couldn’t believe we were practicing for Michigan during the summer and we didn’t play them until November; so I knew how this was a little different than anything I had ever experienced in my life before. We were practicing against the Michigan defense and we would go so far that the scout squad had to actually wear Michigan uniforms. It was everything. I never lost to them. 

Q: What are some other tactics that Woody used to get you guys ready for Michigan?

A:   His main tactic was that each week we were concerned about Michigan. If we thought a team was weak, like Indiana back in the day; I hate to talk about Lee Corso in this manner, but we would practice for Michigan Monday and Tuesday, and then practice for Indiana Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Q: Talk about your experience against the Team Up North your freshman year?

A: We beat them 14-11. I was watching the game and I was dressed, but of course I didn’t get in the game.  That was probably one of the greatest games because my freshman year we had four different goal line stances with Bo refusing to kick a field goal. If they kick four field goals they win the game, but he refused to kick and we stopped him four times. It was insane what he was doing.

Q: Talk about the tie game your sophomore year.

A: My sophomore year we played Iowa at home and when I was pitching the ball on an option the defensive end jammed my right thumb. My thumb was so swollen all week that I really couldn’t pass much all week in practice; so, the 10-10 tie game my sophomore year Woody didn’t attempt any passes the whole game but one time. He took me out of the game with three minutes left, and put in Greg Hare who was our captain; and then he tried to pass and the first pass Greg threw was an interception.

Q: What were your feelings after the tie game, did you think you would get the nod?

A: I didn’t know how that worked. I was just so upset that it was a tie game. They were jumping up and down like they won the game. In my mind, I was thinking we had just gone to the Rose Bowl the prior year and I said wow I’m thinking that they were going to get the nod automatically. I didn’t know there was a vote that went on with all the athletic directors from all the Big Ten teams. I just knew we were going to the Rose Bowl and I didn’t know how it happened until 40 years later when they did the documentary. We always said the right team went because we went out there and won. When we had our reunion, we made sure that was stated.

Q: When did Woody start trusting your arm more?

A:  Things changed in the Rose Bowl. I redeemed myself and I was MVP in the Rose Bowl as a sophomore. I hit some key plays and then all of a sudden that next year there was a big trust factor.

Q: What was your most memorable Michigan game?

A: My senior year, that’s probably my most memorable Michigan game. They kicked off to us and we went right down and scored a touchdown, and we went up 7-0.  They stopped us from getting a first down from mid first quarter to the end of the first quarter. The second quarter we were stopped. The whole third quarter we didn’t get a first down. Now, we are going into the fourth quarter down 14-7 with seven minutes left and it was a 3rd and 18 on the twenty-yard line. I got the team together and said, “Hey I’m going to say a prayer,” not for us to win, but because we kept coming up like 4th and 1.

Q: You were in your own territory at that point?

A: Yep, 3rd and 18 and backs against the wall and I was shocked we called a pass play.  For me to throw a perfect pass and the pass was completed after I said the prayer, it was amazing, and then we got four first downs right in a row. I completed two more passes for first downs. It was 4th and goal at the one and we finally scored. We tied the game up, then Ray Griffin intercepts the pass with about two minutes left and we ended up winning 21-14.  I ended up being the game’s most valuable player.  I can just remember so vividly when the interviewer was congratulating me for a great game, I said no we’ve got to give the Lord the credit because I told him about this prayer I said. The first down prayer was answered and it was just an amazing feeling.

Q:  Talk about some of the friendships you developed at OSU and how they impacted you.

A: My friendships at OSU have changed my life because when I grew up here in D.C it was 98 percent African-American.  Going to Ohio State was my first experience of having predominantly white friends. Brian Baschnagel was my roommate and ended up being my best friend. I think Brian changed my life by being such a great friend and teaching me that everyone was the same. You just had to get to know folks, you couldn’t stereotype someone. He made me a better person and made me the person I am today.

Q:  Do you have a favorite memory of Woody?

A: My favorite memory now is probably one of the last memories I have, because I started my career against Minnesota.  My first home game was against Minnesota my sophomore year, and my last home game as a senior was against Minnesota. Right at the end, Coach Hayes took a penalty for too much time. He took the penalty so that the fans could give me a round of applause, thanking me for my four years I had at Ohio State; and then he came to greet me on the field and shake my hand. That was overwhelming.  Right after that he substituted for Archie. It was just so uncommon of Coach Hayes. You never thought he would do something like that. Man was that showing you how much he loved you and appreciated you.

Interview with Buckeye Legend Cornelius Green, Part Two.

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

Permission to reprint article required from author
Nick’s email:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Earnest Byner Gives Back to Cleveland Veterans Through Healing Dawg's Organization

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

As we reflect back on this past Veteran’s Day weekend, no scripture embodies the sacrifice our veterans have made to preserve our freedoms more than John 15:13.

The Greek translation for love in this instance is the term “agape.”

Agape is the highest form of love and is different from brotherly or romantic love because it is unconditional, sacrificial and volitional (an act of the will); it doesn’t fluctuate when circumstances or people change.

It is this very agape love, a love that starts in the inside, that serves as the foundation of former Cleveland Brown Earnest Byner’s nonprofit organization Healing Dawgs.  Byner wants to bring this message of love to our nation's veterans, who are hurting and often in need of great healing.

Byner shared his heart on why he started Healing Dawg’s, “To me, the healing process is always happening, whether it’s mental, physical or spiritual. We go about teaching love, what we call agape love, which is part of the healing process. That’s the first love, the love of self; the God love that everybody has.”

He reiterated that healing is available to everyone, not just veterans. “Whatever the experience there is always healing available. We heal mind, body and spirit, but we focus on the youth (juveniles), the homeless and veterans.”

Since the founding of the Healing Dawgs, Earnest has noticed that a lot of the issues that veterans are having are similar to those of former NFL Players.

The response has been so great and humbling that the organization has partnered with the VA Medical Center in Cleveland to help deal with issues such as suicide, drug use and concussions and to help raise awareness to the veterans who may be in need.

Reggie Langhorne, Kevin Mack, Felix Wright and Earnest Byner. Photo from

Byner’s message of healing from the inside out resonates because he speaks from personal experience; he had to undergo his own struggle, and personal journey to find healing.

His journey began in Milledgeville, Georgia where he was raised by his beloved grandmother.
Byner credits his grandmother for laying a foundation of humility and personal responsibility.

“It was critical to my development. Granny was my first love. Taking us to church every Sunday gave us a really solid foundation to live life. Those values that she taught me were the values that I go back to whenever struggle comes and struggle will come.”

Football was always there for Byner. He developed a love for the game at an early age, whether it was in front of his grandmother’s house, or through his local sports team. 

Throughout his career, he would go always back to his foundation in Milledgeville. Every off-season he would run the same hills he grew up on, and to run intervals on his old high school track.

After a standout prep career, Byner attended East Carolina where he went on to gain 2,049 yards on 378 carries after which he entered the 1984 draft.

He described those tense moments in the 1984 draft waiting to be called, “I was sitting in a dorm room waiting to see if the phone would ring.  The phone rang late that day. It was the tenth round and I spoke to then Head Coach Sam Rutigliano and Mr. Modell. I could go home and let my wife know the good news.” Byner became a Cleveland Brown.

In training camp, Byner had a little bit of trepidation about making the team. He described his feelings on the last night before final cuts.

“I’ve been balling from the beginning, so I haven’t had an uneasy feeling about being cut, but tonight is a little different. I slept well after I finally fell asleep, while half expecting a knock on the door. I wake up to sunshine and no knock. I pop up and run to the door to peak out. Quiet. It was almost spooky. I call home to tell Granny and then call my wife. I made it!” (Earnest Byner, Everybody Fumbles)

Now that Byner had made the team, it was time to start preparing for the season and the individual games ahead.  In the fall of 1984, it was Byner’s job to help get the starting defense ready.  He enjoyed playing fullback the most, going against guys like Clay Matthews, Eddie Johnson, Chip Banks and Tom Cousineau.

His scout team efforts, however, did not go unnoticed as he caught the eye of defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer who would then become the head coach part way through the 1984 season.

Byner became Schottenheimer’s guy. “I’m convinced that a large part of that decision was made when I played the role of scout team player. If I hadn’t done that job the way it was supposed to, then my role may have been to exit the NFL in short time.” (Earnest Byner, Everybody Fumbles)

Byner took this same ferocious approach that he displayed on the scout team towards changing the culture of the Browns team as a whole. Byner made up part of the group called “Ernie’s group” which according to assistant coach Howard Mudd, “was composed of some tough guys who would thrash around and cause havoc in the game.” 

Prior to the 1985 season, the Cleveland Browns were a divided team; offense vs. defense.  The defense considered the offense soft, so much so that the offense and defense road their own separate bus.

Along came Byner in his second year as he almost single-handedly changed the culture of the team, a feat the coaching staff couldn’t accomplish on their own.

Mudd described this culture shift, “He boldly got onto the defense's bus and declared, ‘There’ll be no more offense vs defense.’ He stood up and the Browns became one. He would openly call out his teammates if they didn’t perform with toughness and perseverance.”

Photo courtesy of

It was also in 1985 that Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack reached the heights of on field success.  The Browns became only the third team in NFL history to have two 1000 yards rushers in a season along with the 1972 Dolphins and the 1976 Steelers.

In these times we live in, however, our failures are often magnified more than our successes. The media and fans will look for a scapegoat or someone that they can blame for a team’s loss.
Cleveland particularly has had a long-suffering fan base, as the media has encapsulated many of their sports failures down to single word moments such as “The Drive” or “The Shot.”

Fair or not, Earnest Byner will be forever linked with Cleveland’s excruciating and tortured history. In the 1987 playoff game against Denver, the Browns had the ball with 1:12 left in the game on the eight-yard line trailing 38-31 when the unthinkable happened.

“The play is designed to get inside, but the tight end has collapsed the end man of the line of scrimmage. The guard bounces, so I bounce. I take a look outside and see 85 running off but decide to get vertical…I’m scoring! They haven’t stopped me all day and not now but…I’m on the ground without the ball. Dead tired and exhausted while knowing I’ve let my guys down.” (Earnest Byner, Everybody Fumbles)

Photo courtesy of

The play became known as “The Fumble” to the national sports media. Earnest took it very hard and described his struggle, “I was the next day’s news all over the country, perhaps the world, and I was the next week’s talk show joke. The travesty was that I let it stay with me based on what others thought instead of how my true friends thought. It took me about three years before I finally forgave myself and moved on.” (Earnest Byner, Everybody Fumbles)

A lot of time has passed from that fateful day and much like the city of Cleveland, Earnest had to go through healing too. Rather than let a moment like this destroy him, Earnest eventually embraced “The Fumble” and turned what others viewed as his greatest failure into an instrument to help others.

“My book is called, ‘Everybody Fumbles,’ and it’s an analogy that everyone makes mistakes, everybody stumbles and has difficulties. There is much more to me than just the fumble.”

Byner played one more season for the Browns before being traded to the Washington Redskins before the 1989 season. In 1993, he went on to win the Super Bowl in Washington that had eluded him in Cleveland.

Photo courtesy of

Byner did not view his Super Bowl win in Washington as some sort of redemption for “The Fumble.” “In my mind the Super Bowl, just like the fumble, was just part of the story of Earnest Byner that could be used in the healing process of other people.  I was thrilled that we won, but I was still thinking about developing. It was part of the story that I now use to teach about successes and failures and how you live and learn through both of them.”

After his stint in Washington, Byner then returned to Cleveland for the 1994-1995 season before ultimately finishing his career in Baltimore. He then went on to coach with multiple NFL teams and picked up another Super Bowl ring with the Ravens as Director of Player Development.

Byner working as RB coach for the Jaguars.  Photo courtesy of

Byner will always have a special place in his heart for Cleveland.  He talked about how much the city of Cleveland has meant to him throughout the years.

“The fan support has been magnificent. The mid 80’s team is a team that really galvanized the Brown’s fans and created an excitement that was electric. It’s something that has tied together the fans and that team in such a way that I don’t know if that will ever be supplanted, unless of course they win a Super Bowl.”

Byner described Cleveland fans as blue collar, hardworking and no nonsense. “The type of fans that are in Cleveland, they have shown the loyalty that has been different than the other places that I have been.”

It’s those endearing qualities that have continued to draw him back to Cleveland to help the city heal. Just like the hills and track in Milledgeville, Georgia, Cleveland is also a big part of Byner’s foundation.

“It’s a generational thing.  If they love you, they love you. The Browns are part of my life foundation, and that foundation has been solid because of the things we’ve been through. When Believeland came about, that was the thing that really solidified in my mind and in a lot of fans minds that relationship that the mid 80’s team had.”

Watching the Cavs win it all provided him with a greater sense of peace and continued healing, “I was really at peace, I felt it coming. I could almost sense it. I was actually at home watching the game by myself. I was happy, but I wasn’t surprised. When you saw the reaction of Lebron, Kyrie, Tristan, and Tyronn Lue running around like a little boy, when I saw that, that really reminded me of winning the championship when I was at Washington, it was just a peace that was prevalent.”

Earnest Byner has experienced much in his life; both the peaks of success and the depths of struggle. One thing that has remained consistent for his entire life is his love for God and love for others. To borrow the words of his assistant Howard Mudd, Byner epitomizes the phrase “say what you do and do what you say.”

Byner embodies the very agape love that serves as the foundation of his Healing Dawgs organization. His relationship with Cleveland serves as a living parable that demonstrates this very love.

After the fumble, some fans sent him hate mail which hurt Byner a great deal. He was humble and forgiving enough, however, to return to Cleveland for a few more years before eventually retiring with the Baltimore Ravens.

In the 2016 ESPN documentary Believeland, Byner sacrificed himself by apologizing for "The Fumble" in order to help the city of Cleveland heal.

It’s also this same agape love that is drawing him back to Cleveland after all these years to serve the city’s veterans, children and homeless; teaching them to love themselves.

As the next chapters in Earnest Byner’s life are written, there will likely still be some people from Cleveland and in the sports media who will always associate him with “The Fumble.”

Those who know him, however, will remember him for his love; and in the end, that’s all that really matters.

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

Permission to reprint article required from author
Nick’s email:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Barrington Elementary Brings Back Beat Michigan! Beat Cancer! Race Nov. 4th to Beat Ovarian Cancer

Next Saturday morning November 4th, a remarkable group of fourth graders will be holding a 5K Fun Run at Barrington Elementary School in Upper Arlington, OH to raise awareness to the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and to raise money in the fight against this “silent killer.”

Ovarian cancer is often called a “silent killer,” because its early symptoms are vague and the disease often goes undetected. It is often not diagnosed until it has reached its late stages and by then it is too late to treat, leading to death within about five years.

For two very special seniors at Upper Arlington High School the battle against ovarian cancer is personal. In November of 2008, then 3rd grader at Barrington Elementary, Molly O’Connor lost her beloved mother and member of the Upper Arlington community, Eileen O’Connor, to ovarian cancer.

The following April as a fourth grader, Molly saw Race for the Cure signs and wondered why they didn’t have a similar race and publicity for ovarian cancer.  It was at this point that she approached her fourth-grade teacher Katie Benton (Mrs. Benton was also her 3rd grade teacher) and asked her if they could hold a race for ovarian cancer.

Molly’s close friend, Dante Landolfi, also lost his precious grandmother Bonnie Masdea around the same time that Molly lost her mother. Both of their fourth-grade classes teamed up and with the help of their teachers, developed the idea of a race which they coined Beat Michigan! Beat Cancer! Racing to Beat Ovarian Cancer.

Mrs. Benton with Molly and Dante at the 2009 race

Barrington Elementary School is located in Upper Arlington which is a stone’s throw from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio Stadium attracts over 100,000 fans to home games so it was only natural to name the race after OSU’s biggest rival Michigan, since the race would be held two weeks before the annual OSU/Michigan Game.

The two classes also partnered with the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio and The Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute which is located very close to Barrington. 

Mrs. Benton spoke of the importance of their help at the time, “Representatives from the James Cancer Hospital came to our school to talk with the students about cancer, the importance of research, and the mission/vision of the research institute. Both partnering organizations played key roles as they interacted and educated the students before, during and after the event.”

With the entire Upper Arlington community galvanized, and due to the personal nature of this particular race, it was a rousing success. Typically, the first time a race is held for a lesser known cancer it makes a few thousand dollars and draws a few hundred people. The race drew over 900 racers and raised an astonishing $23,000 for ovarian cancer research.

Margot, a 4th grader at Barrington Elementary at the time, expressed the impact a group of motivated fourth graders can have, “You can’t underestimate what 4th graders can do. We raised more than $20,000. If our classes helped prevent one person from getting ovarian cancer, I am satisfied with what we did.”

The event was such a success that Mrs. Benton even mentioned that it was her hope that down the road it would inspire other service-learning projects and that students at Upper Arlington High School would even organize similar projects like this for their Senior Capstone Projects.

Her idea proved prophetic, as this is exactly what transpired. Dante, now a senior, approached Molly and suggested they bring back the Beat Michigan! Beat Cancer race for ovarian cancer as their Senior Capstone Project at Upper Arlington High School. The Senior Capstone Project is a graduation requirement at Upper Arlington and he wanted his project to be both significant and memorable.

Dante, Molly, and Mrs. Benton getting ready for this year's race

Dante shared his heart on what it means to him to be a part of the race again and to honor his grandmother, “It means the world to me to be able to do something to not only honor her memory, but to help prevent the same thing from happening to other people. It means the world to me that I got to do this 9 years ago and it means the world that I get to do it now.”

Dante and Molly both get the opportunity to work closely with Mrs. Benton’s 4th grade class. Dante spoke about the opportunity to mentor the 4th graders, “They absolutely love working for the project and its cool to see them learn the same lessons that I learned. That they can do practically anything if they set their mind to it.”

Mrs. Benton reinforced the importance of this real-world learning as a supplement to traditional classroom learning. “It’s called a service learning project. They are learning academic stuff and real-life skills while they are doing it, and it also lets kids really capitalize on their gifts and talents.”

Dante and Molly with the fourth grade class at Barrington Elementary

This year’s race is soon upon us and the excitement in the kids is palpable. The kids are busy using their gifts, making Buckeye necklaces and other crafts and items to sell for the race. Teal is the official color for ovarian cancer so look for there to be a lot of teal, and not just buckeye scarlet and gray.

On Monday, October 30th Barrington Elementary held a pep rally for the entire school to build momentum for the race and also to educate kids and staff on ovarian cancer. Dr. David Cohn, MD spoke at the rally. Dr. Cohn is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be somewhat general and vague which often leads to a late diagnosis of the disease.

Dr. Cohn explained the diagnosis process of ovarian cancer, “Most ovarian cancers are diagnosed when its already spread. Stage 3 is the most common point of diagnosis, and the chance at cure is lower.”

He went on to explain some of the symptoms to be mindful of, “There are certainly symptoms of ovarian cancer and that includes abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, feeling full quickly, and changes in urinary and bowel movement habits as well.”

The ovarian cancer community sometimes uses the acronym B.E.A.T to generalize the early symptoms that may arise in a person with the disease.  “B” stands for bloating, “E” stands for eating less and feeling fuller, “A” stands for abdominal pain, and “T” stands for tell your general practitioner.

The key is if a woman notices these symptoms, to go to their physician immediately, so that if necessary they can conduct some kind of imaging with a pelvic ultrasound or a CT scan; as there is no current screening tool for ovarian cancer.

Dr. Cohn also discussed the importance of maintaining a normal weight, a physically active lifestyle and eating a diet rich in plant based products in order to help prevent the onset ovarian cancer, advice which we could all benefit from.

A common theme that was mentioned by everyone involved in the first race was that even if it just impacted one person, and saves just one life, then all their hard work will have been worth it.

This is indeed what happened. A woman who attended the race in 2009 went on to develop ovarian cancer. She credits the race and the efforts of the 4th grade class with helping her spot it early and saving her life. She is currently healthy and will be speaking to the 4th grade class and participating in this year’s race again.

It’s stories like this that has brought together the 4th graders and the Upper Arlington, and OSU community once again. 

Abby Davis, a 4th grader at Barrington Elementary, put it very eloquently why you should come out and be a part of this year’s race: “It’s going to be so much fun. We have activities and raffle prizes and you will be supporting a great cause while helping raise awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer and raising money for a cure. Who doesn’t want to beat cancer?”

The Beat Michigan! Beat Cancer! logo

If you live in the Columbus area, please make every effort to go to the race this year either as a spectator, or as a participant. Click here for race details and where to donate.

The kids have worked hard to secure sponsors so that all proceeds will go to the Ovarian Cancer Research and Education in Gynecology Fund at OSUCC-The James.

If you are unable to go, please make an effort to educate yourself and your loved ones on the symptoms of ovarian cancer. You may never know the lives you will impact or save.

Perhaps one day, we can all say that we not only beat Michigan, but that we beat ovarian cancer too.

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

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Friday, October 20, 2017

The Rod Gerald Story: Finding Redemption, Part Two

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

Rod Gerald left Texas and boarded a greyhound bus for Ohio with his wife, five-year-old daughter Natashia, and his son Casey who was six months old at the time.

Rod got a job at the Columbus Zoo and lived with a close friend and his family in Plain City. He then became the freshman basketball coach at Dublin Coffman leading them to a championship that first year. Additionally, Rod served as parking attendant for the school, a job which he loved dearly, as it gave him a chance to love and be an encouragement for kids.

One day, the principal called Rod into the office where he was surrounded by teachers and students. Rod remembers that day fondly, “It was my first Christmas away from home. They gave us so many toys for my kids. It took two cars and a van to get all those toys.”

Things were going great, but Rod had unfinished business.

Following through on his promise to Woody, Rod returned to OSU in 1988 and then received his degree from OSU in 1989.

Woody Hayes. Photo courtesy of Team Rod

Rod then began working as a housing inspector for the city of Columbus, and got a chance to take his son Casey to Buckeye games and share his love for OSU.

In 1994, Rod’s brother died.  He experienced death in his family for the very first time. This led to a relapse into the world of drugs again, a propensity which had been developed from those early times at OSU trying to self-medicate his pain. Compounded by the death of his beloved father in 1998, Rod would then enter one of the darkest periods of his life.

Back in Dallas and away from the accountability he had established in Columbus, Rod dove headlong back into the underworld of drugs. He ended up selling the family home for drug money, became homeless, and spent 11 months in jail for burglary charges stemming from his drug use.

It wasn’t until he had hit rock bottom that any lasting substantive change would occur in Rod, “It’s God’s goodness that leads you to repentance. You don’t even see yourself. A lot of times we are so out of control, you don’t even think to repent. God knocks you down like Saul (who later became the Apostle Paul), and makes you see.”

For the next several years, Rod has walked the straight and narrow road, while working to repair his relationships with his family that he had hurt so much. 

Rod’s trials, however, were far from over. Rod suffered from degenerative disk disease and spinal stenosis to his lumbar spine making it difficult to even walk and some days to even get out of bed. Compounded with his back injuries, Rod suffered a herniated disk in his cervical spine which led to searing pain in his neck to the point where he couldn’t even hold his head up.

Rod was decimated by these physical problems, and was unable to work and provide for himself anymore. Relying on a meager one thousand dollar a month disability check, Rod was in anguish both physically and mentally. It was at this low point in his life where Buckeye Nation reached out in love and picked Rod up again, to help him get back on his feet.

Paige King, a devout Buckeye fan from Circleville, OH but now living in Texas, reached out to Rod on social media. Rod is never one to complain and often refuses to ask for help, not wanting to be a burden on anyone. Paige’s love for Rod finally broke through his tough exterior. He now affectionately calls Paige “Coach” for her perseverance and persistence.

Paige King with Rod

With the help of a local businessman Tony Reynolds, Paige developed the concept of Team Rod. Team Rod is a concept that no matter how low you get, you have people who love you and want the best for you; that you’re never alone in your fight.

Reynold’s set up a crowdfunding page to help pay for Rod’s surgery and expenses to make it back for his 40-year reunion in 2015 against Northern Illinois.  Rod’s old friends Archie Griffin and Cornelius Green were the first to donate to Team Rod. Buoyed by the love and support of his friends and love of Buckeye Nation, Rod made the trip to Columbus.

Rod shared his emotions leading up to that day in the Shoe, “It’s been an effort by the entire university, but it started out with one lady, it’s enough to make you cry.” (Jon Spencer, Gannett News services, Sept 16th, 2015.)

Buckeye Nation and his former teammates picked him up emotionally but also physically that day, “They were proud of me, happy to see me. They were carrying me around. I couldn’t go downstairs with that walker, they picked me up. They showed me a lot of love.” (Jon Spencer, Gannett News, Oct 17th, 2015)

Rod in the 'Shoe for the 40 year reunion

Rod didn’t know on that memorable day in the ‘Shoe that he had a staph infection from his neck surgery. He required another surgery to revise and clean out the infection which set him back a great deal.

On Thursday Oct. 12th, 2017, Rod had his third lumbar surgery and another small surgery to fix a component from his original neck surgery on his herniated disk. He is now home, in good spirits and on the road to recovery.

Being confined to a wheelchair, left Rod a long time to contemplate his legacy and what he wants to be remembered for.

A big part of Rod’s legacy is his children. Both Casey and Natashia graduated as valedictorians at South Oak Cliff High in Dallas. His youngest Casey went on to play defensive back at Yale, was a Rhodes scholar finalist in 2008, and then was chosen to speak at Harvard Business school’s graduation in 2014.

In addition to continuing his healing and reconciliation with his children, Rod wants to start earning an income again. He also believes God is calling him to public speaking. He wants to share his story with others to inspire them to not go down the same road he went; that no matter how low you go, God loves you and to never give up hope and always keep fighting.

Towards the end of the interview, Rod shared one of his favorite Bible verses, “Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)

He confessed, “You can be saved by your consequences. You can turn your life around, but most of the time it’s that love that does it.”

Rod went on to emphasize the importance of friendship and accountability to stay clean, “It’s in my mind and it’s in my heart and its even in my way of living.  I can hang up right now from you and call Archie Griffin and call Corny (Cornelius Green).”

Rod in the 'Shoe with good friends Archie Griffin and Cornelius Green. Photo courtesy of NBC4

Rod finished the interview with his usual unassuming nature and humility, “Even in a wheelchair I have so much to be thankful for. God has been so merciful and good.”

He later texted, “God is better to me than I am to myself.”

Rod knows pain and suffering both in theory and experientially.

His whole life is a testimony of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. He has come full circle as a son of a Baptist minister, to becoming the prodigal son and then being called home again through God’s love.

“And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine just persons who need repentance.” (Luke 4: 6-7)

Rod’s vision now is to take this message of love to others and that’s why his next chapters in his life may be his greatest.

Author's note: Rod just had his third back surgery on Oct. 12th. He is home recovering and walking! Donations can be made here to help Rod pay for the back surgery and physical therapy. Thank you! 

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Rod Gerald Story: Finding Redemption, Part One

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  (Luke 4:5)

Rod Gerald would be the first to admit that his life has taken a winding course. Rod never met his grandfather as he passed when his father was just two years old. Rod’s father was the son of sharecroppers in Tunis, Texas. He eventually left home and joined the army before settling down as a meat cutter. The same year that Rod was born, Mr. Gerald was called into the ministry; a call which he quickly accepted.

Born in 1956, Rod was the fourth boy in the Gerald family, a family that was used to going without material things. His first of three sisters was born in 1960.  Though difficult to afford, Rod’s father moved the family to a bigger house in a better area to provide a safer environment for the kids to grow up in. Life for the Gerald’s, consisted of church every Sunday. The kids were responsible for cleaning the church every day and cutting the church lawn. It was these humble beginnings and early underpinnings of structure, humility and love that would help shape Rod’s personality.

A blazing quarterback/defensive back with 4.3 speed, Rod initially chose a school from each of the Southern conferences and left out the Big Ten. OSU coach Woody Hayes came in late and changed his whole recruitment. “The head coach from Tennessee was there in Dallas at my dad’s church. We were ready to sign, and Woody came in and changed the whole game.”

OSU had always been Rod’s favorite with players like John Brockington, Jim Otis and Rex Kern. Being from Texas, Rod was used to big rivalries. They decided to wait on his decision and went up as a family for the OSU-Michigan rivalry game in November. There they had a chance to meet Archie Griffin and Cornelius Green and in Rod’s words, “It wasn’t a hard sell.”

Rod Gerald, Cornelius Green and Lenny Willis

At 175 lbs., Rod took a chance in coming to OSU knowing he would have to run the ball a lot. “Running the ball that much, you are going to get hit. I liked running the ball, I liked the contact and liked to think I could run over guys.”  Rod’s freshman year he led the scout team as QB and ran all over the first team defense, setting the stage for him to start at QB his sophomore year. The Buckeyes had a stellar year in 1975 but ended with the disappointing loss in the Rose Bowl to UCLA.

It was a loss that according to Rod, Woody took very hard.  Many thought Woody would retire after that season, but perhaps not wanting to end his career on a loss returned for the next season. Buckeye greats Archie Griffin, Tim Fox and Cornelius Green graduated and thus began a new era of OSU football with Rod Gerald at the helm.

Photo courtesy of Rod Gerald

The Rod Gerald led Buckeyes started out 4-1-1 and were ranked as one of the top teams in the country. During homecoming against Purdue, however, Rod was about to be tested more than any other time in his life.  In Rod’s words, “Pain and injury are part of the game.”  He had dealt with injuries before and had always bounced back but this was different.

Rod was hit on an option play in the first quarter by Rock Supan of Purdue, a moment which Rod remembers vividly, “He hit me and I laid and it was a pain a had never felt. Dr. Bob Murphy (team physician) and Billy Hill (OSU team trainer) put me on the cart and drove me off.”

Rod ended up fracturing three transverse processes in his spine and was laid up in the hospital for a week. He recalls his teammate Greg Storer visiting him that first night, “He brought me some McDonalds. He was a 6’7’ tight end and was about as nice as you could be.” The injury was just the start of the many trials that Rod would face, some self-inflicted, but many stemming from the pain and chronic nature of his original injury.

While Rod was sidelined with his injury, OSU continued its winning ways with Senior Jim Pacenta at the helm. Pacenta was known as more of a passing QB, and many fans had wanted OSU’s offense to evolve into more of a passing team. The Buckeyes rattled off three straight wins until being blanked 22-0 to Michigan. “Woody had a fit. There was no doubt I was gonna play that next game. He didn’t care what condition I was in.”

Rod, however, was having doubts about even being able to play again for OSU. After a film session with Ron Springs, Woody called them both into his office and said he was going to go back to the running and option attack again and that Rod would be playing in the Orange Bowl. Rod told Coach Hayes he was not going to go and Woody went nuts, “After he threw some desks and some books, I said ‘Okay I’m going, I’m going!’”

OSU started out down 10-0 against Colorado at which point Woody inserted Rod. Gerald sparked OSU with a 17-yard run leading to a touchdown by Jeff Logan.  OSU went on to win 27-10 with Rod being named the back of the game with 14 rushes for 81 yards and a TD.

Photo courtesy of Rod Gerald

In 1977, with Gerald still not himself and battling lingering pain from his initial injury, the Buckeyes went on to finish with a 9-3 season, with losses to Oklahoma, Michigan and then Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. With a poor showing against Alabama, it was a not very well-kept secret that wunderkind Art Schlichter would be taking the reins of the OSU offense the next year.

When Rod went home that summer before his senior year, he was nowhere near the 4.3 athlete he was before his injury, “I knew I was in bad shape. I needed to go home and work on Rod. When I went home that summer I could hardly work out because of my back.”  Rod contemplated not coming back for his senior year, but the love of Buckeye Nation willed him to return.

Rod returned to a divided locker room.  Knowing how much pain he was having, Rod welcomed Art starting. The seniors who loved Rod, however, felt like they were doing him wrong by starting the freshman Schlichter. As a compromise, Woody moved Rod to wide receiver which led to one of his favorite moments as a Buckeye versus Penn State, “Both Art and I went on the field at the same time and the stadium went nuts, and that was just great.”

In 1986, a writer for the Columbus Dispatch wrote an expose on drug use at OSU. Rod agreed to speak with the writer of the Dispatch under the pretense that they would use his comments to help other Buckeyes to not make the same mistakes he had made.

The article ended up on the front page and included damning quotes from highly respected people like Dr. Bob Murphy and Woody Hayes about Gerald’s drug use while at Ohio State. Gerald quickly went from beloved Buckeye to a pariah in the eyes of Buckeye nation. Over 40 years have passed and some of the pain still lingers, “Buckeye nation, they’ve forgiven me, but the diehards, I don’t think they’ll ever forgive me for that.”

In the following summer, Rod felt so bad he was willing to stay in Texas, “I felt it was justified that I would be punished, I needed to be punished. I never thought I would be back in Ohio. I was willing to sacrifice because of what I had done.” Suffering the depression from his public shame and self-medicating his pain, Rod received a phone call that would take his life in a better direction.

Rod vividly recalls Woody reaching out to him that day, “Rod, you are going to go ahead and go back and finish and get that degree, right?” Rod didn’t know that day if he would, but he wasn’t going to tell Coach Hayes no again. Hayes pressed him to promise he would go back and said he was going to call him back in a week.

Photo courtesy of Rod Gerald

Unbeknownst to Rod at the time, Woody was very sick. That following Wednesday, it was reported that Coach Hayes had passed away.

Rod recalls his promise to Woody, “I didn’t care what condition I was in. Woody had the love for me to call and was interested in me getting back and getting my degree, I was going to do it.”

With $15 in his pocket, Rod stepped out in faith and left for Columbus. He didn't know, however, that he would soon be tested more than he had ever been in his entire life.

Continue reading, The Rod Gerald Story: Finding Redemption, Part Two

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

Permission to reprint article required from author
Nick’s email: