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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Interview with Cornelius Green for Michigan week 2018

I caught up with Buckeye legend and trailblazer Cornelius Green as we approach the 2018 edition of the Game. He shared his thoughts on the rivalry, his special connection with current Buckeye Dwayne Haskins, his thoughts on this year's team, and much more. 

Cornelius Green courtesy of OSU archives

Q: Initially out of high school you wanted to go to Michigan State, talk about what happened there?

A: To start off, I used to go to Flint, Michigan every summer. I felt that when Michigan State was recruiting me that that would be my calling. I thought it was a perfect match for me to go there. But while I was attending my recruiting visit, the guy that was recruiting me was really upset at Michigan State and advised me not to go there. Also, he took me to a little party that Friday night and left me. I had to find my way back to the hotel, so I just crossed Michigan State off after that.

Q: Why ultimately did you choose Ohio State?

A: My main reason for choosing Ohio State was Rudy Hubbard who recruited me, I felt really comfortable with him. He was the running backs coach. I think my mom kind of made up my decision because when I visited Ohio State, Coach Hayes’ whole conversation was about what I wanted to be, and about my academics. I spent probably about 75% of my time over at the business colleges and looking at different colleges that I wanted to pursue my career in. So, when I got home, I told my mom all they were talking about was school mom. They weren’t talking about how good I’d be in football. Obviously, she said, well you’re going to Ohio State because it looks like they are putting more emphasis on school than sports.

Q: Where did most kids from your hometown and the DC area go to school?

A: Most of the kids weren’t getting big division one scholarships. The majority of them were not getting those big looks. I was one of the first to kind of get that big look. The majority of the black schools were looking at a lot of the kids in our area. Once I went to Ohio State and became successful there, then D.C started become a hotbed for other big conferences to come in and get a lot of kids out of the area.

Q: Did you get any flak from your friends or any other people in your hometown, or were they happy for you?

A: It was amazing how so many people were happy, but thought I might have made the wrong decision and tried to down my skill level, thinking I wasn’t good enough to go to Ohio State. A lot of folks were wondering why did I choose to go to Ohio State, because I played football here in D.C. They were saying football started in Ohio, and this and that. I had to really believe in myself because a lot of friends and a lot of mentors and a lot of other folks thought I made the wrong decision going to Ohio State.

Q: Did you have any homesickness?

A: I was very homesick. I got an ulcer. I think being homesick, Woody Hayes, being at a new college all combined was just a little too much for me. Then once I got there, I started getting letters from the Ku Klux Klan and all kinds of other racial groups. Then I started getting a lot of nasty phone calls and death threats. It all kind of adds up and that’s probably why I think I got an ulcer.

Q: In regards to that off the field adversity, how did you deal with it?

A: It was really tough, but I thought that if I didn’t make note of it in terms of the press, letting it get out. Of course, Coach Hayes knew, but I didn’t let it get out. I kind of kept it to myself. Archie would answer the phone, and people thought he was me, and so he knew what I was experiencing. It was tough. Probably one of the toughest times of my life.

Q: This year the Buckeyes have faced a lot of off the field distractions. How did Woody handle the noise outside the program to keep you guys focused on your games?

A: Well Woody always kept us really focused. We were a very close-knit group. A lot of outside stuff didn’t affect us, because Woody was just a great leader. Of course, you know he followed General Patton so we were being raised like we were in the Army. He kept all stuff in house for sure.

Q: Nowadays kids have social media. If they are paying attention to it, it could probably really bring them down. It can get really nasty.

A: Thank goodness, there wasn’t any social media around when we were coming up. My goodness. Because as popular as Archie and I were, with his two Heisman’s, that probably would have gotten very intense with social media.

Q: You talked about academics, so maybe just expand on how Woody emphasized academics and the importance of education. Is that something he instilled right away?

A: That was his whole selling piece at Ohio State. Especially African-Americans, giving them the opportunity to get a great free education and to graduate. That’s what Woody was all about. And also, Woody was about making sure that we paid it forward. As freshmen, twice a week we had to go over to the Children’s hospital and visit sick kids.

Q: I was just going to ask you that. What kind of activities did Woody have you do as far as community service?

A: We did a lot of community service. Especially around Thanksgiving, I remember Archie and I used to volunteer. We used to go out and give away like 100 thanksgiving baskets to needy families. I was a big part of the Columbus community in terms of going to hospitals and paying it forward any way I could, going out to student community groups and things like that. Also, I was in the fellowship of Christian Athletes, so I spoke at a lot of churches as well.

Q: How would you compare the offense that you played under Woody to Ohio State’s offense the last few years?

A: Well, they are totally different offenses where we had a fullback and a wingback in our offense. Whereas, now there is no fullback and only one back in the backfield. I wish I could have played in this type of offense. I think my skills would have been displayed more than they were running in a Woody Hayes type of offense. I think I could have had a Heisman running this offense for sure.

Q: Would you prefer the read option as opposed to Pro-style?

A: No doubt about it. man, If I could have played in this type of offense where I had three or four wide receivers and I could run off the option and all I had to do was read that tackle, I would have had a field day.

Q: Maybe just compare the physicality of the game of football when you played versus today's teams?

A: I think the game is much softer. The game is obviously softer than when we played. Even from a practice standpoint, Woody never put a yellow jersey on me. They are going to protect the quarterbacks now. Of course, with the concussion scare and things like that I think the game is good being on the safer side. Of course, the players are much bigger than when we played. It’s a really good time to play football right now though.

Q: How did you get your nickname "Flamboyant?"

A: Leonardo Shapiro. He was a beat reporter for the Washington Post and ended up being the Washington Post editor in sports. He was well known. I had on some tassels on my pants and some white shoes and all the other guys out there had on black shoes and he nicknamed me "Flamboyant." He said "Flamboyant Green" directs Dunbar past whatever school we played. The next day all my teammates all called me "Flamboyant" and "Flam" so it just stuck.  But he named me that. I can’t take credit for giving myself that name, I have to give it to him.

Q: Now I wanted to talk about your relationship with Dwayne Haskins if that’s okay. Maybe just talk about your relationship as far as you both being from the DC area and carrying on that lineage of African-American Quarterbacks at Ohio State.

A:  I’m very proud of that. You know, there hadn’t been another African-American quarterback wearing number 7 as far as I knew of for 45 years; And how amazing 45 years later that an African-American came out of the Washington D.C area. His dad and I are very good friends and of course I’m always sending him some nice spiritual quotes, and he sends me some as well in terms of praying for his son to make sure he stays healthy, which I always do. But I’m just really proud of Dwayne and his accomplishments and couldn’t be prouder of a kid like him who is a spiritual kid, and we both have a spiritual number in number 7.

Q: Talk about how you got the number 7.

A: It was really wild for me to wear number 7, because when I first got to Ohio State, they gave me number 25. If you add 2 and 5, you get 7. They gave me the number 7 maybe the 4th or 5th week of the season. It was amazing. One of my teammates, Steve Luke's mom told me the night before. She said, "Cornelius I had a dream that you were wearing number 7" and I just thought she had lost it or something. The next day I went into my locker and lo and behold number 7 was in my locker.

Q: I thought Dwayne showed a lot of heart against Maryland in front of his family and his friends. Since you were at the game what were your thoughts on his play and getting to see him beat the season records for touchdowns and yardage?

A: It was a homecoming for him. I wish I would have been able to come back home and play in the D.C area where all my friends and family could come out and see me. So that was a blessing for him to come back home and also it was a blessing because he had initially signed to go to Maryland, before switching to Ohio State. So, I think he had a lot on the line in terms of wanting to impress people in this area that came out to see him. I was just more impressed with him using his legs in this game because there had been several games where he never ran the ball. It was great timing for him to use his legs in this game and to throw so many touchdowns in addition to running.  That puts another thing on Michigan’s mind.

Q: Do you think Ohio State should bring in Tate Martell at all?

A: I think you do because it adds another something that Michigan’s defense is going to have to get ready for. When Tate Martell comes in, all he has been doing is running but Urban might get pass happy and make that kid pass and catch Michigan off guard a little bit.

Q: What advice would you give to Dwayne as he approaches the Game and the rest of the season?

A: This is a game where you really make a name for yourself. This is a game where everyone is going to remember what you did. You can throw that 10-1 record out the window. I think the reason I’m so popular and well known is because I never lost to Michigan. I’m 3-0-1 against them. Back then, when we played, if you didn’t win the Big Ten championship or title, you didn’t go to a bowl game, so all the marbles were on the table when we played. It meant everything to me.

Q: Do you believe when OSU plays Michigan that the records truly do go out the window?

A: There is no doubt about it. You can see even when Michigan didn’t have some good teams and good records, they always played Ohio State really tough though. You can throw the records out the window. This game is going to go down as a street fight.

Q: Do you have any concerns going into the game? Even though Ohio State is 10-1 many people think OSU has underachieved. Is it a matter of flipping a switch?

A: I think nobody thought that Ohio State’s defense would play as well as they did when they played Michigan State. I think the defense is going to show up like they did against Michigan State. That might be surprising to some, but they played great after the Purdue collapse. They came back and played good defense. I think Maryland had a very tricky offense. When you come and play Michigan, they are not tricky at all. You know pretty much what they are going to do. I can’t see them putting wide receivers out there throwing deep passes. I think the defense has a better shot playing against Michigan versus playing Maryland, where they split a lot of guys out at wide receiver.

Q: What advice would you have for the current team going into the Game with them being a 4-point underdog?

A: Obviously, never look at that as far as points. I think we are ready. I definitely think these guys should have some confidence because Michigan hasn’t beaten us since Harbaugh has been there. So obviously we have an edge and also, we have an edge being at home. I don’t think Michigan has seen a passer like Dwayne Haskins and their defensive backs aren’t that good to me. I feel really good, especially with our passing game.

Q: Did you notice a difference in the emotion and the intensity during the Michigan game versus the regular season games?

A: There is no doubt about it. Because we practiced for Michigan the first day of practice, which was Aug. 20th. I remember we practiced for Michigan and we were playing Indiana. We practiced for Michigan Monday and Tuesday, and we practiced for Indiana Wednesday Thursday and Friday and we weren’t playing Michigan for another 5 weeks.

Q: Do you root for Michigan to do well during the season or are you just kind of neutral on that?

A: I’m a little neutral with Michigan but I also know that when Michigan does well and we do well it’s great for the conference and great for the rivalry. It’s not like I’m always wishing for them to do bad. It’s kind of been in our favor here lately, so no matter how good they do, we always catch them at the end of the season, so it’s fine with me.

Q: Do you have a score prediction for this year’s game?

A: I think we might win 31-17. Put one field goal in there for us.

Q: Lastly, seeing the lineage of African-American quarterbacks and now as you look back, how do you feel about the legacy you started and left at OSU?

A: For what all I had to go through in being the first, I’m so proud of Ohio State for selecting a person who could play the position, and not looking at it in terms of color at all. I feel really good about it. A lot of folks had kind of forgotten that I started it off, because you see so many African-American quarterbacks at Ohio State now you kind of take it for granted. And you kind of forget who started it, and what I had to go through to start it. If I’m the Mount Everest of African-American quarterbacks at Ohio State, I’m really proud to be the first.

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2018 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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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Unverferth House Offers Hope and Healing for Families of Transplant Patients

With all the anticipation and excitement that Michigan week brings, one special tradition quietly stands out in the Buckeye Community and it deserves to be spotlighted, so that it isn’t lost amidst all the clamor. On Tuesday Nov. 20th, the 4th annual John Hicks Unlimited Love event will be held at the Villa Milano Banquet Center in Westerville to benefit the Unverferth House, which provides free temporary housing to families of heart transplant patients.

The Off the Field Legacy of Dr. Unverferth

Our teams and players often become larger than life to us. We follow their every stat. We greatly value their exploits, and their accomplishments often become part of the tapestry of OSU lore. They become legends that we regale our children with, in order to pass on their great legacies and to honor their achievements.

Dr. Donald V. Unverferth wasn’t a statistical giant at OSU compared to the pass heavy modern offenses of today. He played under Woody Hayes from 1963 through 1965. Woody as you may know is famous for his three yards and a cloud of dust running offenses and who it is also attributed to him as saying, “Only three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad.” Despite being part of a system that prioritizes the running game, Dr. Unverferth threw for 2,518 yards in his three seasons a mark which stood until Art. Schlichter eclipsed it in 1979. Dr. Unverferth had many memorable drives at the helm of the offense and held a 2-1 record against that team up north, a stat that alone solidifies his on-field legacy at OSU.  It was off the field that Dr. Unverferth, however, shined the most.

Don Unverferth courtesy of OSU athletics

After his playing days were over, he continued his medical training at OSU and then served as a military physician. After his military service, Dr. Unverferth returned to OSU to receive his training in internal medicine with a specialization in cardiology; And so began a meteoric rise in the areas of cardiopathy and congestive heart failure as he became a world-renowned physician, eventually laying the foundation for the Ohio State Medical Center’s heart transplant program.

The world would only be graced with Dr. Unverferth for just a short time as his life was tragically cut short in his prime. He died in 1988 from a brain tumor at the young age of 43. If you want to understand how impactful a physician is in their life you can look to his colleagues and his patients. 

Dr. Charles Bush, a colleague of Dr. Unverferth spoke to the Columbus Dispatch about his unassuming and humble nature. “Don was clearly a leader,” Bush said. “He was not somebody who would go around tooting his own horn.” It was out of this tragedy, however, that the idea for the Unverferth House was born. As a way to honor her late husband, Barbara Unverferth spearheaded the development of the House. She shared how the idea originated, “The idea really came from his patients, because they loved him dearly. He would’ve so loved something like that.” (Columbus Dispatch Feb. 4th, 2011)

A Home Away from Home

The Unverferth House has since served as a respite and sanctuary for heart transplant patients’ families since 1989. It is conveniently located at 190 King Avenue which is in close proximity to the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital at the OSU Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio. Over 200 families stay at the Unverferth house annually. Families are primarily connected through the social workers at the Ross Heart Hospital and the needs are so great that they are full 365 days of the year.

Picture of the Unverferth House located at 190 King Avenue in Columbus, Ohio

The Unverferth House consists of 8 apartments and a common area. Each apartment has a bedroom, living room, kitchen and a bathroom. Ann Carmichael, the Director of the Unverferth House listed the needs met by the House, “We provide everything. The only thing we tell people that we don’t provide is obviously clothes and then food in the fridge. We provide all the sheets, the towels, the toilet paper, the paper towels and the detergent. We have a laundry facility for them to use, but they are required to keep it clean.”

“If they are so ill that they can’t be at home and they are in the hospital waiting for a transplant, then their loved ones can stay at the house while they are waiting."

“Most of the time what happens is once they get their transplant, they are usually in the hospital anywhere from a week to three weeks and then they come over with their loved ones and spend a minimum of two to three weeks at the house close by,” Carmichael stated.

Mural in the common area at the Unverferth House

The House’s annual budget is paid for entirely through grants and private donations from friends who support the House. Imagine the costs that would be incurred from an out of town family staying at a hotel for a month? The House takes away this financial stress placed on a family already strained from exorbitant medical and travel costs; And it does it in an environment that is truly a home away from home, with other families that are undergoing the same shared difficulties.

"Me and my dad with a rainbow and a butterfly," painted by Katie Unverferth

Unlimited Love

You can’t mention the Unverferth House without mentioning the off the field legacy of another Buckeye great, John Hicks. On the field, Hicks was a mountain of a man. He was the precursor to Buckeye legend Orlando Pace, winning the Outland and Lombardi trophy for the top lineman as well as finishing second in the Heisman in 1973, an award usually reserved for skill positions. When Hicks arrived, freshman were not eligible to play. He started as a sophomore in 1970 and helped lead the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl. After suffering a knee injury and sitting out the 1971 season, Hicks returned with a vengeance, garnering back to back All-American honors and leading the Buckeyes to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances after the 1972 and 1973 seasons.

John Hicks courtesy of OSU athletics

“In all that he did, he was a giant on and off the field, Archie Griffin told the Columbus Dispatch after Hick’s passing in October of 2016. Hicks was nicknamed the “Godfather,” because of his desire to help everyone in need on and off the field. He was involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Ohio and the Central Ohio Diabetes Foundation. Griffin went on, “Anytime someone needed help they’d call John.” He’d be organizing folks to help, whoever it was that needed the help.” He was just unbelievable man.” (Columbus Dispatch Oct. 2016)

Towards the end of John’s life, even as he battled sickness, he became actively involved in helping organize an annual event to raise money for the Unverferth House. After John’s passing the event was named The John Hicks Unlimited Love event. Ann Carmichael described John’s involvement, “He would come to committee meetings. He was very involved. He came to the first one. He was there even though he was pretty sick, but his wife and kids have come to every single one of them and they are great.”

Unlimited Love is the perfect name for an event named after a man that has such a giant capacity to love others. Every year, for four years now, the event has brought together speakers on both sides of the rivalry to share battle stories. Last year, Cornelius Green and Jim Tressel spoke on behalf of OSU and this year the 50th anniversary of the 1968 National Championship team will be honored with Rex Kern and Brian Baschnagel speaking. Jack Harbaugh will be sharing what’s bound to be great stories about that team up north.

A Greater Need   

While serving 200 plus families is wonderful, the needs of the transplant and other hospitals in the OSU community go far beyond just 200 families. Roughly 170 families had to be turned away and were not able to be helped last year. The Unverferth House’s goal is to build an entirely new facility that can house many more families and meet the needs beyond just the transplant community. “At a minimum we want 45, and then we would love it actually to hold at least 60 if not more, and it would be then for the entire medical center. It would be for the James patients, the main hospital, and then for the Ross,” Carmichael stated. Money raised from the Unlimited Love events all go to fund this new building project and to further Dr. Unverferth's legacy of healing and helping even more.

In this day and age, we tend to glorify what athletes do on the field, myself included. The Unverferth House story is so touching because we can see how the off the field legacy of one-man Dr. Unverferth, helped spark such a great cause, and in the process has helped so many people. It’s remarkable to then see another Buckeye great in a different decade, John Hicks, a giant on and off the field, come along and help advance Dr. Unverferth’s legacy even further.

If we can have one take away from the story of the Unverferth House, it is that life is more than a football game. It’s more than wins and losses. It can be a journey of unlimited love and it can start with you.

To donate to the Unverferth House you can go to their website and donate directly.

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2018 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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