Ohio State: One on One with Buckeye Great Joe Staysniak

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Do You Have A Favorite Memory Of The Game Or A Special Moment That Really Stands Out?

“Unfortunately, we only won one of the games that I was in. But I tell you, probably the most emotional charged one was the year we found out that Earle Bruce was going to be fired. There was the political pressure from the Columbus newspaper that wanted Earle out and quite a few big money people. It was the first experience a lot of us had as young adults on what a role politics plays in everything. You would think sports would not be wrapped up in that, but it’s really tied up strongly in the way money talks.

We were so pissed off that Earle was going to be fired, but we were pissed off at ourselves for losing conference games we should have won. Wisconsin always seemed to give us problems as did the Indiana schools. I just remember that when we were told that Earle was going to be coaching in his last games, we wanted to do something to let coach know how much we stood behind him even though the powers that be were forcing him out.

My roommate Charlie Keenan and I were sitting around one night wondering what we could do to show our support. We decided that we would get “Earle” headbands made up for the guys to wear. Bears quarterback Jim McMahon got the attention of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle by doing it so why wouldn’t it work for us? We bought the headbands and found a guy on High Street who did the air-brushing for us. We got just enough so every player would have one. Only a handful of players even knew about it for fear of getting them taken away.

Charlie and I were underclassman at the time, so we went to the captains and got their blessing. I tell you what, there wasn’t a more charged up group of guys when we handed out those headbands. They all knew about it by that time. I remember we did the coin toss and you have the captains go out, but the entire team went out. We all had our headbands on and we were all standing there for that coin toss. It was pretty emotional and it was a really cool thing.

I thought for sure we’d get Earle to show some emotion. You could get Earle, he was a pretty emotional guy. He just stood there with his fedora hat on and his dark suit, chomping on his gum like there was no tomorrow, and he knew we were ready to go.

We never did get to talk or say goodbye after he got fired. He did come out to New York when I was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. I was forever grateful because John Cooper was my coach at the time and he never did, but Earle did.

It’s funny I couldn’t tell you a single play from any of the games. I can tell you about preparing that week and all the politics and b/s that was involved with it. I can tell you about how we felt emotionally standing there. I can tell you how great we felt walking off that field as a winner.  I just can’t remember any of the plays. I don’t know that I ever bring that story up or talk about it a whole lot, but that’s one of my memories from Michigan Week. I don’t know if I’m weird that way, but I played in two Super Bowls and I only remember a couple of plays here and there.

I don’t remember that much about the game at all. But I tell you what, I can tell you what that grass smelled like and what it’s like playing down in Tampa (in Super Bowl XXV). I just remember the jubilation of being able to win a Michigan game and the pair of gold pants you got for doing it.  That little charm always brings back good memories. Those kinds of traditions are just really cool.”

Next: What Was It Like Playing With Jim Harbaugh?