Some of the most fun defensive players to watch for me are the dominating Nose Guards. Back in my youth, some of the greater ones were guys that were really too small for the position.
I blogged about Nebraska’s Rich Glover here before: dynamo
Glover was way too small to be a major college defensive lineman and yet he was one of the best of all time. In the famous Game of the Century against their bitter rivals, the Oklahoma Sooners, Glover made an incredible 22 tackles and that was playing against an All American Center. 1971
A couple of years before Glover arrived on the scene, there was Ohio State’s Jim Stillwagon. A member of the fabulous Super Sophomores that I have written about many times, Stillwagon may
have been the most dominant college player of the entire bunch, and that’s saying a lot.
I wrote about the rest of his recruiting class here: Sup Sophs
Jim Stillwagon grew up in Mount Vernon, Ohio which is just under an hour’s drive from Columbus, Ohio and the Ohio State University.
Stillwagon went away to Augusta Military Academy for high school where he played football and started drawing the interest of college football programs.
Supposedly, he really wanted to go to Notre Dame, but was turned off went he went on a visit there. Stillwagon was highly recruited and he took his visits. But, in the end, for whatever reasons he elected to sign with the Ohio State Buckeyes and Woody Hayes. Surely, that made his family happy being so close where they could catch most of his games.
Obviously, in 1967 which was the year that the Super Sophomores signed with Ohio State, freshman football players were not eligible to play for their varsity team. Legend has it that the freshmen could beat the varsity in a scrimmage. With guys like Rex Kern, Jack Tatum, Mike Sensibaugh, Stillwagon and so many others, I tend to believe they could have beaten them if they were given the chance.
Stillwagon and many of his fellow sophomores made an instant impact in 1968. In the Spring of his freshman year, Stillwagon moved into the starting role as the Middle Guard and never looked back.
Jim Stillwagon was nearly impossible to block. He possessed such quickness that not a lot of Centers could handle him. It was also difficult to double team him because of the types of defenses used in
those years. A lot of teams used the 5 and 6 man fronts which left Stillwagon in a one on one situation mostly and he was difficult.
He was really never very big. Standing about an even 6 foot tall, he supposedly weighed around 240 pounds.
In the Rose Bowl of his sophomore season when the Buckeyes beat USC to capture the national title. Stillwagon played a lot of Middle Linebacker as well as Middle Guard, or Nose Guard. He was just so quick that he could run sideline to sideline from either a down position or a Linebacker.
As a junior in 1969, Stillwagon and the Buckeyes were possibly even better than the 1968 version. But, they were upset in their last game by the Michigan Wolverines in what many have called one of the greatest upsets of all time.
The Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked #1 in the nation and Michigan beat them costing them the national championship and the Big 10 Championship. That was the first season of Bo Schembechler and the 10 Year War.
But, Jim Stillwagon was a consensus All American.
In 1970, the Super Sophomores were now the seniors with one more shot at a national championship.
They charged through their season undefeated with close calls only coming at Purdue and, of course, with Michigan. They barely survived the Boilermakers before winning 10-7. The Wolverines were
tough as usual with the Buckeyes prevailing 20-9.
The top ranked Texas Longhorns lost to Notre Dame earlier in the day and the Buckeyes had a shot at winning the national title with a convincing Rose Bowl win.
But, it was not to be with the Stanford Cardinal shocking the nation with a 27-17 win over Ohio State.
Jim Stillwagon’s college team finished up 27-2 in three seasons.
Stillwagon was not only a consensus All American and he won the Outland Trophy as well as the very first Lombardi Award.
Stillwagon was picked in the 5th round by the Green Bay Packers, but he opted to go to Canada to play instead.
In the CFL, Stillwagon was a star for a while making All Star teams during 3 seasons.
We will never know if Stillwagon could have played Middle Linebacker in the NFL. But, as a college Nose Guard and a Linebacker he was outstanding and a fun guy to watch.