It’s always sad to hear about one of your all time favorite football players passing away. But, it’s happening more and more frequently as they continue to grow older.
One of the greatest of the Super Sophomores at Ohio State in 1968 was Jim Stillwagon. Any time you are a consensus All American, you are obviously an outstanding football player and Stillwagon was all of that.
Always undersized, Stillwagon used a heart that was bigger than the entire state of Ohio to allow him to dominate. His extraordinary quickness helped a lot, too, as did great strength, agility, leverage and football smarts.
How many nose guards have you seen able to make tackles from sidelines to sidelines? Very few, I
would imagine, but it’s harder in today’s game because of the sheer size of linemen.
Stillwagon was maybe 6-0, 240 on his greatest day. But, he used everything he had to make plays all over the field.
But, he didn’t always line up at the middle guard/nose guard position. Sometimes, they backed him and stood him up and made him into a linebacker. Surprisingly, Stillwagon could have been a great linebacker, too. But, different times called for different players and Stillwagon was a great nose man. More than great, in fact, he was dominating playing nose guard.
Those 3 years of Ohio State football, the 1968, 1969 and 1970 teams had many great players which was the reason for their awesome nickname, the Super Sophomores. But, if one had to pick the heart and soul players of that bunch you’d have to go with quarterback Rex Kern, safety Jack Tatum and nose guard Jim Stillwagon.
Those teams went 10-0, 8-1 and 9-1 over that three year period with each loss a huge upset in their last game of the season. The 1969 loss to Michigan was thought of as the largest upset of all time, at one point. The 1970 loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl was also an upset, but the Cardinal had Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jim Plunkett.
27-2 during their three years and it could have been even better.
Sadly, there’s not a lot of old film of those teams. There is a little on Youtube such as the Rose Bowl games and the Michigan games, but little else. But, in what is available, you can clearly see the talent of Jim Stillwagon and understand why he was a consensus All American for Ohio State.
In 1970, the great Stillwagon won the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award. He was also named the UPI lineman of the year.
After Stillwagon’s eligibility was used up, the NFL had little interest in him because of his lack of size. Still, the Green Bay Packers picked him in the 5th round of the 1971 NFL Draft.
Instead of trying to make the Packer’s squad, Stillwagon went north and played in the Canadian Football League. He only played in Canada for 5 seasons, but he was an All Star in 3 of them.
Not long ago, Stillwagon was arrested for shooting at another driver in a supposed road rage incident. But, the charges were dropped when it became evident that the other driver was actually trying to kill Stillwagon and had just been released from prison. Many witnesses came forward clearing Jim
Stillwagon of any attempted murder charges.
On February 4th, 2018 Jim Stillwagon passed away from an apparent heart attack.
My attempt here is not to write an obituary, or anything like that. It’s to honor a great player from one of college football’s better teams in a long ago era. The 1968 Buckeyes and their Super Sophomores, were easily one of Woody Hayes’ all time best teams.
Another childhood favorite of mine is no longer around. He was 68 years old.