Ashville, Ohio is probably like many small farming communities around the country and particularly the Midwest.
Like a lot of smaller towns, the youngsters in this area go to a consolidated school that services several smaller communities and the children that live in the country. Teays Valley Local School District was established in 1963.
Harold ‘Champ’ Henson was one of those farm kids that attended Teays Valley High School.
Henson played at a small school, but a lot of schools were after him including Michigan. Ashville is just a few miles south of Columbus and Henson was a fan. He grew up pulling for the Buckeyes like pretty much everybody else in the area.
This was in the early 1970’s and Woody Hayes was like a rock star in the state of Ohio back in those days. The only problem for Henson was that Ohio State really wasn’t recruiting Henson. But, Hayes didn’t know his assistants had dropped the ball with Henson and when he found out, Woody took
steps to correct the mistake and went hard after Henson.
Make no mistake about it, Woody Hayes was an excellent recruiter.
Henson was not really that big in high school and truth be told he probably ran wild against a lot of smaller schools and lessor competition. But, Henson had a solid work ethic because he was a farm kid and he brought that with him to Ohio State.
He signed with the Buckeyes in 1971 which was the last year that freshmen could not play on the varsity. Some schools, like Notre Dame, don’t believe in redshirting. Back then, it was forced redshirting and then, as is still often true to this day, some kids just need a season to adjust to the college game.
Henson was one of those people that needed a little time to adjust.
In 1972, the Ohio State Buckeyes signed the great Archie Griffin and that was the very first season that freshmen could play on the varsity level. Legend of Archie
Before Archie Griffin came along, Woody Hayes actually preferred the Fullback and they would get the majority of the carries in his 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense.
By this time, Champ Henson had bulked up to around the 230 or 240 pound range and he could reportedly run the 40 in less than 4.6 seconds.
Henson was an athlete playing Fullback and as a sophomore in 1972, he carried the ball 193 times for 795 yards and 20 Touchdowns.
True freshman Tailback Archie Griffin carried the ball 159 times for 867 yards and 3 Touchdowns.
He averaged 5.5 yards per carry.
The following season was one of the better years in Ohio State football history. What could have been
The Buckeyes won every game but one and that was a tie against the hated Michigan Wolverines.
Henson hurt his knee early in the season after running for only 107 yards. The Buckeyes move up Pete Johnson and moved senior Bruce Elia from Linebacker to Fullback.
Griffin ran for 1,577 yards with Bruce Elia running for 429 yards and 14 Touchdowns. Pete Johnson had 205 yards and 6 Touchdowns.
This Buckeye team was incredible even without Champ Henson and after their tie against rival Michigan, the Buckeyes whipped the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl 42 – 21.
1974 was Champ Henson’s senior year and the Buckeyes had another outstanding team. They were number 1 a good portion of the season until they were upset by Michigan State by 3 points.
They beat Michigan right in the middle of the 10 Year War and earned a Rose Bowl berth. In the Rose Bowl, they lost to USC by 1 point, 17-18.
Henson ran for 433 yards while splitting time with Pete Johnson who ran for 320 yards.
Buckeye star Running Back Archie Griffin ran for 1,695 yards and 12 Touchdowns that season while winning his first Heisman Trophy.
Back in those years, doctors really couldn’t fix knees like they can now. Surely, Champ Henson played with pain while a senior.
But, he was now around 6-3, 240 and ran a sub 4.6 for NFL scouts. The Minnesota Vikings took
Henson in the 4th round but he never played for them. The Cincinnati Bengals picked him up and he played there for a season. But, his knee was just too far gone and he was out of football after one season in the NFL.
Henson went back to Ashville, Ohio and eventually took over his family’s farm.
Champ Henson didn’t really live up to all of the expectations due to the knee, but he still finished with 1,335 yards rushing from the Fullback position and he scored 36 hard fought Touchdowns. He should go down in the history books as one of Ohio State’s best Fullbacks.