Woody Hayes said Hicks was “the greatest interior lineman I have ever coached” —
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Oct. 30, 2016) – John Hicks, a two-time All-American and major award winner and undeniably one of the most outstanding Ohio State football players of all time, died Saturday after a long illness. Hicks’ wife, Cindy, contacted the Department of Athletics with the news. He was 65.
An offensive guard from Cleveland’s John Hay High School, Hicks was a three-year starter for Woody Hayes-coached teams that won Big Ten Conference championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973 and advanced to the Rose Bowl in each of those seasons. Hicks was the first player to start in three Rose Bowls and in 2009 he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
“I was stunned and saddened to hear the news of John Hicks’ passing,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “He was truly one of the all-time greats for this university who was always good to this football program and the community. He will truly be missed and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Freshmen were ineligible in 1969, Hicks’ first year on campus, but in 1970 he helped the Buckeyes to a 9-1 record, a 7-0 mark in the Big Ten, including a 20-9 win over Michigan, and the national championship as awarded by the National Football Foundation.
Ohio State was 3-1 in 1971 before a knee injury sidelined Hicks and caused him to miss the final six games of what would become a 6-4 campaign.
Hicks would come back stronger than ever. In 1972 he was a first-team All-American for an Ohio State team that went 9-2 and 7-1 in the Big Ten with a 14-11 victory over Michigan. This was the year he began paving the way to greatness for a freshman running back from Columbus named Archie Griffin.
In 1973 the Buckeyes were 10-0-1 with Hicks earning unanimous All-American honors. The Buckeyes were awarded the Rose Bowl berth after a 10-all tie with Michigan. Hicks’ last game as a Buckeye was a 42-21 dismantling of USC in the 1974 Rose Bowl game.
Hicks made history in 1973. Not only was he a unanimous All-American, but he won both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in the nation and he finished second – second! – in the Heisman Trophy voting to Penn State’s John Cappelletti. Teammates Griffin and linebacker Randy Gradishar were fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Heisman voting that year.
Hicks would go on to become a first-round NFL Draft pick of the New York Giants, whom he played for from 1974 to 1977.
Hicks was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Ohio State Sports Hall of Fame in 1985. His careers after football included running his real estate development company and “paying forward” through community service initiatives such as the Boys and Girls Club of Central Ohio and the Central Ohio Diabetes Association.