Pace to NCAA Hall of Fame

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Last updated: 05/08/2013 4:12 AM
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Orlando Pace Getting His Just Due With Hall of Fame Nod
By Tony Gerdeman

On Tuesday, former Ohio State left tackle Orlando Pace was announced as a 2013 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was the 24th Buckeye football player to earn the honor, and he is quite possibly the greatest Buckeye of them all.

That is my opinion, and if you want to argue against it, that's fine. I'm not Jack Park. I can't pit Pace against John Hicks or Archie Griffin or Chic Harley. I can only pit him against those that I saw, and I've never seen anybody as dominating as Orlando Pace at the collegiate level.

He was a human undertow, taking defensive linemen down wave after wave.

He was so dominant that there were times when Iowa head coach Hayden Fry didn't even bother to line up a defender against him. What was the point? Why send a pass rusher into the Orlando Pace vortex?

Whether he was 40 yards downfield leading a tailback into the endzone, or planting a new crop of defensive ends into the dirt, he did it with beautifully brute perfection. Every snap was the same, a ballet of violence and then quick, quiet surrender.

He went his final two seasons at Ohio State without allowing a sack, and that included the Rose Bowl matchup against Arizona State All-American Derrick Rodgers. Everybody still remembers the hype – and subsequent result, while Rodgers wishes he could forget.

Rodgers, all 6-foot and 212 pounds of him, was a speed rusher who had made his name by flying past slow-footed tackles on his way to the quarterback. Prior to the Rose Bowl, Rodgers famously remarked that Pace was "just another offensive lineman."

In that game, Pace certainly wasn't "just another offensive lineman". He made Rodgers pedestrian by comparison. When that pedestrian then tried to cross the street, he was run down repeatedly. After all, there is no "Walk" on Orlando Pace's traffic sign, only "Don't Walk".

That was how Pace capped his career as a Buckeye, but before he ever even arrived at Ohio State, his legend was growing as a high school athlete. I remember going to see him play high school basketball in the playoffs against Mansfield Senior and touted sophomore forward Sean Tucker.

Tucker, a 6-foot-7 post player was one of the top young players in the state. He would eventually become a Buckeye himself, though only for a couple of tumultuous seasons.

When the two matched up, Pace simply overpowered him in the paint, showing a nice drop-step move on the baseline. I'm pretty sure he even threw one down. It was an impressive show. It was obvious that he was just...different. A man that big, moving that easily. It was either perfection or a sin against nature.

Orlando and I arrived at Ohio State the same year (1994), to varying degrees of fanfare. We both quickly found success, however. Pace immediately stepped into the starting lineup upon arrival, and within my first month at Ohio State, I was a member of the Century Club.

I had a couple of passing encounters with Pace in my college days. Although people claim his nickname was "Mr. Pancake", I only ever referred to him as "Sir", or "Mr. Sir".

We were in an African American Studies class together, and when he didn't show up to the final our junior year, I knew that he was leaving for the NFL. It was my first scoop.

Fortunately, my encounters with him were much less costly than they were for a friend of mine. Let's call this friend "Scott", and instead of friend, let's call him an "acquaintance", because that makes me laugh. Scott lived in the Towers, and was in a pod with some football players, including Pace. One day a few folks, Scott included, decided to put Pace's mattress on the elevator and send it down to the lobby as a joke.

Later, as an act of revenge, Pace ordered a "ton" of wings for Scott's room. He told Scott to call him when the wings came, and he'd come over and pay for them. When the wings got there, Scott called the number that Pace gave him, but it was a fake number. Scott was then stuck with paying for $50 worth of chicken wings.

What was he going to do with all of those wings? Don't worry, Orlando came by later that night to borrow some.

As I remember it, when we asked him why he paid for the wings, his response was somewhere along the lines of, "Would you want to be the guy who was responsible for Orlando Pace not getting chicken wings?" It was sound reasoning.

Pace is the best college football player I have ever seen, but he was also one hell of a grifter. Just imagine if he had set his mind to confidence schemes instead of football.

Today I am happy for Orlando Pace, as I know my friends are as well. We were students at a tremendously opportune time in Buckeye football history. We saw some of the greatest players that the school has ever had to offer.

Bobby Hoying and Joe Germaine; Eddie George; receivers like Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn and David Boston; Korey Stringer; Mike Vrabel and Matt Finkes; Andy Katzenmoyer; Shawn Springs and Antoine Winfield. They all roamed Ohio Stadium, leaving their own echoes resounding far beyond today.

Yet Orlando Pace stands above them all. For me, there is no debate.

We will never see another one like him. He can't even be used as a standard anymore because it's not fair to any lineman to come, and anyway, nobody would believe it.

Congratulations to Orlando Pace.

The College Football Hall of Fame can now open its doors without the shame of knowing that you weren't already a member.

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