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He Got to Know Woody Firsthand

April 04, 1987

With the passing of Woody Hayes, another chapter in the great history of football closed. I personally knew Coach Hayes in a regretable fashion. Having played football for the University of Michigan from 1973 through 1977, it was not unusual for us to hear rumors or stories in locker room talk. Old Dr. Strange Hayes often was a topic. Stories of his antics were confirmed by players, coaches, and recruits he had lost to Michigan. They all added to the legend.

On the third Saturday in November, 1977, Ohio State came to Ann Arbor. I had been on the field for pregame warmups and was heading back to the locker room as the Ohio State team was heading down the field through Michigan's long tunnel. Our teams passed silently in the dark as thousands cheered outside.

I was the last player running up the tunnel and Woody was the last Ohio State member coming down. He was screaming and waving his arms. When he came within 15 feet of me, he charged and struck me with his fist and forearm. His fist hit my helmet and the forearm bounced off my shoulder pad.

Completely shocked at this old man hitting me, I started to laugh. This infuriated Woody, but before he could hit me again, an assistant coach grabbed him. I guess he took out his frustrations on that poor network photographer on the sidelines later that day.

Over the next few years, we met again in different circumstances. He never apologized and maintained he acted that way to fire up his team. In all the times I saw the man, he maintained his competitiveness. That was his forte. He never relented.

Even if you hated him or despised him, you had to respect the fact he would never change. He wouldn't want it any other way. And through his players and opponents, his legend will live on.

CURT STEPHENSON

Mission Viejo

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