YOUNGSTOWN - John Brockington and Jim Stillwagon remember the glory days - Ohio State's 1968 National Championship team.
The two were part of the historic 'Super Sophomores' that started with the Buckeyes beating down Southern Methodist in the opener on Sept. 28 and ended with a solid victory over USC in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1969.
OSU completed the 1968 season unblemished at 10-0.
John Brockington, Jim Stillwagon talk about '68 team and the Michigan rivalry
"In my class, we were really loaded," said Brockington, who was one of six former OSU and Michigan players at Thursday's OSU vs. Michigan Kickoff Dinner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. "In my class, I don't know if the coaches knew what they had. The way it turned out, they had dynamite. We won a national championship with all those babies on the field. It was unheard of."
Brockington, Stillwagon and Ron Maciejowski represented Ohio State, while Tom Curtis, Barry Pierson and Anthony Carter were former Michigan players at an event that the proceeds went to benefit the St. Christine Gymnasium Building Fund.
But it wasn't always that easy with all the talent around him - especially those 13 or so "Super Sophomores."
"When I first saw some of the ball players, I said to myself, 'Boy, you have to work really hard if you want to work here,'" said Brockington, who had a brief stint with the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
That 1968 title also made OSU work harder in the years to come.
"One of the great things that team did was create the winning tradition at Ohio State and get it back on line," said Stillwagon, a defensive standout who won the Outland Trophy and the first-ever Lombardi Award. "It also created at the lineage for all the other teams to follow because at that time Ohio State was down a little bit. It changed a little bit of the recruiting where they started recruiting more players out of state and went to more specialty players, which all the teams needed to do at that time."
The next season, the rivalry between OSU and Michigan not only became the turning point in the 1969 season, but for the two teams in years to come.
Ohio State thumped Michigan 50-14 in 1968, but it was a much different result in 1969 as the Wolverines turned the tables with a 24-12 victory.
That was OSU's only loss that season as it ended the Buckeyes hopes of repeating as national champions. Michigan, not OSU, went to the Rose Bowl.
"That was sickening," said Stillwagon, who had a successful career with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. "I always laugh because every time you turn the TV on, they always show us that game. They never show the '70 game (20-9 OSU over Michigan) where Bo Schembechler said that was the worst physical -- kicking of any team he'd ever coached. We'll live with that.
"That was good for Bo and Bo was a great man and a great coach. One guy once said it started a great rivalry. If that's what it did, that was good."
That rivalry has grown and been dominated by Ohio State for the past decade. It started when former Youngstown State and OSU coach Jim Tressel took over in 2001 and almost guaranteed victory in Ann Arbor that year.
Aside from a 35-21 victory in 2003 by the Wolverines, the Buckeyes have not lost on the field to Michigan under Tressel.
OSU even went 14-0 en route to winning the national title - the first since that 1968 season.
"They did the unexpected," Stillwagon said. "The fans grew with them. They didn't expect to have win every game. As our class progressed, people got spoiled because they'd expect we'd win it.
"When they won their national championship in their time, nobody thought they'd every do that. Every game, everybody stayed in the stadium to see what would happen. It brought a lot of great fans and the fan base is still with Ohio State."
For those part of the 1968 team, it was more sacrifice that got the Buckeyes the national championship. Brockington said Maciejowski could've started for other schools, but ended up playing backup to starting quarterback Rex Kern.
"When Rex got hurt, he (Maciejowski) came in and we didn't miss a beat," Brockington said. "It was just a bunch of really, really good athletes - guys that could move. We weren't really big. If you go back and look at that Rose Bowl, everybody was slim - no stomachs and could run. I think we make O.J. (Simpson) fumble three times.
"The way we pursued to the ball was so fast. Now, kids are much bigger. It's a different look. They look like pros. We looked like a very fast college football team."