OHSAA honors Warfield

COLUMBUS – To say that Paul Warfield has been honored a few times for his athletic prowess would be an understatement.

A very large one.

The Warren native is a member of the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame, the Ohio Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Ohio State University Hall of Fame, the Warren Sports Hall of Fame and the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

Oh, and he’s also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Saturday afternoon at the OHSAA state boys basketball tournament, Warfield received another honor to add to his long list. The 1960 Warren G. Harding graduate was selected to become a member of the OHSAA Circle of Champions. The honor is bestowed to individuals who had prominent roles in the history of interscholastic athletics. According to the OHSAA, the honorees must also have outstanding achievements after their prep careers ended, must have outstanding character and serve as role models.

“Most of my experiences in team sports I played for great coaches and with great players,” Warfield said. “It helps to have been associated with good people who could bring out the best in everyone.”

Warfield, who attended Turner Junior High in Warren, said he had not intended to play football at Harding. He said if it wasn’t for one man he would have never been able to achieve greatness on the gridiron: then Harding football coach Gene Slaughter.

“I played football at Turner but thought I would just run track in high school,” Warfield said. “I was afraid to play football in high school. Gene Slaughter came to Turner and told all of us to come out for football in high school. What he had to say impacted me. It changed my life.”

He was a tailback at Harding and also won the long jump as a sophomore and set a state record as a senior in the 180-yard low hurdles. After graduation he went to Ohio State to play for legendary football coach Woody Hayes. He was an All Big 10 tailback for the Buckeyes and a two-time All-American in track. He later became a first-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns.

In the NFL he was moved to wide receiver full time. The Browns traded him in 1970 for a draft pick, which they used to select quarterback Mike Phipps. That still is considered one of the worst trades in the history of the Browns.

He was a six-time All-Pro and was a member of the 1972 Dolphins, still the only team to go through a season undefeated and untied. In 1983 Warfield was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Warfield said returning to Ohio State is always special. He spent quite a while sharing stories with former Ohio State teammate Rex Kern and former Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, both of whom were also selected into the Circle of Champions.

One of those stories involved Hayes, who was always known as a no-nonsense guy who popularized the term ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ because of his disdain for the forward pass.

“We had two plays, 27, which was fullback off tackle to the left, or as he called it, ‘The best play in football’,” Warfield said, “and 26, fullback to the right.”

Warfield added that before every game Hayes would have a meeting with the halfbacks to go over all the plays and would ask questions about them. Warfield and fellow halfback Tyrone Barnett decided to mess with Hayes a little bit.

“We all knew we were only going to run 27 or 26, but he would go over all of them,” he said. “We decided we would give him the wrong answers because we (halfbacks) wanted to run the ball.

“He said, ‘Now Paul, the play is 27 and defense is Oklahoma. What’s the call?’ “

As planned, Warfield gave him the wrong answer.

“He said, ‘That’s not the right answer’,” Warfield added.

Then it was Barnett’s turn.

“Tyrone, against a 50 defense and the call is 26, what is the call?” said Hayes, according to Warfield.

Of course, Barnett stayed with the plan and gave the wrong answer.

“Woody just stared at him and snapped his pencil in half,” Warfield said. “We looked at each other and communicated with our eyes. We decided to stop that foolishness right then and there.”

Warfield was in Columbus with his only grandson. He lives with his wife, Beverly, in Rancho Mirage, Calif.