Massillon Washington might be the go-to storied high school football program in northern Ohio, but its match in the lower half of the state is Troy.
Trojans’ football dates at least back to 1899 when Troy played rival Piqua the first time. Since then some of the state’s best players have worn the scarlet and gray colors for coaches Lou Juillerat (Bob Ferguson era), Jim Conard (Gordon Bell era), Barry Blackstone (mid-1970s) and Steve Nolan (1984-2011).
Troy Memorial Stadium was a hot ticket on football Friday nights during those extra-special seasons. It wasn’t unusual for the visitors’ side of the 10,500-seat signature venue to be packed … with Troy fans.
The Trojans’ good times have spanned the Miami Valley League (1926-68), the Western Ohio League (1968-82), the Greater Miami Valley Conference (1982-2001) and now the Greater Western Ohio Conference (2001-present). The University of Tennessee “T” on Troy’s helmets is long gone, but not the legacy that landed those players in Trojans history.
Here’s who we consider the all-time seven best football players at Troy High School, the ninth in a continuing series. Have something to say about this alphabetical list? Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Affiliation: Greater Western Ohio Conference, American North.
Division: D-II, Region 8.
Coach: Matt Burgbacher.
2017 season opener: At Trotwood-Madison, Friday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m.
1. Gordon Bell, RB, 1972: At 5-9 and 175 pounds, is among the most electrifying backs in state history. Equipped with equal parts speed and spinning zig-zag agility. Would have been a lock for the Class AA back of the year if he hadn't been in the same class as Columbus Eastmoor's Archie Griffin.
The star of many stars on the undefeated 1970-71 teams. Bell consistently hit home runs from the backfield, returning punts and kickoffs. Totaled more than 3,000 yards rushing as a junior and senior. Initially committed to Notre Dame, but signed with Michigan, which qualifies him as an original “flipper.”
Teamed with Rob Lytle to become the first backs in Michigan history to each gain 1,000 yards in the same season. Accounted for 1,714 all-purpose yards as a Wolverines’ senior and was team MVP. Second in Big Ten rushing that season – to Griffin, who would win his second straight Heisman Trophy at OSU. Michigan was a combined 28-3-3 with Bell in the backfield from 1973-75. Remains among Wolverines’ all-time stat leaders with 2,902 rushing yards and 28 TDs.
Taken by the Giants in the 1976 NFL draft. Played two seasons in New York and another with the Cardinals in 1978.
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2. Ryan Brewer, RB, 1999: Another outstanding running back who was awarded the 12th Mr. Ohio Football award in 1998. That season he rushed for a Trojans' record of 2,856 yards. For his career (1995-98) he totaled 117 TDs and scored 761 points. Also punted and kicked field goals. He ranks No. 4 among Ohio's all-time career rushing leaders with 7,656 yards.
For all that, he’s best known as the main factor in John Cooper being fired at OSU. That’s because Cooper whiffed on pursuing Brewer. Instead, Brewer signed with Lou Holtz at South Carolina. After Brewer rushed for more than 100 yards, scored three TDs and accounted for more than 200 all-purpose yards in the 2001 Outback Bowl defeat of OSU, Cooper was fired. Among other reasons for that was Cooper’s failure to recruit one of Ohio’s best backs.
Undrafted, Brewer lasted until the final preseason cut by the Ravens as a free agent. Played several seasons in NFL Europe. Brother Scot Brewer was Troy’s coach for four seasons until Burgbacher took over.
3. Kris Dielman, DL, 1999: A mountainous and menacing presence at 6-4 and about 310 pounds at his biggest, was a mobile tight end and linebacker for the Trojans and also a starting center on the basketball team. Landed at Indiana, following a family tradition of playing for the Hoosiers. Had the good fortune of playing for future San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron at IU.
Had some of his best games against OSU while blocking for QB Antwaan Randle El. Undrafted, he signed with the Chargers as a free agent. Switched to the offensive line and by his fourth season he was considered among the NFL’s best at guard. Key in the success of running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Selected to four Pro Bowls, retired after being concussed and suffering a seizure midway through the 2011 season.
4. Bob Ferguson, FB, 1958: There is no mentioning of Troy football without including Big Bob. An original bruiser, he was 6-1 and 200 pounds of off-tackle greatness. He put a single-game Trojans rushing record of 529 yards on Kiser as a junior in 1956, a mark that remains No. 2 all-time in Ohio. He backed that up the next week with 475 yards against Monroe.
Just as successful at OSU, where he was a unanimous All-American in 1960-61, the college player of the year in ’61 and runner-up to Ernie Davis as Heisman winner that season. OSU backfield that national championship season was Paul Warfield (Browns, Dolphins), Matt Snell (Jets) and Ferguson. Inducted into the college football hall of fame in 1996 and OSU all-century team. Just as known for not ever having been tackled for a loss as a Buckeye.
A first-round pick by the Steelers in the NFL and the Chargers in the AFL. Couldn’t extend that magic at the pro level and retired after two seasons, citing a head injury. Worked for many years in Columbus as a youth counselor. Died in 2004 from diabetes complications.
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5. Tommy Myers, QB, 1961: Combined with Tommy Vaughn to give the Trojans a dynamic 1-2 punch following the graduation of Ferguson. Held most significant Troy passing records until overtaken by 2017 grad Hayden Kotwica. Four times passed for five TDs in a game, had a career-best 376 passing yards vs. Belmont and a single-season best 2,009 passing yards as a senior. Passed for 33 TDs as a senior and 73 in his career.
Although recruited by OSU’s Woody Hayes, Juillerat persuaded Myers to sign with a more passing-friendly program. That would be Northwestern, where he was an All-American for then-coach Ara Parseghian before he left for a celebrated coaching run at Notre Dame.
Taken in the fourth round of the 1965 NFL draft by the Lions and 12th round by the Broncos (AFL). A backup for two seasons at Detroit.
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6. Tommy Vaughn, WR/DB, 1961: Would be the shifty precursor to Bell, surpassing 1,000 yards rushing as a junior and senior. What sets Vaughn apart is he also accounted for many significant Trojans' receiving records, courtesy of being Myers' main target. Finished with 1,451 receiving yards in his career. Also tallied 25 receiving TDs, 13 in a season and four in a game, all Troy records.
Highly recruited, signed with Iowa State in a surprise. Became a two-way Cyclones standout. As a junior was All-Big Eight as a running back along with Gale Sayers of Kansas. Both were also first team All-Americans. As a senior led Iowa State in rushing and was All-Big Eight as a DB.
Ironically, like Myers also was drafted by Detroit (fifth round) and Denver in 1965. Played seven seasons as a DB with the Lions in a secondary that featured NFL hall of fame corners Lem Barney and Dick LeBeau. Returned to Ames as an Iowa State assistant coach under Earle Bruce, who would leave to succeed Woody at OSU.
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7. Randy Walker, RB/DB, 1972: Among the most beloved figures in Trojans sports history. Initially made his mark as a sophomore running back by being tackled 18 inches short of scoring a winning TD in the final game of the 1969 season. Conard made all the returning Trojans wear a strip of cloth 18 inches long the remainder of the school year as incentive for the following season. Good call, because the Trojans responded with consecutive 10-0 seasons in 1970-71.
Ohio hadn’t yet began its playoffs, but the 1971 Trojans - Walker’s senior season - are considered the best in area history. The backfield featured Bell (Michigan), Walker (Miami) and Joe Allen (Florida). At QB was Al Mayer (Marshall) and WR Elmo Boyd (Eastern Kentucky). The defense was anchored by wildman Dave Starkey (Florida) and Allen at LB. In all, 20 seniors on that team signed to play college ball and 15 went to NCAA D-I programs. Bell and Boyd played in the NFL.
A starter at running back at Miami, Walker was paired in the then-Redskins’ backfield by emerging RB Rob Carpenter. Miami was a MAC force when Walker played there, going 32-1-1 from 1973-75, its greatest run in program history. Displaying leadership qualities that would serve him so well in a coaching career, Walker was voted team MVP.
Drafted by the Bengals in the 13th round in 1976, he instead shifted to coaching, first as an assistant at Miami then North Carolina and Northwestern. Returned to Oxford as Miami’s head coach from 1990-98, then was Northwestern’s head coach from 1999-2005.
Tragically, died of a heart attack while jogging near his Chicago home in 2006. He was 52.
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Honorable mention: Joe Allen, RB/LB, 1972; Elmo Boyd, WR, 1972; Shane Carter, WR/DB, 2005; Jake Current, OL, 2008; Matt Dahlman, RB, 1998; Mike Delwiche, RB, 1987; Todd Denlinger, TE/DL, 2005; Jon Dumbauld, DL, 1982; Bryan Ferguson, RB, 1976; Aaron Johnson, QB/DB, 1986; Hayden Kotwica, QB, 2017; Jason Manson, LB, 1997; Kevin Mescher, TE/LB, 1986; John Mumma, RB, 1974; Dave Starkey, DL, 1972.
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