Monday, May 13, 2013

HAVE TO AGREE WITH COOPER ... ORLANDO PACE 'WAS THE BEST'

Orlando Pace
Many in Buckeye Nation know my thoughts on former Ohio State head football coach John Cooper's tenure in Columbus. 

I believe it's a travesty that he's a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Sure, I haven't agreed with just about anything he has said or the tactics he has employed in the past, but one item the coach and I are in absolute agreement on is how great we feel former Buckeyes left tackle Orlando Pace was during his career — not only in Columbus, but in the NFL, as well.

"Orlando Pace is not only the best offensive lineman I have ever coached, but he is the best I have ever seen," Cooper said Tuesday. 

Pace was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this week by the National Football Foundation (NFF), something much deserving and long overdue.

While I always say that Chris Spielman is the greatest Buckeye to ever suit up in the Scarlet and Gray, Pace was the most dominant. He truly was a man amongst boys.

Not only was he a consensus first-team All-American (and all-Big Ten) in 1995 and 1996, but he was the first player to ever win the Lombardi Award twice (1995, 1996), given to the nation's best collegiate lineman or linebacker. 

He was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 1996. In fact, it was another "travesty" that he didn't win it over Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel.

Although it is common for offensive linemen to disappear during games, due to the fact that we are usually watching those who have the football in their hands, you had no choice but to notice Pace's dominance on the gridiron. I mean, he created what we call the "pancake block" for crying out loud. 

He was big (6-foot-7, 325 pounds), he had the speed and athleticism of an NBA forward, had Einstein-esque football IQ, and was such a nightmare to opposing defenses that Freddy Krueger would be left in envy. 

He was like no lineman ever seen before ... or since.

"Every game was a highlight reel for him," Cooper said. "We ran a lot of counter sweeps and a lot of screens, and on many of those plays Orlando had to be out in front of the ball carrier. And we had some pretty good ball carriers (including Heisman Trophy winner, Eddie George)."

Pace didn't just dominate on the collegiate field, he also starred on the NFL stage. 

After being selected by the St. Louis Rams with the first overall pick of the 1997 NFL Draft, Pace went on to play 12 seasons with the squad, going to the Pro Bowl seven times, named All-Pro on five different occasions, as well as being an integral part of the Rams Super Bowl winning season in 1999.

Pace was also selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team (2000s). 

"I don't know how you could play the position any better than he did," Cooper said of Pace. "He was just a fantastic football player. He was the best."

Hate to say it, but I have to agree with Coop on this one ...

Pace "was the best."