Ohio State football: New Hall of Famer Keith Byars cherishes ‘Buckeye Brotherhood’

Byars to be second Miami Valley Buckeye to go into College Football Hall of Fame

Ohio State has never left Keith Byars, and he has never left Ohio State.

The Dayton prep legend makes trips back to Ohio Stadium regularly — and still lives and breaths sports thanks to his radio show on WING-AM — but this weekend will be a little different.

For the first time in a long time, the 100,000-plus fans expected to be in the stands as the Buckeyes take on Penn State will direct their cheers at him Saturday night when Byars is recognized for being selected for the College Football Hall of Fame.

“There will be some fans that will remember every touchdown from when I played, and there’ll be some fans in the stadium who weren’t even born when I when I played,” Byars said, “but that was one of the reasons I chose Ohio State when I was 16-, 17-, 18-years-old. I heard about Ohio State alumni being the best alumni in the world. The fans, if you do something they remember it for life, and I wanted to be a part of that legacy. Ohio State was well-established well before I was even born, and when it was my turn to pick a college, I said, ‘This is a legacy that I want to be a part of.’”

He did his part to ingratiate himself to the fans by running for 3,200 yards and scoring 50 total touchdowns from 1982-85.

In 1984, the Roth High School star led the nation in rushing with a then-Ohio State record 1,764 yards, scoring (24 touchdowns) and all-purpose yards. The junior was a unanimous first-team All-American and finished second in the Heisman Trophy vote.

Although a foot injury limited him in his senior season, Byars did more than enough to qualify for all-time great status in Columbus — and now beyond.

Byars is still second in Ohio State history with 46 rushing touchdowns, ninth in rushing yards and eighth in all-purpose yards (4,369).

His single-season rushing yardage mark has since been surpassed by Eddie George, Ezekiel Elliott and J.K. Dobbins, but Byars’ record of 2,441 all-purpose yards still stands.

The 1984 Chicago Tribune Silver Football winner and Big Ten MVP, who spent 13 seasons in the NFL, said nowadays he looks forward to hanging out with guys like George, Elliott and Archie Griffin whenever he gets the chance.

“You hear them talking about the ‘Buckeye Brotherhood’ and things of that nature — it’s a real thing,” Byars said. “So when we get together — guys like Eddie George, Raymont Harris, Mike Doss, Ryan Shazier, Zeke Elliott, Archie Griffin — when we’re all in the same room we sit around and just talk about the brotherhood of what’s going on at Ohio State right now. What was it like when we were there and what we expect of the future players. That’s majority of our conversation.

“A lot of schools are jealous of that because they don’t see that. I go on a Buckeye Cruise for Cancer and it’s nothing for me, Zeke Elliott and other guys sitting around playing cards and laughing and cracking jokes on each other, guys from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. We have that kind of bond.”

Byars was picked for the Hall of Fame in 2020, but his on-campus recognition was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. So was his official induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, which is set to take place in Las Vegas on Dec. 7.

He will be the 26th Ohio State player to go into the hall of fame as a player and the second from the Dayton area, joining Troy’s Bob Ferguson.

“That is a great honor, and I thank the Lord, I thank my family, my mother and father, my brothers and sisters, they are all a part of that,” Byars said.

He is also grateful to his teammates and coaches for their support.

“(Head coach) Earl Bruce used to tell us when I was at Ohio State, football is the greatest team sport there is because nobody can have individual success without their brothers, without the person to the left and right of you, and that is so true. That’s one of the reasons why I love football,” Byars said.

“I’m getting an individual honor, but all my teammates and coaches are sharing in that honor, too, because I couldn’t do it without them and vice versa.”

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