Live From The Ohio History Center:
The NFL Draft Celebrates Pro Football’s Original Cities
John Jacob “Jay” Berwanger was the first player drafted into the National Football League in 1936.
“With the seventh pick in the inaugural NFL Draft, the New York Giants select Art Lewis, tackle from Ohio University.”
That’s what it may have sounded like. The year was 1936 and, with less fanfare than is expected this weekend in Nashville, that moment marked Ohio’s first entry in the National Football League’s draft of future players.
During this year’s Draft, which starts this Thursday, select third-round picks will be announced live from celebrations in each of the original 13 cities that were home to the earliest teams — including Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton. The Columbus pick will take place at The Ohio History Center on April 27.
The Columbus Panhandles, pictured here, were one of the first original NFL teams.
Sponsored by the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, Columbus Recreation & Parks Department and the Ohio History Connection, a variety of special events will take place throughout that afternoon at the Ohio History Center leading up to the Draft Day live picks.
The first 250 kids (ages 7 to 13) to register online will get in free to the Ohio History Center (and the Ohio – Champion of Sports exhibit) and will be treated to fun activities outside of the Ohio History Center including a non-contact football clinic for girls and boys, face painting, giveaways and more.
In the 83 drafts that followed that first one in 1936, 855 players from 19 Ohio colleges had their names called for a chance to become NFL players.
Number of players drafted into the NFL from Ohio colleges:
The Ohio State University
University of Cincinnati
University of Dayton
Kent State University
Youngstown State University
University of Akron
Central State University
University of Ashland
University of Mount Union
Ohio Wesleyan University
Not surprisingly, Ohio State University has had the greatest impact on the NFL Draft, with 444 players selected – including 56 in the first round. Over the last 10 years, the Buckeyes rank fourth in all of college for numbers of players drafted 956), trailing only Alabama, Louisiana State University and University of Southern California.
Bo Scott, Ohio State University alum, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1965. This collectible playing card praises his skills as a running back.
Will We See an Ohio No. 1 Draft Pick This Year?
Many NFL pundits predict that Ohio State defensive tackle Nick Bosa could become the next number one overall pick, likely to be chosen by the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, April 25 (8 p.m., NFL Network, ABC, and ESPN).
You don’t have to look far to find other Ohioans that have made major impacts in the league throughout the draft. Ohioans have made an indelible mark on the NFL, including:
Ben Roethlisberger (Miami University, 2 Super Bowl Championships, 6 Pro Bowl Selections) was selected 11th by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004
Travis Kelsey (University of Cincinnati, 4 Pro Bowl Selections), was selected in the third round in 2013
Jack Lambert (Kent State University, 4 Super Bowl Championships, 9 Pro Bowl Selections), selected in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974 Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman (Kent State University, 3 Super Bowl Championships).
Julian Edelman runs with the ball in a Kent State University football game. Photo: KSU.
Three Buckeyes have been selected with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft beginning with linebacker Tom Cousineau in 1979. But Cousineau never played in the NFL, famously snubbing the Buffalo Bills and choosing to sign with the Canadian Football League Montreal Alouettes instead.
In 1994, Buckeye defensive tackle “Big Daddy” Dan Wilkinson was the draft’s top pick, selected by the Cincinnati Bengals. And three years later dominant offensive tackle from Ohio State Orlando Pace would take top honors in the draft and join the St. Louis Rams.
Adding to the Ohio flavor of the 1990s NFL Drafts, the overall number one pick in 1995 was Westerville South High School’s Ki-Jana Carter, who played running back for Penn State University in college. However, on his third carry of his first preseason game for the Cincinnati Bengals, Carter tore a ligament in his knee and never fully recovered.
Westerville’s Ki-Jana Carter with the Cincinnati Bengals. Photo: Getty Images
Learn more about great Ohio athletes at Ohio–Champion of Sports, the ambitious new exhibit now open at the Ohio History Center in Columbus.