Despite being only 3-years-old when Coach Woody Hayes died, former Ohio State University linebacker Bobby Carpenter said the influence of the legendary coach of the Buckeyes has impacted him and generations of players, fans and coaches.
Carpenter spoke Aug. 17 at the Gateway to Fall Festival, held each year to benefit the Thomas R. Little Foundation, which donates money to several community betterment groups each year. Carpenter, an All-Ohio player at Lancaster High School, went on to play for the Buckeyes and was the 18th overall pick of the NFL draft, playing seven years at the professional level. He now is a part of "Carpenter and Rockman" sports program on the radio station 97.1, "The Fan," and is also an analyst for ESPN.
Hayes was a graduate of Newcomerstown High School and directed the Buckeyes to multiple national titles before he passed away in 1987. Carpenter was born in 1983.
"I was never able to meet Woody, since I was so young," Carpenter said, "but I’ve met many of his former players and all of them talk about his philosophy of ‘paying forward.’" Paying forward was a common tenet of Coach Hayes, who told his players that it was important to pay forward towards helping other people because they may never be able to pay someone back for any help that they may have received.
Carpenter has followed that philosophy as he came back to Ohio State after his pro football career, earned his master’s degree and became involved in a literacy program that is now used in 68 of Ohio’s 88 counties and has been used in the Newcomerstown schools.
Carpenter noted that Coach Hayes started coaching at Ohio State in 1951, using his philosophies, and "when I graduated at Ohio State in 2002, 50 years later, those things were still being pushed forward." He said that while he played for Coach Jim Tressel, much of what Coach Tressel taught for life off the football field came from former coach Earle Bruce, and much of that came from when Coach Bruce coached for Coach Hayes.
Noting it was part of the Ohio State philosophy dating back to Coach Hayes, Carpenter said, "Coach Tressel worked to develop players, develop students and more, to develop us as young men to have a greater impact."
As part of the process at Ohio State, he said that Coach Tressel would ask players to write down their short term goals, their long term goals and how they intended to achieve them. After doing that as a freshman, Carpenter said he figured he’d just turn in the same thing as a sophomore. However, an upperclassman clued him that Coach Tressel would take the previous year’s goals list, have meetings with each player to ask him what he had done to achieve his goals and then have the player update his goals.
"They (coaches) were not going to let you cheat yourself," Carpenter said. He talked about a poem called "The Dash" which is included in Coach Tressel’s book, "The Winners’ Manual." The dash refers to the dash between the dates on a tombstone, indicating the years of someone’s life.
"Each day is precious," Carpenter said. "How are you going to spend it? Time is the most precious commodity. How are you going to spend that dash? That dash is the time of your life. How do you utilize it?"
The former Buckeye noted that many of the philosophies were about investing time in the players, "which is the same as Woody, back to 1951." He compared it to a tree, in which the roots are the foundation but never see the leaves, that the Ohio State football community has broad "roots" across the country and broad roots back to Coach Hayes and the philosophy of paying forward and "investing" in people.
"I’m a product of that," Carpenter said, "the guys I played with, they’re a product of that. When I go back to OSU to work out, I try to be a positive influence for the young players and that goes all the way back to 1951...This has impacted me in ways that I couldn’t have imagined as an 18-year-old."
Erin Peoples, daughter of the late Thomas R. Little, former community leader for whom the Foundation is named, presented Carpenter with a check of $250 for his literacy campaign, drawing an emotional response from Carpenter, who noted that money would help buy a book for a classroom of 50 students.
Carpenter was also given a basket of goods from Newcomerstown merchants, presented by Roger Seitz of Baker’s IGA.
In an interesting response to a question from Mel Lahmers of Newcomerstown, Carpenter said that if he hadn’t been a football player, he would have liked to be chairman of the Federal Reserve.
"I always liked numbers," Carpenter, an economics major at Ohio State, said.