Beyond the Gridiron
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Woody as humanitarian

Many would be surprised to learn that the same man who said “I despise to lose. I’ve hated to lose ever since I was a kid and threw away the mallets when I lost at croquet,” also said "the important thing is not always to win. The important thing is always to hope."

The important thing is not always to win. The important thing is always to hope.

Time and history suggest that Woody Hayes was far from the violent, bullying stereotype that most of the nation had of him. Hayes, to many, was a man of kindness, decency and great warmth. Over the years, stories of his generosity have surfaced. Among such stories are the following:

Diane DeMuesy was a young nurse at the University Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, in the early 1970s. In one of the hospital rooms to which she was assigned was a young man dying of cancer. In the other bed in the young man's room was an Ohio State football player recovering from an injury. The young man with cancer was thrilled to be sharing a room with an OSU football player. Imagine the young man's additional excitement when Woody Hayes showed up in the hospital room to visit the recuperating football player—and took the time to chat with the young man with cancer, also. But that's not the end of the story. The football player was released from the hospital. The young man with cancer remained. And Woody Hayes continued to visit him.

"Woody was so busy," recalls Diane DeMuesy. "He could have made so many excuses not to come back. After all, the young man wasn't part of Woody's life. But I would walk by the room, and there would be Woody, talking quietly to the young man. Why did Woody do it? Because that's the kind of person he was."

The young man with cancer did not live long. Woody Hayes visited him up to the very end. When the young man died, a football autographed by the OSU team and a team poster were at his bedside-both gifts from Woody. "That young man's last days were comfortable and happy," Diane DeMuesy says. "And the reason was Woody Hayes."

After an automobile accident on the West Coast had ended his professional career, Vic Janowicz commented that “I was in a Chicago hospital, recuperating but not well. Ohio State was playing Northwestern, and Woody asked me to dinner. ‘You look terrible,’ he said. I guess I did; it seemed to me that I wasn’t getting the proper treatment. So Woody made arrangements for me to return to Columbus on the team plane. He put me in University Hospital and kept me there for a month of physical therapy. It was the turning point for me, the start of a new life.’”

In 1968, after an Ohio State victory, Woody Hayes emerged from the Ohio Stadium to see some young black kids who were hanging around long after the game. Hayes was struck by their apparent poverty and wanted to do something for one of them but he couldn’t think of anything to give him. One witness commented that Woody paced in agitation for a while and finally sat down and took off his shoes and socks. His gift: the sweaty socks he had on.

During the energy crisis in the 70s, Hayes would walk to work to save energy, and he sold his car because he thought his family was contributing too much to the crisis.

Once Hayes learned of an ex-player who was going to drop out of Harvard Medical School. Even though he was in the middle of a tough recruiting season, Woody caught a plane to Massachusetts, visited to medical student and his family, and convinced the young man to stay in school. This young medical student and ex-football player stayed in school and later went on to become the chief of neurosurgery at a prestigious Midwestern medical school.

(Information about and specific comments made by Woody Hayes and others were drawn from the following sources: Woody Hayes: The Man & His Dynasty, edited by Mike Bynum; I Remember Woody: Recollections of The Man They Called Coach Hayes, by Steve Greenberg and Dale Ratermann; Woody Hayes and the 100-Yard War by Jerry Brondfield; “Linger a Moment, and Share the Glow,” by Bob Greene, Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1987; “Words On Woody, From Those Who Care,” by Bob Greene, Chicago Tribune, September 9, 1987; and “In All The World, There Was Only One,” by Bob Greene, Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1987.)

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Woody Hayes in front of classroom

Above: Ribbon cutting in Columbus

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