The 2006 Ohio State football team might be one of the best in college football that didn’t win a National Championship.
The rivalry game that featured the #1 Buckeyes against the #2 Wolverines is still one of the best games in college football history. Momentum from that game didn’t translate, however, as the Buckeyes suffered a nasty defeat to Florida. The score of 41-14 in the BCS Title game still sends shivers down the spines of Ohio State fans.
The team’s leading receiver, Ted Ginn Jr., just announced his retirement from the NFL. He played 15 seasons for several different teams, most recently the Bears. The biggest what-if in Ohio State football history centers around Ginn: what if Ginn was never injured in the National Championship Game?
The Heisman Trophy winner from 2006, Troy Smith, turned 37 years old this week. Between Ginn’s retirement and Smith’s birthday, this seemed like a good time to reflect on the 2006 Buckeyes, 15 years later.
Not everyone on this team had as solid an NFL career as Ginn. Others have had tremendous achievements off the field. Here is a look at some of the stars from the 2006 Ohio State football team that played in that lopsided National Championship loss.
Ted Ginn Jr.
At the top of the list is the recently retired Ginn. Last season, Ginn was the last member of the 2006 senior class from Ohio State to be active in the NFL.
Of all of the players that Jim Tressel brought to Columbus, Ginn might have been the most talented. He is still the second-highest recruit to ever commit to Ohio State, according to 247Sports. In three years, he had 163 touches from scrimmage, 2,156 total yards, and 18 touchdowns. He also had eight touchdowns on special teams and averaged 14.1 yards per punt return. His six career punt return touchdowns still stand as a Big Ten record.
Unfortunately, in the 2006 National Championship Game, he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and was injured in the celebration. That was the last play of his college career.
He was drafted ninth overall in 2007 and went to the Dolphins. He never played anywhere for longer than three years, but never lacked employment in 14 seasons. Ginn appeared in two Super Bowls, in Super Bowl XLVII for the 49er and in Super Bowl 50 for the Panthers.
Ginn was solid, though he never recorded a 1,000-yard season. He retired with 412 receptions, 5,742 receiving yards, and 33 receiving touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, he was the active NFL leader in kick returns, punt returns, and punt return yards (he was second in kick return yards).
If Ginn was not the best player of the Tressel era, then that honor might go to Smith. He was certainly the best quarterback in Ohio State history at the time he left.
Smith was the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, the most recent of the seven Buckeyes that have won the award. He played the worst game of his career against Florida in the title game, however, and slid to the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft.
Smith only lasted four years in the NFL, with a record of 4-4, completing 51.7 percent of his passes for 1,734 yards, eight touchdowns, and five picks for the Ravens and the 49ers.
He ended his playing career with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL and the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
Though Smith hasn’t played football in years, he plans to reunite with other former Ohio State players to establish the Urbana Sports Prep Institute.
The second half of the leading receiving duo, Anthony Gonzalez, also entered the 2007 draft. The Colts selected him 32nd overall, and he had a solid rookie season. In his first two years, he caught 94 passes for 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, that was the bulk of his production, as a series of injuries kept him off the field.
He retired in 2012 and enrolled in Stanford Business School. After graduation, he ran and won a seat in the House of Representatives in 2018. He currently represents Ohio’s 16th District.
Brian Hartline was a freshman in 2006 and was one of only four Buckeyes with positive yards from scrimmage in the title game.
The Dolphins drafted Hartline in 2009, and he eventually replaced his old teammate Ginn as starting wide receiver. From 2012-13, Hartline had 150 receptions, 2,099 yards, and five touchdowns, including a 253-yard game in 2013 to set the Dolphins’ single-game receiving record. The Dolphins rewarded him with a five-year, $31 million contract, though he never quite lived up to it. A knee injury in 2014 brought his career to a swift end. He played his last game for the Browns in 2015.
He joined the Buckeyes’ coaching staff in 2017 and is becoming one of the best recruiters in college football. In 2020 Hartline was the only semifinalist for the Broyles Award that was not a coordinator.
The lone bright spot for the Ohio State football team in the 2006 title game, Antonio Pittman had 10 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown against Florida. His 73 yards from scrimmage accounted for the vast majority of Ohio State’s offensive production in that game.
After two straight years of 1,200-plus rushing yards and seven-plus rushing touchdowns, and with a rising star at running back behind him on the depth chart, Pittman declared for the draft as a junior. The Saints drafted him in the fourth round, but he never played a down for New Orleans. The Rams picked him up on waivers in 2007, and Pittman played there for two years. He only had 138 total touches for 582 yards from scrimmage with no touchdowns. The Rams waived him in 2009, and his NFL career was over.
Pittman spent most of his post-football career pursuing firefighting. He is currently a firefighter in Columbus.
Chris “Beanie” Wells
Beanie Wells was a freshman in 2006, but made use of the 104 carries he had while backing up Pittman. He had two carries for nine yards in the National Championship Game, but when Pittman left for the NFL Wells became the bell cow back.
He had 274 carries for 1,609 rushing yards (fourth in school history for a single season at the time), and 15 touchdowns in 2007. He missed three games due to injury in 2008, but still had 207 carries, 1,197 yards, and eight touchdowns. He left Ohio State as a junior in 2009, resting at fourth place all-time in rushing yards behind Archie Griffin, Tim Spencer, and Eddie George.
Wells was a first-round pick in 2009 to the Cardinals. He wasn’t named the starter until 2011 when he had 245 carries, 1,047 rushing yards, and 10 touchdowns. He decided to test free agency in 2013 and tore his Achilles tendon working out for the Ravens. That injury ended his playing career.
Since his playing days are over, he has been working in the Columbus sports media. Formerly with WBNS in Columbus, he now contributes for Letterman Row.
Alex Boone was a sophomore on the 2006 Ohio State football team but was the starting left tackle for most of the year. He helped the Buckeyes reach the 2007 National Championship Game as well, before entering the draft in 2010. He went undrafted but landed in San Francisco along with Ginn.
Boone became the starter in 2012, and the 49ers offensive line became one of the best in the league. That was the best season of his career, and he arguably played at a Pro-Bowl level. While he was solid for most of the rest of his career, he never quite lived up that 2012 season.
Boone played two snaps for the Seahawks in 2020 and is currently a free agent. He may have joined Ginn in playing his last season, though he has not officially retired yet.