Former Ohio State RB Keith Byars Reflects on his Career

Keith Byars
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Keith Byars, a former Ohio State running back, celebrated his induction into the National Football Foundatoin Hall of Fame this week.

Byars was inducted in 2020, but the induction ceremony was pushed to 2021. He played at Ohio State from 1982-1985. During that time, he rushed 619 times fro 3200 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains seventh at Ohio State in career rushing attempts, ninth in rushing yards, and third in rushing touchdowns.

Byars also has the third-highest single-game rushing total in school history. Sitting at 273 yards, TreVeyon Henderson came just shy of matching that in the game against Tulsa.

In 1984, he was a Heisman Finalist. That year, he had a nation-leading 336 rushes, 1,764 yards, and 22 touchdowns. He also led the NCAA in points and kickoff return touchdowns. Doug Flutie beat him out for the Heisman that year after leading the country in yards per attempt.

Byars’ number may have been inflated due to the fact that he had to make up for shoddy quarterback play. His quarterback in 1984 threw only 10 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Needless to say, Byars was the one driving the Buckeye offense.

Playing under Earle Bruce, Byars led the Buckeyes to four top-15 finishes in his career. While at Ohio State, he won three bowl games for the Buckeyes: the Holiday Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Byars went on to be the tenth overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft.

Former Ohio State RB Keith Byars Reflects on his Career

During Byars’ introductory press conference, he reflected over his playing career.

Before he played for Ohio State, he had never been to a college football game in his life.

“I grew up watching Woody Hayes walk up and down the sideline at Ohio State,” he said.

It’s hard to imagine a high-profile recruit never attending a college game, but his coach kept him busy on Saturdays during the football season.

“During the recruiting process, my football coach had us watching films every Saturday, so I didn’t have the opportunity to go to any colleges. That put everyone on equal footing because I couldn’t say ‘I’ve been your stadium or that stadium.”

Ohio State may not have had the advantage in letting Byars walk on the grass at the Shoe, but they were. the in-state powerhouse. In the end, Byars ended up taking the drive just up I-70 from his hometown, Dayton. From there, he finally played inside the stadium that he had only seen on TV growing up.

Even though he grew up in Ohio, his first time in Ohio Stadium was on gameday in his freshman year.

“Walking out of the Horseshoe, out of that locker room for the first time for my first college football game, I don’t even remember my feet touching the ground. I was just running out of the tunnel and just being with my teammates, it was a special feeling…Every day when I came out of the tunnel and walked into that stadium, it was like you never forget your first time. I always reflect on that first time being at Ohio Stadium.”

Main Image courtesy National Football Foundation/Melissa Macatee.