Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
By: Mark G. Mangie
Mark: Bob let’s start at the beginning. What year were you born?
Mark: And had you ever played football in school?
Bob: No. That’s the amazing part of all of this, I never played a game of football in my life. I graduated from Struthers High School in 1952 and went down to Ohio State to study dentistry. Of course, you had your pre-dent at the time.
Mark: Did you go to Ohio State for your pre-dent also?
Bob: Yes, everything. The amazing part of all of this is I was a skinny kid. I weighed 135 lbs. I mean some guys are thin and strong and wiry and fast and I was the opposite. I was weak and slow so I never played football. I played basketball and I played golf but I always wanted to play football. You know when you were out in the lot playing catch with someone you always pretended you were a player. I was an Ohio State fan because my dad was. I went down there and of course went to all the games with my season ticket as a freshman. Through dental school Woody always came over and talked to the senior graduating class and he was impressive. He was just unbelievable.
Mark: Go back a little bit. When you were in Struthers, did you play on the basketball team?
Bob: Yes I was. I played the first game in that new gym.
Bob: Yes in 1951.
Mark: When you went to Ohio State for college, that was not the norm. Not many people went to college.
Bob: Yes...especially from this area. The steel mills were booming. People made decent money. Some of the guys in my graduating class went to YoCo (Youngstown College), which is now YSU, under scholarships from Sheet and Tube. You would graduate and then go to work for Sheet and Tube for X amount of years. I don’t know what the details were. I think there were 6 guys in my graduating class that went to Youngstown and graduated then went to work for Sheet and Tube. They all did extremely well in engineering.
Mark: What did your dad do?
Bob: He was a banker. He managed City Savings and Trust in Campbell which became Dollar Bank. Then, he purchased with his friend a bar in Campbell called Bozo's. They changed it to The Grid Iron. Dad knew he couldn’t get anyone through college on a banker’s salary.
Mark: So, tell me about going to high school in Struthers in the late 40’s and early 50’s.
Bob: All of my friends...their dads worked down at the mill. All my friends’ parents were blue collar workers. Of course my dad worked in the bank and at the bar. Those were really tough days. But it was so nice going to school then. You just didn’t realize it. Compared to today. I mean if you chewed gum you were a bad kid. You got detention. If you got caught passing a note to a girl, you got detention. I mean school was a lot tighter and you learned. The education I got a Struthers was excellent. We had a lot of guys go to Youngstown. It was fun good clean fun. There were no drugs around and hardly anyone talked about drinking.
Mark: How did you decide that you wanted to go to Ohio State?
Bob: Well my Godfather was a dentist Nick Sopkovich. The first time I walked into his office I was 6 years old and I told my mom and dad I want to be one of those, and it stuck with me. And at the time OSU was the school for medicine and dentistry. We would listen to them on the radio- my dad was an OSU fan and so there was no other school.
Mark: How did you get back and forth from Columbus?
Bob: Greyhound. It was a 6 hour trip-through Amish country. It went through Canton.
Mark: That’s how my dad got back and forth - that was a long haul back then.
Bob: It was amazing how you had to go. I lived in a rooming house. My whole first year everything cost 900 bucks!
Bob: My mom and dad paid for everything. I worked in the summer for $1.59 per hour at the steel mill.
Mark: That was a good wage then.
Bob: Back then, you could apply at the employment office and they would get you a job. It was easy to get a job if you were a student.
Mark: When you went to Ohio State, did you get an undergraduate degree too or just dental degree.
Bob: Yes. I got a degree in Biological Sciences.
Mark: Were you good at it? My dad wanted me to be a dentist but I was never any good at science.
Bob: I was better working with my hands than with my brain but it was a fantastic life. Life at Ohio State was different. I can remember when my mom and dad took me down. I was in the back seat scared to death. At that time, there were between 15 and 17 thousand students.
Mark: Really? That’s just a little bigger that YSU right now.
Bob: Yes. That was considered a big school. Our neighbor, Dr. Andy Wansack, was a big influence. He was our neighbor and a dentist. He said to go down to Ohio State. He said my chances would be increased because they had a good program. I did and I got in.
Mark: Andy and my dad were best friends.
Bob: Really? Well, my dad was always tied in with athletics. I remember as a kid that there were a lot of influential people in Campbell and they would always try to arrange trips to play football with other schools.
Mark: Yes, those were interesting times. You started in 1952 at Ohio State. When you got down to Ohio State, did you go to football games?
Bob: Oh yes, right off the bat. You had a fee card that you bought with a football ticket. It was 5 bucks for everything. It got you into basketball too. There was no arena. It was at the fairgrounds. Jerry Lucas, Havlicheck, I went to see them all play there.
Mark: When you were in dental school, did you say to yourself, “I want to be a scout for Ohio State.”
Bob: No, I had no clue. I didn’t even know how players were recruited. Woody Hayes started a program for alumni to go get the kids and take them around. I had no idea it would become such a big part of my life.
Mark: How did you get from the dental chair to Woody Hayes’s office?
Bob: I graduated from Struthers High School and I used to go back down the beginning of the season and see how the team was doing. One year a guy from Ohio State came in. He was a defensive coordinator and the recruiting coordinator and he was there recruiting. Bob Cummings was the head coach at Struthers. Lou McCullough was recruiting two kids from Struthers: Jimmy Gentile, who became a dentist, and Ted Kurz. Both of them ended up going to Ohio State. I would bump into Lou and say thinks like, “Hi Lou. How are you doing?” Bob Cummings and I became pretty good friends. Bob would say to me “Hey, come on around and be on the sidelines with me during the game.” At that time none of the good players from the Youngstown area were going to Ohio State. They were going to Penn State. They were going to Syracuse, Arizona, and all over the place but they were not going to Ohio State. I can't tell you the real true reason. Once I got to be a dentist and out in practice, that bothered me quite a bit. So, that’s how I met Lou McCullough. There are three of us in our family and all three were dentists. My middle brother Jim was graduating from dental school and we had a big weekend plan. They had a formal dance planned with a fraternity that I belonged to and we were going to an event on a Saturday. And it's pouring down rain. So I said to my brother: “I'm going over to Woody's office and see if I can help him to recruit.” I was a pretty brash young man at the time. So, I go over there.
Mark: What year is this?
Bob: 1966 in the spring.
Mark: So it's raining and you say…
Bob: We're going to go see if I can do something. My wife’s brother played at Struthers. And George Lancaster is a pretty good player. Remember my dad was on the athletic board at Campbell. Well, there is a player at Campbell named John Babyak who went to the University of Michigan on a football scholarship. He was behind Bob Chattius as an All American. Needless to say, John never had the field that much but he became a pharmaceutical rep and I met him at the pharmacy here. When I met him, I said, “You were my hero when I was a kid.” We kind of hit it off so he ended up recruiting George Lancaster. George got a scholarship up in Michigan. I saw what he was doing and some of the stuff. So, that's a little bit of background here. I went into his office and there was Lou McCullough. He says, “What are you doing here?” And I said, “Well, Lou, I would kind of like to get involved in recruiting.” I said, “I don't know anything about it.” I said, “I think I can do a better job than the guys that are up there right now because nobody's coming to Ohio State.” Other than those two kids, Lou recruited none of them. So, anyhow, I had to wait about 20 minutes. I went into Woody's office and told them my story that I was always a fan of Ohio State. I said I always wanted to be a player. I never played because I felt to slow and weak and whatever. And I said “But, I love the game. I love Ohio State.” And I said to him, “Coach, it bugs the daylights out of me that none of our players from our area are coming down here.” And I said, “I don't know how you do it. But I've been around Lou McCullough and went to talk to the two players, Jimmy Gentile and Ted Kurz. I listened to what he had to say and I thought I'd kind of like to get involved." He asked, “Have you ever played a game?” I said, “Enough.” He said, “Do you understand the difference between offense and defense?” I said, “No. I don't know anything about them.” He looked at me and got a funny look in his eyes. He said, “You know what? I don't know why but I believe you. I believe you can do it.” And he says, “Anybody who is brash enough to come in and talk to me and look at me right now to tell me your story, I believe you.” He says, “We're going to put you on the program.” That's how it started.
Mark: So, you go through a training program for real?
Bob: Oh, we'd have golf outings in the summer. We’d pick up a little bit but really no training. I spent some time with Lou McCullough. He had fantastic career. He knew his stuff. He would always say, “You got to get to know the mother. The mother is going to determine where the kid goes and if you get the mother to like you will get the player.” I used to listen to these guys like Woody. He would go into a home and talk about football for the last two minutes. You go for two hours and the last five minutes, you talk about football. He talked about life in general and the value of staying in the State of Ohio.
A Conversation with
BOB MARUSCHAK: FOOTBALL RECRUITER