May 7, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Orlando Pace, one of the all-time greats at Ohio State as well as in college and professional football, was today named a member of the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame Class by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF). Pace is the 24th Buckeye player to be so honored by the NFF.

Pace and the rest of the 2013 Hall of Fame Class will be inducted at the 56th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 10, 2013, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. They will be honored guests at the National Hall of Fame Salute at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 2, 2014 and officially enshrined in the summer of 2014.

Pace’s football career was full of “firsts,” and today’s announcement that he would be joining college football’s elite adds considerably to his impressive legacy. Pace took over a starting position from his first day of preseason camp as a freshman at Ohio State in 1994 and the firsts have not stopped since for the Sandusky, Ohio native and Sandusky High School star. Consider:

In 1995 he became the first sophomore to win the LombardiAward; In 1996 he became the first to ever win the Lombardi Awardtwice; He was a first-team consensus All-American in 1995 and 1996;He was first-team all-Big Ten Conference in 1995 and 1996; In 1996he was the first offensive lineman since Ohio State’s John Hicks in1972 to finish among the Top 4 vote getters for the Heisman Trophy;and He was the first pick of the 1997 NFL Draft by the St. LouisRams.

Pace’s college coach remains convinced of his first-mover and No. 1 status.

“Orlando Pace is not only the best offensive lineman I have ever coached, but he is the best I have ever seen,” John Cooper, Ohio State coach from 1988-2000 and a 2008 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, said. “Every game was a highlight reel for him. We ran a lot of counter sweeps and a lot of screens, and on many of those plays Orlando had to be out in front of the ball carrier. And we had some pretty good ball carriers.

“I don’t know how you could play the position any better than he did. He was just a fantastic football player. He was the best.”

Pace started every game – 38 in all – between 1994-96 before bypassing his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. Still considered as one of the most dominant offensive linemen ever to play the game, the 6-6, 330-pound Pace made the “pancake block” famous his junior year by knocking an opposing player to the ground a reported 80 times. The Ohio State Athletics Department promoted Pace that year with the “Pace Pancake,” a colorful magnet about the size of one’s palm that can still be spotted every now and then on some fan’s refrigerator or file cabinet.

Pace didn’t need a pancake magnet to win a stack of awards, though. Said to have redefined the role of an offensive lineman with his athleticism and blocking skills, Pace, in addition to those awards already mentioned, won the 1996 Outland Trophy Award and was the Football News and the Big Ten Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year that season. He was further honored in1996 with the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football as the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten and he was a finalist for the Maxwell Award.

Ohio State’s team MVP in 1996 when he helped the team to a Big Ten co-championship, Pace was the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year in 1994 and the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1995 and 1996.

After being chosen as the first pick of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Rams, Pace went on to a storied, 13-year career in the league. He was a member of the Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl championship team and was the anchor of an offensive line that paved the way for the team’s “greatest show on turf” offenses that featured the NFL’s MVP for three consecutive years (Kurt Warner in 1999 and 2000 and Marshall Faulk in 2001).

Pace was named All-Pro five times and he was voted into seven Pro Bowl games. He started 154 consecutive games in his career that included 12 years with St. Louis and one season with Chicago.

In addition to winning the Super Bowl in 1999, Pace was named that year to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA Football All-Century teaml. In 2011 he was voted into Ohio State’s Sports Hall of Fame.