Author takes a look at Ohio’s greatest prep football players

GALION – Two of the greatest football players to put on pads suited up in north central Ohio and are among the featured subjects in a newly released book.

Ohio’s Autumn Legends, Greats from the State’s Football Fields is authored by longtime local sportswriter Larry Phillips, who has worked for years in Crawford, Richland and Ashland counties.

Keith Publications is so confident in this work it has printed hardback ($37.99), paperback ($21.99) and Kindle versions ($9.99) available at Also, it has already agreed to publish Volume II next fall.

Modeled after John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Profiles in Courage, Phillips shares the passion of Ohio’s favorite sport through mini-biographies of the state’s greatest players and coach.

From Paul Brown’s exploits at the high school (Massillon), college (Ohio State) and pro ranks (Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals), through Massillon linebacker Chris Spielman’s fabled career, Phillips details each of their achievements at every level in exhaustive detail.

“Looking at Ohio football from a historical perspective, this region thrusts itself to the center of attention,” Phillips said. “It goes deeper than the Pro Football Hall of Fame, or even the founding of the NFL. Passion for football is something ingrained into the culture of north central Ohio.

“Researching the topic made that obvious. I hope Ohio’s Autumn Legends captures that spirit.”

Boosting this quest is professional artist Oscar Hinojosa, a Bowling Green graduate whose clients include the Jacksonville Jaguars, the athletic departments at the University of Florida, Florida State, the PGA Tour and the U.S. Olympic Hockey team. Hinojosa offers two paintings of each Legend, resurrecting the subjects from their respective high school days.

“I tried to capture the sheer determination, vision and guts it takes to become one of football’s elite, along with the complete thrill and gratification that comes from being one of the best in the sport,” Hinojosa said.

Together, Phillips and Hinojosa chronicle the careers and bring to life the images of Paul Warfield (Warren Harding), Roger Staubach (Cincinnati Purcell), Archie Griffin (Columbus Eastmoor), Charles Follis (Wooster), Chic Harley (Columbus East), Pete Henry (Mansfield), Marion Motley (Canton McKinley), Chris Spielman (Massillon) and Paul Brown.

Some fans may arecognize Canton Bulldog star Pete Henry. The Mansfield product is one of only eight players to be a charter member of both the college and pro football halls of fame, and the lone Ohioan.

“Only hardcore football fans even know Pete Henry’s name,” Phillips said. “He was the greatest two-way lineman in history, and the fulcrum of those NFL champion Canton Bulldogs teams in the early 1920s.

“One historian claims Pete would’ve been the NFL’s MVP in 1922 had the award existed. If nothing else, I hope this book shines a light on Pete and those great Canton Bulldog teams.”

Charles Follis is another nearby name. The first black professional football player was weaned on the sport in Wooster and etched his name into history with the Shelby Blues in 1904.

“There’s just so much great history, so many incredible personalities, and so much emotion tied up in football, it seemed a natural subject,” Phillips said. “I hope we’re doing it justice.”

Ohio’s Autumn Legends makes a great gift idea for football fans of all ages.

“Frankly, Oscar’s original artwork of the Legends is worth the price of the book alone,” Phillips said. “Seeing these guys in color from their high school days, there simply isn’t color art available of many of them, before now.”

Ray Dyson is a veteran editor for Keith Publications and covered the 1968 national championship Ohio State football team. He was impressed by the work as well.

“I had the pleasure of working professionally with award-winning sportswriter Larry Phillips for several years. He is not only a first-class writer, but his knowledge of Ohio football is deep and authentic,” Dyson said. “It was my great pleasure to serve as editor of this book, although Larry needed very little help in that regard.

“It is a wonderful read, bringing these Legends of the game to stirring life. Football fan or not, you are going to enjoy this.”

Special to the Inquirer