Tony Curcillo, Woody Hayes' first Ohio State quarterback, dies at 89

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
The Ohio State University athletic department logo, 2017. [provided by OSU]

Tony Curcillo, the quarterback on Woody Hayes’ first Ohio State team, has died.

Curcillo passed away on Tuesday in California at age 89, his family informed the Ohio State athletic department.

Curcillo played several positions at Ohio State – linebacker, tailback, fullback, end and even center as well as quarterback from 1950-52. He was primarily an end his first year under Wes Fesler.

Hayes moved him to quarterback after his hiring in 1951. Curcillo threw for a then-school record 912 yards that year while adding 226 rushing yards. He set the Buckeyes’ single-game passing record with 292 yards and six total touchdowns in a 47-21 victory over Iowa. The six touchdowns stood as an OSU record until J.T. Barrett broke it with seven in 2015.

Curcillo shared the backfield with two Heisman Trophy winners in his career. He was teammates at Elyria High School with Vic Janowicz, who won the 1950 Heisman.

“Vic was probably the best player I ever played with,” Curcillo told The Dispatch in a 2015 interview. I’ve known him since grade school, and right when I first met him, I admired him. He had a positive way about him in everything he did. He was a good basketball and baseball player. I’ve spoken to other former players since he passed (in 1996) and they seem to have the same opinion of Vic. They all admired him. I was proud to be with him.

In 1952, Curcillo moved to linebacker and fullback. Howard “Hopalong” Cassady won college football’s top individual honor that year.

“Our father would be honored to be remembered for his love of Ohio State University and for the privilege he had of being the first quarterback for Woody Hayes,” his son David told OSU. “He was also very proud of the fact that he was probably the oldest, for a while, of all the Ohio State quarterbacks.”

The most famous game Curcillo played in was the 1950 Snow Bowl against Michigan.

“There was a big argument about the game, whether we should play,” Curcillo said in the 2015 interview. “We had to win this game to go to the Rose Bowl. I remember putting on some surgical gloves and stickum on my fingers. Then I walked onto the field, and the cold just hit. The gloves just disintegrated.

“I caught two passes. I remember that. But playing in the game, you perspire. It doesn’t matter if the weather is hot or cold. You sweat. And that perspiration turns to ice, so around my collar it was red because the ice stuck to it. It was like that all day long.”

Curcillo graduated with a degree in sociology. He was a sixth-round NFL draft pick in 1953. After spending two years in the United States Army, Curcillo played in the Canadian Football League, winning a Grey Cup in 1957 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Curcillo and his late wife, Beverly, had four children, daughters Terry and Crissy and sons Dave and Richard.