Aurealius Thomas, former Ohio State guard and College Football Hall of Famer, dies at 86

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Aurealius Thomas, a former Ohio State football All-American who died at 86 on February 5, 2021.

Aurealius Thomas, a former All-American guard at Ohio State, died on Feb. 5, the school announced Saturday. He was 86.

A native of Columbus, Thomas played for the Buckeyes from 1955 to 1957 and helped them capture a national championship during his senior season, the second won during Woody Hayes’ coaching tenure.

Finishing 9-1 overall in 1957, Ohio State was ranked No. 1 in the UPI coaches’ poll, splitting a title with Auburn, which ended up at No. 1 in the AP poll.  

Three decades later, Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and further added to the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992.

He was known for his versatility, lining up on the offensive and defensive lines for the Buckeyes despite being undersized.

Official rosters from gameday programs at the time listed him at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds.

“I was kind of small even in those days,” Thomas told The Dispatch ahead of his entry into the school’s hall of fame in 1992. “I had to rely on my quickness and technique to offset my lack of size.”

Thomas rarely came off the field as a two-way standout at Ohio State. He appeared for an average of 52 minutes per game as a senior, according to a College Football Hall of Fame bio.

In addition to receiving All-American honors in 1957, Thomas was an All-Big Ten first-team selection.

The Buckeyes were 22-6 during the three seasons he lettered.  

The Pittsburgh Steelers picked him in the 22nd round in the NFL draft, but he remained at Ohio State as an assistant in 1958.

He spent the next six seasons coaching the football teams at Central and East high school in Columbus. He led East to a 9-0 season in 1964 before his retirement from coaching.

Thomas also worked as a science and physical education teacher in Columbus City Schools for 20 years, then later in the insurance business. He was at New York Life Insurance before founding an insurance brokerage in Columbus and also served on multiple community boards. 

He is survived by his former wife, Nancy, daughter Leah and sons Marcus and Scott, as well as seven grandchildren.

Services are still to be determined.