Why did the Ohio State football team start giving out Buckeye helmet stickers?

Chris Pugh
The Columbus Dispatch

The 1968 Ohio State national championship team is regarded as one of the best college football teams of all time. 

The team's roster featured 11 All-Americans and six NFL first-round draft picks. 

But fiery head coach Woody Hayes wasn't willing to let the team rest on its laurels. 

"Woody was always trying to get that extra motivational edge," the team's starting quarterback Rex Kern told reporters. 

And what provided that edge was a new concept at the time — helmet stickers.

But the incentive has stuck around in Columbus, as well as with other college football teams around the country as a way to motivate players. 

An Ohio State Buckeyes helmet sits on the sideline during warm-ups prior to the College Football Playoff semifinal against the Clemson Tigers at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.

Who started helmet stickers at Ohio State?

Ernie Biggs, a longtime trainer for the team, was credited for coming up with a system in 1968 for giving players Buckeye helmet stickers for good plays.

Ohio State quarterback Rex Kern and coach Woody Hayes confer during the game with Michigan in Columbus, Ohio, Nov. 23, 1968. Others are unidentified. (AP Photo)

'A major production'

Kern recalled that Hayes made a big deal about the stickers. 

"In true Woody Hayes fashion, he threatened to take [the buckeye leaves] away," Kern said. "We thought it was tongue-in-cheek, but you never really knew."

How has the tradition changed?

The size of the Buckeye stickers have gotten smaller over the years and stickers have been given out more recently for team accomplishments, not individual honors. 

'Each one means the player did something good to help the Buckeyes win!'

Former Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer had a simple answer when asked on Twitter by a little girl about why he gave out helmet stickers.

ESPN contributed to this story.

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