The state of Ohio has a rich football heritage spanning the Friday night lights through NFL Sundays. Of course that also includes the most popular of all: college football.
Ohioans will be allowed to wager on college football when legal sports betting launches in the state on Jan. 1, 2023. While Ohio State University reigns supreme, there are a number of top Ohio football players that did not suit up for the Buckeyes.
Ohio is home to a number of respected football programs that produce notable NFL talent, including current and future Hall of Famers.
We’re focused primarily on players, but head coaches win (and lose) games too. Super Bowl-winning head coaches John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens) and Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams) are products of Ohio — Miami of Ohio to be exact. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Below is our list of the top six Ohio college football players that didn’t wear Buckeye scarlet and gray.
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Top 6 Ohio College Football Players Not From Ohio State
6. Jason Kelce, C, Cincinnati Bearcats
Drafted: 6th Round, No. 191 overall, 2011
It’s not easy to quantify a center’s value to a football team. Kelce is the heart and soul of the Philadelphia Eagles though. When he speaks, his teammates listen. He’s not only a fixture of the team but the city of Philadelphia. His value isn’t only of the intangible variety. Kelce is a four-time All-Pro, Super Bowl champion, and the anchor of one of the game’s best offensive lines.
5. Jason Taylor, DE, Akron Zips
Drafted: 3rd Round, No. 73 overall, 1997
Every team wants a game wrecker on the defensive line. That’s what the Miami Dolphins had in Taylor, who terrorized quarterbacks en route to 139.5 sacks over his 15-year NFL career — including a league-high 18.5 in 2002. Taylor was a three-time All-Pro and an NFL Hall of Famer.
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4. Julian Edelman, WR, Kent State Golden Flashes
Drafted: 7th Round, No. 232 overall, 2009
Edelman spent his collegiate years under center before transitioning to the slot as a pro. He rushed for 1,370 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior at Kent State, demonstrating the talent that allowed him to amass three 1,000-plus-yard and two 100-plus catch seasons. Edelman’s value goes beyond the box score though. He was a key figure on three Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams, earning Super Bowl MVP honors in 2019 and securing one of the game’s most iconic Super Bowl catches in 2017.
3. Antonio Gates, TE, Kent State Golden Flashes
Gates penned one of the NFL’s best “rags to riches” stories. Gates didn’t even play football at Kent State before embarking on a Hall of Fame NFL career that included three All-Pro campaigns. He did, however, lead Kent State to the 2002 Elite Eight on the hardwood. His rebounding ability translated to the red zone. Gates scored 10-plus touchdowns four times and collected 116 spikes in total.
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2. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Miami RedHawks
Drafted: 1st Round, No. 11 overall, 2004
Roethlisberger produced plenty of stats over his 18-year Pittsburgh Steelers career. He led the league in passing twice and made six Pro Bowls. He meant more to the Steelers organization than what he produced in box scores though. He quarterbacked the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances — two wins — and a 165-81-1 mark overall.
1. Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati Bearcats
Drafted: 3rd Round, No. 63 overall, 2013
It’s unfair that one family is able to produce arguably the game’s best player at two positions. The younger Kelce brother is the game’s top tight end, and at 32 years old, he has plenty of time to add to his Hall of Fame resume, and perhaps even win a second Super Bowl. Kelce is a three-time All-Pro, the first of which came with Alex Smith throwing passes — not Patrick Mahomes. Since 2016, Kelce eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards six times, caught 100-plus passes, and scored double-digit touchdowns two times apiece. And barring injury, he’s far from finished.
AP Photos/Reed Hoffmann