Ten new members were inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2019 Friday, including former men’s basketball coach Thad Matta, linebacker A.J. Hawk and men’s hockey center R.J. Umberger.
Rounding out the 10 inductees were Boyd Cherry (football), Justin Fry (baseball), Jim Foster (women’s basketball coach), Stan Lyons (men’s track and field), Mike Nugent (football), Andrew Pierce (men’s track and field) and Natalie Spooner (women’s hockey).
Hawk was a two-time All-American, won a national championship with the Buckeyes in 2002, and is the program’s No. 5 leading tackler. Despite his accolades at Ohio State, Hawk said he was taken aback by his induction.
“I definitely was not expecting the news that I was going into the Ohio State Hall of Fame, so it was surprising [and] awesome at the same moment,” Hawk said.
Nugent, Ohio State’s kicker from 2001-04, was teammates with Hawk in high school, college and the NFL. Hawk said it was special to share the moment with Nugent given their lifelong bond.
Hawk said he appreciates the opportunities Ohio State has afforded him both on and off the field.
“You can set yourself up for an amazing future and always have those ties here to Ohio State,” Hawk said. “No matter where you live, whether you live in Ohio or not, it’s just a great place to go and you can’t go anywhere in the country –– or the world pretty much –– without running into an Ohio State person.”
Umberger was a Hobey Baker Award finalist and earned First-Team All-CCHA honors at Ohio State in 2003. The highest NHL Draft pick in program history said he is nostalgic about his time as a Buckeye.
“It definitely brings back a lot of memories and a lot of fun times and probably a little bit of feeling you wish you could be a student again,” Umberger said.
Umberger spent three years with the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008. Umberger said it was a “special opportunity” to spend six more years in Columbus, and that it was unique to be both a Buckeye and be a Blue Jacket.
Pierce, an eight-time Big Ten champion who holds Ohio State’s 400-meter dash record, said his favorite campus memories are the bike rides he would take to visit his girlfriend, who later became his wife.
Fry, a former Ohio State pitcher from 1996-99, is one of three Buckeyes to achieve double-digit win seasons, and holds the program record for career wins. Fry credited his induction to his teammates.
Hawk said the Buckeye teams he was on will always have an impact on him.
“I’ve heard Urban Meyer talk about it,” Hawk said. “It doesn’t change your life instantly, but we always have that lifeblood running through you that you were a part of those teams.”
The Hall of Fame class of 2019 was recognized during halftime of Ohio State’s football game against Cincinnati Saturday.