Charlie Hamrick: A Five-Star Before Five Stars

There wasn’t always recruiting wars and scouting services touting the next best thing in college football. High school prospects weren’t always labeled with a certain number of stars or ranked nationally among their peers. In a day when none of that was even a thought yet, Charlie Hamrick was as close to a five-star prospect as there was.

Charles Edward Hamrick was born on September 15, 1912 in Webster Springs, West Virginia. He was one of nine children born to Ellis and Georgianna Hamrick, and one of five boys. Charlie was blessed with size and girth, thanks in large part to his 6-foot-6, 300-pound father.

Charlie starred in football, basketball, and track at Gallia Academy in Gallipolis, Ohio. On the gridiron, he played halfback on offense and tackle on defense. As he wrapped up his prep career, the local paper provided some buildup by saying, “The boys along the Ohio River assert that he’s the best looking prospect the Southeastern Conference has ever sent to Ohio State and are expecting him to really go places.”

That’s as raving of a talent evaluation as there was back in the early 1930’s. The talk of Hamrick’s arrival trickled up to Columbus and The Dispatch newspaper invited him up for an interview and photo shoot prior to his fall arrival.

He was already 20 years old by the time he enrolled at Ohio State. At 6-1, 230 pounds and possessing a body-building physique, he entered Columbus with excitement that had not surrounded one individual in quite some time for the Buckeyes.

To add to the pressure, head coach Sam Willaman tapped him to fill the shoes of All-American right tackle Ted Rosequist, who went on to play professional football for the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Rams.

Willaman was fired at the conclusion of the 1933 season though, and Hamrick would have to earn the trust of his new head coach, Francis Schmidt.

In the second game of his sophomore season, Hamrick was given that opportunity and made the most of it. Not only did he display strength and poise on the offensive line, he showed he could be a disruption on defense as well. Schmidt placed Hamrick on the defensive line after Illinois seemed unstoppable with their passing attack. From that point forward, the Illini offense went silent. The move proved too late, though, as Ohio State’s fourth quarter rally fell short, 14-13.

The move did not alter the outcome of that particular game, but it changed the entire complexion of the season. Hamrick became a fixture on the lines for Schmidt and Ohio State would not taste defeat again in 1934. They went 7-1 overall, and finished only behind an undefeated Minnesota team in the league standings.

That Illinois performance also helped earn Hamrick a spot on Red Grange’s 1934 All-American team and only added to the hysteria for next season.

Individually, Hamrick’s junior year in 1935 was somewhat a disappointment. Not because of a lack of production, but because he was never 100-percent healthy. He fought through the entire season with a knee injury he sustained towards the end of previous year. The Buckeyes lost just once in Schmidt’s second season, falling to Notre Dame in a game that was voted, “The Game of the Century.” Hamrick managed to receive honorable mention accolades on a couple All-American lists. In hopes of a big senior season, he had surgery on his injured knee just before the calendar flipped to 1936.

The schedule for Hamrick’s final year in Columbus was the most daunting to date. Ohio State lost three times in 1936: 6-0 to the eventual national champions Pittsburgh, 14-13 to the Big Ten champions Northwestern, and 7-2 to national power Notre Dame. The two points recorded against the Irish in South Bend came in the second quarter when Hamrick blocked a Jack McCarthy punt in the end zone. The Buckeyes finished 5-3 with shutout wins over Chicago, at Illinois, and Michigan to close the season.

Hamrick was included on the Associated Press All-American team, a couple smaller All-American lists, and was a unanimous all-conference selection.

Said the Royal Typewriter of selecting him to their All-American eleven: “There are a lot of big men in football, but there are not many players who are both unusually big and unusually good. Charles Hamrick, the giant from Gallipolis, Ohio, is one of the exceptions. This 243-pound tackle has the charge of a locomotive, and the defensive skill of a good fullback. He knew the technic of line play as few tackles did. His direct charge, was almost unstoppable because of his tremendous weight and quick start. His cross blocking was devastating, and his handling of an offending wingman was superb. Hamrick’s powerful torso and arms enable him to shove an end around almost at will, and stop plays coming at him with a regularity discouraging to the opposition.”

Charlie also earned a starting spot at tackle on the East squad during the East vs. West Shrine Game, an exhibition that benefits Shriners’ Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. Family members said the experience of him visiting the crippled children in the hospital touched Hamrick tremendously and would stay with him forever.

Hamrick would play in just one more game on the gridiron. He was the starting right tackle in the fourth annual Chicago Charities All-Star game that pitted the College All-Stars against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. The collegiate stars captured their first ever win in the series with a 6-0 upset of the reigning NFL Champions.

Charlie went on to be drafted with the 17th pick overall, the seventh pick of the second round, by the Detroit Lions in the 1937 NFL Draft.

Another knee operation kept him from ever suiting up professionally, but football remained a big part of his life after college.

For 20 years, he was the voice of the Rockets, doing the public address and radio for Wellston High School football games.

After returning from World War II in 1946, he owned and operated Deckard Dry Cleaners for the remainder of his life.

Charles died unexpectedly after a heart attack at the young age of 50 on February 23, 1963. He was survived by his wife of almost 23 years and two daughters. Hamrick is buried at Ridgewood Cemetery in Wellston, Ohio.

Charlie Hamrick entered Ohio State with a lot of publicity and anticipation. Despite playing with a nagging knee injury for the majority of his collegiate career, Hamrick persevered and proved worthy of the hype. He’ll be forever remembered as one of Ohio State’s most dominant linemen of the 20th century.


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