MASSILLON, OHIO: Where the Pennies Were Buried
Playing football in Ohio is special. Playing football in Paul Brown Tiger Stadium is the ultimate in high school football.
By Greg Shepard
Published: Spring 1998
The stadium is part of the Washington Massillon High School on-campus sports complex. It seats 18,000 people and it is where the six divisions of Ohio High School State Championships are played.
Those 8th graders in 1993 from Liberty Center who attended their state final game in Massillon were caught up in the aura this unique place provides. I watched the 1998 championship games from the Massillon Press Box. I also attended this year’s Holiday Bowl in San Diego (Missouri-Colorado State). The press boxes of both were about the same. Amazing!
The Massillon Booster Club provided chili, hot dogs and drinks from the 2nd level. Also on this level was a history room full of Massillon football lore. The actual press area was on the third level.
I visited the town and the Tiger Shop before the games started. I took some interesting photos. The Tiger Shop is full of Massillon Tiger memorabilia. It was started in 1973 by Delores Studer and has since gone through four expansions. It was sold in 1990 and is now incorporated. The fact there is enough business done to support thriving expansions speaks volumes about how Massillon feels about their football.
Steve Studer, son of Delores, is the strength coach for Massillon and has developed a premier strength training facility. BFS has done several clinics for Massillon over the last ten years. Steve is the epitome of the Massillon super fan. Would he go to Ohio State? No! Why? Because Massillon is the pinnacle. You just can’t do better.
Coach Studer was a first team 1971 Gillette All-American Center for Massillon. He played in the 1976 East-West Shrine classic representing Bowling Green State University as their team Co-Captain and an Honorable Mention All-American. Coach Studer also is a drug-free state champion Power Lifter.
The Tiger Store has everything imaginable for the ardent Massillon fan. From the time you are born, there is a Massillon Tiger waiting to pounce on your diaper, carpet, shirt, hat, glass, license plate and yes, even your garbage can.
The town’s 32,000 people emote Tiger pride like no other place. It would be heresy and spell financial ruin for any business that didn’t go along with its Tiger mania. The center of town features a huge Romanesque painting on the side of a prominent building. Underneath a magnificent football action scene is a plaque describing Massillon football as proclaimed by deity. The last paragraph states, “Then He (God) decided there should be football, and he gave us Massillon. He created only one; he knew that would be enough.” After being in Massillon, I am sure, if you searched long and hard enough, you might find as many as ten people who would say that’s only a tongue-in-cheek expression.
The following two paragraphs are taken from the Massillon Media Guide which depicts their Massillonian fever.
In most small towns across America, high school football is treated like a pleasant pastime. Each week during the fall, rival teams wage friendly battle before a sprinkling of fans. In Massillon, Ohio though, football is more than a pastime, more than sport, more than a Friday night fling. In Massillon, high school football is a way of life. They make no excuses for it. They totally love it and are dedicated to it. Over the years, high school football has transformed this typical industrial city into something very special - something present and future generations will not let be forgotten. This small football community has been credited with a legacy which includes 9 national championships (National Sports News Service), 22 state titles, 23 professional players, and 11 major college All-Americans. A walk along the shady tree-lined streets of the city reveals the full force of the Massillon tradition. Windows in barber shops and drug stores are adorned with high school schedules, pennants, and team action photos. Some of the merchants have even created elaborate window displays around their favorite players. The entire town appears to be painted orange and black - even fire hydrants have Tiger stripes. Crosswalks and mailboxes would probably be painted orange, too, if it were allowed. The proprietors in town explain it this way - Some poor guy might work eight hours a day down the street at the steel mill and be a nobody, but for ten weeks every fall he’s a king because he’s from Massillon.
The dream of every young boy in town is to become a varsity Tiger player. Junior high school is the gateway to Tigerdom, three years as demanding as any aboriginal society’s rites of passage. The spuriously motivated, physically inept and psychologically unprepared are weeded out before they leave Lorin Andrews or Longfellow Junior High, where both equip three separate teams, hire three separate head coaches, and play an eight game schedule. Coaches come from all over to try and capture the “Massillon mystique”. They see a hundred sixty-five pound Massillon kid hit like a two-hundred-five pounder and there is no explanation for it; it can’t be forty pounds of heart. Tiger football players are looked up to as heroes by younger children and as role models for grade school children. Being a part of the team means being a part of the best high school football has to offer. Massillon will live forever as the high school football capital of the world. Now you know the full story behind burying those Pennies In the End Zone......................................q
Just as a sidenote, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is only about a five minute drive to nearby Canton.
For a football enthusiast, you are
SIDE STORY: THE NFL HALL OF FAME
Minutes from Massilon is another big-time high school football town--Canton, Ohio. City leaders in Canton won site approval for the Hall of Fame from the National Football League in April of 1961.
Twenty-nine months later a sparkling, modern 19,000 square-foot two building Pro Football Hall of Fame was officially opened. On that day there were 17 inducted in the Hall’s Charter class.
Since then, the Hall of Fame has become so popular that it has gone through three additional renovations beginning in 1971, then 1978 and most recently in 1995. It is now a massive 82,307 square foot facility. The most outstanding new attraction is the Game Day Stadium, the turntable theater in which The 100-Yard Universe film, a premier production by NFL Films is shown.
I was struck by the lack of size of the older linemen that had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. It became crystal clear how important strength and conditioning has become and its contribution to the evolution of the modern day player. To the left are some examples.
It was fitting that the Pro Football Hall of Fame was located in Canton. It is the cradle of football. The Massillon-Canton McKinley is a 104-year high school rivalry. Pro Football got its start in the Northeast Ohio area. The tradition continues today as strong as ever.
Fan support in Canton is off the meter for their high school team just like Massillon’s. There are 2,500 season ticket holders. Games are played on Fawcett Field and they allow the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game to be annually played on their field. About 100,000 fanatical fans attend Canton’s games each year. McKinley’s annual war with Massillon draws a standing room only crowd of 23,000. The McKinley Bulldogs have come out on top of the Tigers four years in a row including a 27-14 victory last season.
Fawcett Stadium recently had a
multi-million dollar renovation including new locker rooms, weight room equipment and scoreboard. The natural grass field has been replaced with artificial turf. 1997 was a dream season for Coach McDaniels who not only won the state and national titles last December but he did it with his son Ben, the quarterback, who is only a junior. How can