3. Bill Willis
Very few people alive today were able to see Bill Willis play for the Ohio State football program. He played for them from 1942-44 as a guard and a defensive tackle. He was on Ohio State’s 1942 national championship team that was coached by Paul Brown.
He had his number retired by the Buckeyes because he was so great. He signed with the Browns after WWII and continued to be great for them. He was named six times as a First-team All-Pro player and was Second-team All-Pro once as well. He made the Pro Bowl three times once that became a thing too.
Willis was named to the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade Team and is in the Browns’ Ring of Honor as well. Willis is in both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. Clearly, he did something right when it comes to his ability on the field.
Off the field, Willis endured racism at a time when the NFL didn’t have any black players. Once he entered the league, that opened up the NFL to sign more black players and help integrate football. While he wasn’t the first black player to play in the NFL, he’s widely credited with breaking the color barrier.
It’s hard to have a bigger impact than that on the sport in my opinion. The next guy on our list is one of the most naturally talented guys to ever play for the Buckeyes.