What do the stickers on Ohio State players' helmets mean?

Everyone sees and knows about the stickers on the Buckeyes helmets but not many know what they mean or how they started.
Ohio State v Nebraska
Ohio State v Nebraska / Steven Branscombe/GettyImages

There's no concrete story of what exactly happened for the tradition to start but there is a rumor of what happened. Apparently, in 1968, trainer Ernie Biggs thought of the idea of awarding Ohio State football players helmet stickers resembling buckeye leaves, for motivational purposes.

Coach Woody Hayes embraced the idea and now sticker-cluttered helmets across the country run across millions of college football fans' screens every year. Many schools have started to copy the Buckeyes tradition, schools such as Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia.

Now what is the purpose for them? Motivation. The whole idea was to give players something, like a sticker on a helmet, that they could show to fans and other teams how good they are. Back when Woody Hayes was coach things like big wins or plays would get you a sticker.

When Jim Tressel took over the Buckeyes the criteria for receiving a Buckeye had been considerably refined. Coach Jim Tressel favored a teamwork approach over an individual-based award system, which means that touchdowns and interceptions no longer necessarily guaranteed a coveted sticker.

An ESPN reporter from back in 2008 said this about how the whole could get themselves a buckeye sticker.

"Every team member, however, receives a buckeye for each OSU win, plus an additional sticker for Big Ten victories. Entire units are eligible if they meet certain criteria. If the Buckeye defense, for example, racks up at least five three-and-outs, each member receives a sticker. The Buckeye offense, upon executing 10 plays which gain 12 or more yards, is rewarded similarly.

Individually, players accrue buckeyes by meeting the film-grade standards set for each position by the coaching staff. Linemen must grade out at 80 percent to receive a buckeye. Standards for linebackers and skill positions (such as running backs and defensive backs) are more stringent, requiring grades of 85 percent and 90 percent, respectively."

John D. Lukacs

The buckeye stickers are a strong part of Ohio State's history and tradition. I don't see a time ever when this incentive will go away for the Buckeyes.

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