COLUMBUS – Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, the 1955 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time All-American for the Ohio State Buckeyes, died early Friday morning, Sept. 20, in Tampa, Fla., where he has lived since 1974 with his wife, Barb. He was 85 years old.
Cassady was the third of Ohio State’s seven Heisman Trophy winners, with Les Horvath (1944) and Vic Janowicz (1950) preceding him as recipients of the award that recognizes college football’s most outstanding player. Cassady rushed for 958 yards and 15 touchdowns in 1955 and was also the Associated Press Athlete of the Year and an All-American. He earned All-America honors in 1954 as well.
“He was a Heisman Trophy dad as well,” said son, Craig Cassady, Friday morning from his home in Chautauqua Lake, N.Y. Another son, David, lives in Dublin, Ohio, and daughter, Rayne, resides in Columbus.
“We’ve lost not only a legendary Buckeye, but also a wonderful person in Hop Cassady,” Director of Athletics Gene Smith said. “He was an all-time great Buckeye in every way. We will have the Cassady family in our thoughts and in our prayers.”
Cassady played for the Buckeyes and Coach Woody Hayes from 1952-55 and helped the team to a 29-8 record and to the 1954 national championship – the first of five national titles for Hayes – with a 10-0 record. He also helped Ohio State win outright Big Ten Conference championships in 1954 and 1955 and was a part of three victories over Michigan.
He finished his career with 2,466 rushing yards which, at the time, was an Ohio State record. The total still ranks 19th in school history. He scored 37 touchdowns in 36 games.
Cassady earned his nickname of Hopalong from Columbus, Ohio, sportswriters during his first game, when he scored three touchdowns in a 33-13 win over Indiana and “hopped all over the field like the performing cowboy,” a reference to the fictional, clean-cut hero, Hopalong Cassidy.
Cassady, who also started at shortstop for the Buckeye baseball team for three years, had his Ohio State football jersey No. 40 retired in 2000. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame (enshrined in 1979), the Ohio State Sports Hall of Fame (1997) and the Columbus Baseball Hall of Fame (2005).
A Columbus native, Cassady prepped at the now closed Central High School. He was a first-round NFL draft pick of the Detroit Lions after graduating from Ohio State, and he also played with Cleveland and Philadelphia.
Cassady spent more than 40 years working for George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees organization, primarily with the Yankees’ Triple-A Columbus Clippers baseball organization.
Cassady will be honored at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21 during Ohio State’s game against Miami.
Funeral arrangements are pending.