By David Fong
TROY — Todd Denlinger admits he may have had a few advantages over many of his teammates and fellow students when he arrived on campus at The Ohio State University.
“I think Troy City Schools prepared me for college football and college academics — and for so much more,” Denlinger said. “I think as far as football goes, I came in just as prepared, if not more prepared, than a lot of my teammates. I think thanks to Coach (Steve) Nolan and thanks to (strength) Coach (Mick) Roberts, I was ready to play football and I was where I needed to be.
“As far as academics, which is something I’ve always prided myself on, I wasn’t in shock and awe like a lot of other kids there were — not just on the football team, but students who weren’t on the team, as well. I know some guys were just there to party. Some guys were just there to play football. As for myself, I was there to get an education and play football.”
Following an All-Ohio football career at Troy, Denlinger went on to Ohio State, where the defensive tackle earned four varsity letters, was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten pick and a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete. The teams he played on played in two national title games, four BCS bowls, beat rival Michigan every year he was there and won the Rose Bowl his final season.
For all his accomplishments on the football field, Denlinger — who also played hockey and was a thrower on the Troy track and field team — will be inducted into this year’s Troy Athletic Hall of Fame class. Joining him in this year’s class will be coach Hildred Byrkett (who coached at Troy from 1945-1974), athlete/coach Vicki Felver (class of 1968), football/basketball/baseball player Dan Cox (class of 1977) and football player Jason Manson (class of 1997).
The five will be introduced prior to Friday’s Troy football game against Cincinnati Turpin in officially inducted in a ceremony Saturday at the Bravo Room in Hobart Arena. Byrkett will be inducted posthumously.
“It’s pretty special; it’s definitely an honor to be inducted,” Denlinger said.
Denlinger didn’t take long to get his football career started at Troy, earning a varsity letter as a freshman, something that has rarely happened.
“It was actually brought up to me in eighth grade,” Denlinger said. “Coach Nolan and the athletic director, Doug Zimmer, came over to the junior high and sat me and my parents down and talked to us about the possibility of playing varsity as a freshman. It was a pretty eye-opening experience for a 13- or 14-year-old kid. I’m not sure I knew what I was doing all of the time.”
Denlinger’s athleticism allowed him to play a number of positions throughout his high school career. Even at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Denlinger spent his entire junior season as the Trojans’ starting middle linebacker. He also saw time at tight end and center, but his true home was at defensive tackle. As a senior, he helped lead the Trojans to the Division I playoffs, while earning All-Ohio, All-Southwest District and All-Greater Western Ohio Conference first-team honors. He also was named first-team All-GWOC.
“My experience playing football at Troy couldn’t have been better,” Denlinger said. “I met a great group of guys, some of whom are still my best friends.”
Following his graduation from Troy, Denlinger went on to Ohio State, where he played four years and earned a degree in construction management.
“It was such an experience; playing at Ohio State was a goal of mine since I was 10 years old, basically since I knew what football was all about” he said. “I had to battle some injuries that held me back, but I could never replace the friendships I made. They are like brothers to me.”
Denlinger has since moved back to Troy, where he serves as vice president of Denlinger and Sons Builders.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong