Want to go?
WHAT: “Woody – His Life, Times and Teachings”
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14
WHERE: Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave., Sandusky
INFO: 419-626-1950 or visit www.sanduskystate.com
In the pantheon of great coaches, former Ohio State University Football Coach Woody Hayes belongs next to college basketball’s John Wooden and the NFL’s Vince Lombardi.
However, it’s been nearly 35 years since Hayes last led the Buckeyes on the gridiron. While NCAA historians won’t forget the iconic bespectacled leader, there are younger generations that truly don’t understand what the tough-as-nails leader was all about. Hoping to keep his story alive is Walt Adamkosky, who wrote the one-man show “Woody – His Life, Times and Teachings.”
The Scarlet and Gray production makes its Sandusky debut at 2 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Sandusky State Theatre. Funcoasts talked to the semi-retired advertising agency owner-turned-playwright about this brand new production and what he learned about the beloved O-H-I-O coach.
Funcoast: How exactly did you come to write “Woody – His Life, Times and Teachings.”
Walt Adamkosky (WA): It started years ago. I was teaching at OSU as an adjunct. They had just changed one of the streets by the stadium to Woody Hayes Drive. I asked my students what they knew about Woody Hayes. He was still alive at the time and had only been gone from the university for four years. He was still very much a presence. These kids didn’t know who he was, and after a long awkward silence they said, “Isn’t he the guy who hit that kid?” I thought, ‘Oh no. We have to do something about this.’ I was really afraid we were going to lose this man to history and have his legacy be the guy that punched the player in the Gator Bowl. He was so much more than that.
Funcoast: What does Woody Hayes mean to you?
WA: Woody started at Ohio State University in the year I was born . He was like as much a part of our life in Columbus and even more so than the mayor and governor because they changed and Woody didn’t. In addition to teaching as an adjunct, I worked for a PR firm that had done the [PR for the] football and basketball program for Ohio State, I went to school there and grew up there. I’m a Buckeye.
Funcoast: After deciding to write his legacy, how did you go about your research?
WA: My brother-in-law Alan Jack was on the 1968 national championship team, and a good friend of mine was John Hicks who opened the holes for Archie [Griffin]. I started with them and said, “Who else should I talk to?” But life got in the way. I had a family. Then three years ago my ad agency closed and I decided to write a play. I had 50 to 60 hours of interviews with coaches and players.
Funcoast: What did you learn about Hayes?
WA: The main thing that surprises people is that if you were to ask Woody what he was, the first thing he would probably say is not football coach. The main thing about Woody is that he was a teacher and his goal in life was the development of young people into productive members of society. Or what he called successful people. Which wasn’t money, it was being a successful contributing member of society. And football just happened to be his medium. The field happened to be his classroom. And the whole show is built around his principals of hard work, education and pay-it-forward. Everything always came back to that. Those are his three pillars of success, if you will. This is what the man was really about. That surprises people because they think he was this blustery, rough and tumble football coach, and he really thought of himself as more of a teacher.
Funcoast: After the show debuted last year at Columbus’ Ohio Theatre, what did audiences say?
WA: As a writer, you’re always slightly terrified when you put something that is so much of yourself out there. The reviews we got were truly overwhelming. We had one coach there who went to all four performances. He coached with Woody and hadn’t been in Columbus since Woody’s funeral. At every performance he cried. He came up to me and hugged me and said, “Thanks for letting me have an evening with my friend again.” Players were in tears. They said you really nailed him. Also, Woody’s family was overwhelming in their response.
Funcoast: Do some people think it’s nothing more than a gooey evening of Ohio State Football love?
WA: It’s really not. People ask if it’s a play or a motivational speech or a lecture. And the answer is yes. It’s funny. These values he promotes are timeless and they’re maybe even more pertinent now.
Funcoast: Finally in the spirit of Woody, who stressed being on time was actually being late, should theatergoers get in their seats early at the upcoming show?
WA: We have some surprises. [Pause] You can be there on time but I would make darn sure I wasn’t late getting into my seat.
“Woody – His Life, Times and Teachings” takes place at 2 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Ave., Sandusky. Tickets are $15 to $35. For more information, call 419-626-1950 or visit www.sanduskystate.com.