The Ohio State Buckeyes Football Helmet Stickers Explained

Ohio State Buckeyes Helmet Stickers

What do the Ohio State Buckeyes Football Helmet Stickers Mean?

The 1968 Ohio State national championship team is regarded as one of the best college football teams of all time. The team's roster featured 11 All-Americans and six NFL first-round draft picks. But fiery head coach Woody Hayes wasn't willing to let the team rest on its laurels.

"Woody was always trying to get that extra motivational edge", according to Rex Kern, the team's starting quarterback. Hayes was persuaded to commemorate big plays with buckeye stickers by former head athletic trainer Ernie Biggs. "Woody wasn't really huge on heaping praise on guys", said Larry Romanoff, who retired after 43 years in various roles with Ohio State. "I don't know how long it took Ernie and the guys to convince Woody to do that".

Designed in 1950 by comic artist Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), the Buckeye Leaf stickers were placed on Ohio State football helmets starting in 1968 as a reward system for big plays on the field. The Ohio State stickers represent the leaves of the buckeye, a species of tree native to North America.
"Three stickers would fill the whole side of your helmet, that's how big they were", said Jim Nein, Woody Hayes-era defensive back. "They were tennis ball-sized stickers." Though widely debated, Ohio State is believed to be the first football team to utilize the helmet sticker.

Not much is publicly known about Earle Bruce or John Cooper’s specific Buckeye Leaf criteria, but changes were made to the helmet stickers in 2001 under head coach, Jim Tressel. Tressell identified 54 separate criteria for earning a sticker. Most of these criteria applied to an entire unit achieving a pre-set goal, i.e., offense, defense, special teams, kickoff and punt teams, receiving teams and field goal and extra point offensive and defensive units. These stickers were considerably smaller and the criteria favored team achievement over individual play. At their current size, approximately 45 stickers can fit on each side of the helmet.

The first buckeye sticker is placed at the bottom of the helmet, left of the middle stripe. They are added in a pyramid formation, with stems pointed down and slanted slightly forward to match the contours of the helmet. Equipment managers take special care to avoid completely covering flex points and vents with decals.
Buckeye helmet stickers have now become such an item that you can order them online!

Photo credit: Mackenzie Shanklin, The Lantern.

For more information on Ohio State football, visit our Ohio State Football History page.