Garcia Lane was one of the great Ohio State Buckeyes of his time.
Lane was a three-year starter from 1981-83 in the Buckeye secondary, a captain in his senior year and he is still regarded as one of the most prolific punt returners to ever perform in Ohio Stadium.
Growing up in Youngstown, Lane was the first great high school player that I not only had the chance to see play in person, but he was also the first one that I can remember being on the opposite sideline with during a high school game.
Lane was a stellar quarterback and defensive back for the mighty South Warriors and I, two years his junior, played for Woodrow Wilson, the other school on the south side of Youngstown.
This past Saturday, I had the chance to formally meet Lane and see him speak, informally, to a group of impressionable young boys, members of a long-standing youth football team by the name of the Braves, a team in Youngstown that Lane once played for so many years ago.
From the sounds of it, Lane is now living an unassuming life as a father and a former Buckeye.
“I drive trucks for a living,” said Lane when I spoke with him before he left the camp. “I live in Columbus and I, pretty much, just enjoy watching my kids play football.”
Lane was a 1980 graduate of South High School before going on to having a very successful career as a Buckeye.
After he left Ohio State, Lane played with the Baltimore Stars for two years in the USFL before he became a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. And after playing two years in the NFL, Lane finished his professional career in the Canadian Football League for two years with the Calgary Stampeders.
“In my senior year, my last game was the Fiesta Bowl,” Lane said. “We beat the University of Pittsburgh (28-23). Keith Byars ran for a touchdown on a kickoff and we beat them in the ‘84 Fiesta Bowl. I left there and I flew to Japan and played in the Japan Bowl. And then I left Japan and went straight to the USFL.”
Playing professional football was one of his proudest accomplishments.
“Just making it to the NFL (was),” said Lane who was never heavier than 185 pounds during his entire professional career. “It’s something that all kids might think of, like playing at Ohio State, but I made it. And you can’t ever take that away.”
And the fact that his oldest Shaun, who was named after his good friend in the Buckeye secondary - Shaun Gayle, is now at Ohio State is something just as special.
Two generations of Buckeyes, Shaun and Garcia Lane.
“Ohio State is really special for several reasons,” Lane said. “Having Shaun there now is just a plus in my life. He’s getting to experience everything the same way that I did. Your college years are some the best times of your life and only when they’re gone and you look back, you realize how much they meant. And he’s living it now.”
Shaun came to Ohio State after a brilliant prep career of his own at Hubbard High School just outside of Youngstown. For me, watching him play in high school almost instantly evoked images of his father on the gridiron. And with Shaun being a Buckeye now, it only reminds some Ohio State fans of the kind of player that his father was a generation ago.
“I appreciate people remembering me,” Lane said. “As old as it’s been, it’s almost 25 years now, if you say my name you might have a few people say ‘I remember him.’ ”
The elder Lane started at safety in his sophomore year before moving to cornerback where he eventually became an All-Big Ten selection in his senior campaign. Surprisingly Lane weighed in at 155 pounds in his sophomore season and finished his Buckeye career weighing just 175 pounds.
But pound for pound, Lane was known to pack quite a wallop if he ran into you in the secondary.
“I got that from the Braves,” said Lane with a laugh and a smile. “That came from right here in Youngstown from my days with the Braves.”
But his career at Ohio State was more than just big hits and punt returns for Lane.
“It was a learning experience in life for me just like it is for Shaun,” he said. “You go through it, you can only do it once, and you have to make the best of it.”
And some of the memories as well as the friendships that he made while he was at Ohio State are everlasting.
“Yeah the friendships are really special,” Lane said. “I still have a lot of friends that I played with and roomed with and friends that were opponents too.”
Brian Marrow, for instance, who played with Lane at South High School as well as with the Braves, was a captain for Wisconsin.
“Me and him were captains the same year as seniors and we were shaking hands for the coin toss. There’s a lot of great memories there,” Lane said. “He was a captain and I was a captain and we went out for the coin toss together. And actually (Bob) Stoops came out, he was our coach (at South), and took a picture of us together in the middle of the field.”
But his fondest memory of all on the field obviously came against Purdue in his senior year.
“My two punt returns against Purdue,” Lane said. “I ran two back in the third quarter and it helped us win the game also.”
But as much as anything, Lane cherishes the fact that he was a captain.
“The players pick the captains and I never seen it coming,” he said. “And I was honored, which I still am to this day, and I wear it with honor. I go every year to the captains banquet and I sit with my son, the whole team is there when you do that. You meet the new captains and it’s a thrill to see their faces glowing and lighting up. It’s very special.”
As far as his son’s playing career at Ohio State is concerned, Lane is more than content with watching how things play out from this point. Shaun is fully recovered from off-season knee surgery and he is expected to compete for playing time in the secondary in his redshirt sophomore season.
“He’s a hard worker and he knows what it takes,” Lane said of his son. “I know Shaun and he’s going to do what he has to do. He’ll be out there.”
I know that I’ll be rooting for him. It would be great to see a jersey with the Lane name on the back making big plays in Ohio Stadium once again.