Woody Hayes’ punch landed Clemson a star LT

Hey, folks, remember longtime Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes? You know, the man who spent 28 years with the program and won five national championships before one unfortunate incident ended his career in 1978?

That, of course, would be when Hayes punched Clemson nose guard Charlie Baumann on the sidelines after Baumann intercepted a pass in Clemson’s 17-15 win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, and Hayes was fired the next day. It just so happens that upon his firing, Hayes took his recruiting files with him and, according to a recent story by ESPN, it meant that recruit Dan Benish’s ticket to Columbus was never purchased by the university.

Benish went to Clemson as a result and as we fast forward to today his nephew, Mitch Hyatt, is the Tigers’ starting left tackle and primary protector of star quarterback Deshaun Watson’s blind side.

Benish described his visit to Clemson in further detail.

“I was only going to Clemson to check it out,” Benish said. “I came from a small town in northeast Ohio. It was a farming town, but it was only three or four miles from the steel mills and railroad. When I got to Clemson, I saw the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They took us to [Lake Hartwell], and everything was green. I’d never seen anything like it.”

Benish later won a national championship with the Tigers and spent five seasons in the NFL, and then began coaching his nephew after young Mitch was told by another coach that he wasn’t “tough enough” to play football. Thus, after Hyatt grew to be 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, choosing Clemson was easy.

“I’ve been a Clemson fan my whole life,” Hyatt said. “I grew up around the school, and it was definitely my dream school. Just having an opportunity to play here was a big deal.”

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney feels very much the same way, talking about Hyatt.

“Sometimes you just get lucky,” Swinney said. “It just so happens that Mitch grew up coming to Clemson games his whole life. It was no guarantee he was coming here. We still had to recruit our butts off. We’re really fortunate it went our way. The timing was right because he knew he had a chance to play early.”

Swinney will need Hyatt to be at the top of his game on New Year’s Eve when No. 1 Clemson takes on No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports

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