A native of Loudonville, Ron Zook first became known in area sports circles in 1971 when he was selected as the Ashland Times-Gazette Football Player of the Year based on his performance with the 1971 Loudonville High football team.
Local people knew about him before then. Back when he was in grade school and his brothers, Bob, a member of the Loudonville Junior High football team, Ron would accompany big brother to practice and show his athletic ability outshining some of the junior high players five and six years his senior.
As a member of the Redbird sports teams, Ron was awarded a total of eight varsity letters, three in football, one basketball letter and four track. Both his junior and senior year he was named to all-area and to all-conference for the old Johnny Appleseed Conference. Not just a high school jock, he was a member of the Loudonville Chapter of the National Honor Society, and was selected as one of his school’s delegates to the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State.
Folks in and around Loudonville, particularly his folks, Pete and Dot Zook, were mighty proud of Ron for his accomplishments, but those accomplishments and the community pride weren’t enough to land him a scholarship for college.
So Ron enrolled at Miami University in Oxford and tried out for the football team as a walk on – and didn’t receive recognition for his football abilities, and his biggest asset, the ability to perform far beyond his physical capabilities, until later in his collegiate career.
But once the folks at Miami began to understand his capabilities, the football team flourished. In 1973 his team had a perfect 11-0 record; in 1974, they were 10-0-1; and in 1975 they were 11-1-0, losing only to Michigan State by a missed extra point. He was also on the team which won three consecutive Mid-American Conference championships and made an unprecedented three consecutive Tangerine Bowl Appearance and victories, a 16-7 victory over Florida; 21-10 win over Georgia; and 20-7 win over South Carolina.
Ron was the starting Apache Back for the Redskins his junior and senior years at Miami, and was named to the first team all Mid-American Conference his senior year.
After Miami, Ron decided to pursue a career in coaching, and started at one of the best high school football programs in Ohio, under the near-legendary Coach Mo Tipton at Orrville High School. After two seasons, both of which saw the Red Raiders earn nearly perfect 9-0-1 records, he fulfilled a lifelong ambition of becoming a football coach at a major college.
His college coaching career began at Murray State University, where he coached as an assistant under Crestliner Mike Gottfried the football seasons of 1978, 1979, and 1980. He then moved to the University of Cincinnati, where he became Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach during 1980 and 1981 seasons, and with Gottfried on to the University of Kansas where he held the same positions in the 1982 and 1983 seasons.
In 1984 he went to work under a new head coach, Johnny Majors at the University of Tennessee, where he served as assistant coach of defensive backs for three seasons, 1984, 1985, 1986. In 1985 his Tennessee team was rated fourth in the Nation and upset the University of Miami Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl utilizing an aggressive, unique defense.
In 1987 he was named defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Virginia Tech, and the following year he joined the coaching staff at Ohio State University when John Cooper came as head coach to the Buckeyes. He is coaching the Buckeyes’ defensive backs with the title assistant coach.
Ron’s accomplishments speak for themselves. In one five year period, at Miami from 1973 through 1975 and at Orrville in 1976 and 1977, he was involved in one losing game, playing or coaching for teams with a record of 50-1-3.
From the “Cradle of Coaches” to Ohio State, Ron Zook has excelled – has moved from the MAC to the Big Eight to the Southeastern Conference to the Big Ten – and he is still moving up.
Nominator: Kenny Krupp