Preview: Woody: His Life, Times and Teachings

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In 1982, when a portion of Woodruff Avenue was renamed Woody Hayes Drive, Ohio State University adjunct professor Walter Adamkosky asked his students what they knew about the legendary coach.

He found that his students remembered only one thing about the face of Buckeye football between 1951 and 1978: Hayes was the guy who hit that kid.

That much was true. Hayes had been fired four years earlier for hitting a player during a Gator Bowl loss to the Clemson Tigers.

Yet, to Adamkosky, Wayne Woodrow Hayes wasn’t simply a sore loser. He was a champion. He molded athletes into men and men into winners. He was ferocious, tenacious and feared, yet dedicated, savvy and beloved.

Adamkosky wanted to keep his legend alive.

Now, resurrecting drafts written decades ago, he will.

His intimate portrait of the coach, “Woody: His Life, Times and Teachings,” debuts at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the Ohio Theatre.

“You don’t have to care about football,” said Adamkosky, who wrote, directed and produced the show. “Woody was about developing young men. He was a teacher, first and foremost. His medium was football.”

To compile the script, Adamkosky interviewed former Buckeye players like John Hicks and Archie Griffin, as well as coaches, friends and relatives that Hayes affected over the years. To portray a man of such complexity, he watched the TV shows Hayes hosted and the games he coached. He researched the coach and what a thousand people thought of him.

What will transpire on stage will be equal parts dramatic play, motivational speech, halftime pep talk and life-coaching session, Adamkosky said.

“Everyone had a different perspective on Woody,” he added. “You get this well-rounded portrait of the guy.”

Adamkosky also found the perfect actor to carry out his homage. Jeff Hall is a veteran of stage and screen who looks so much like Hayes that it’s difficult to distinguish publicity photos from historical shots.

As he worked to revive a legend, Hall also developed a fascination for the former field general.

“I’m playing an icon, so I can immerse myself in someone whom I respect and love,” Hall said. “To play him, you really have to get the essence of the man — not just look like him.”

Ohio Theatre

Friday-Sunday, Sept. 23-25

39 E. State St., Downtown