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The Daily



10-28-03: Parks remembers first Mr. Football

Standard Correspondent

MINSTER — Minster junior tailback Ty Parks finished this season with 2,897 career rushing yards, allowing him to break the old Minster career record of 2,804 yards set by Brian Wolf during his 1988-1991 career.
As tends to happen when records fall, Minster fans may think back to Wolf’s accomplishments and to the successful Wildcat teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
For Minster coach Whit Parks, Ty’s accomplishments bring out the pride of a parent. But they also bring back memories of a player he coached in the mid-1980s, a back who also gained large amounts of yardage and garnered statewide recognition.
In fact, this player received the ultimate in regards to statewide awards. In 1987, the first ever Ohio Mr. Football award was presented to Ronald (Buster) Howe, a Zanesville running back operating out of the single-wing offense under coach Parks.
Buster put up some phenomenal numbers during his senior season in 1987. He ran for 1,795 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per carry and scoring 34 touchdowns. He also passed for another 431 yards, kicked 38 extra points and three field goals, punted for an average of 40.9 yards per kick, and gathered in eight interceptions while playing the safety position on defense.
“He was a punter and he was a kickoff guy. He had great return yardage. He was an exceptional punter, averaging over 40 yards a punt. He kicked off the ball consistently into the endzone. As a safety, he was like a middle linebacker. He had several interceptions (15 for his career). The kid never left the field for us,” stated Parks. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been around a greater competitor. He was just exceptional. He didn’t want to ever come off the field.”
In 1984, Parks left Mount Vernon high school to take over a Zanesville program that had finished 1983 with a 2-8 record. In 1984, Buster’s freshman year, Zanesville improved to 6-4.
In 1985, Zanesville put together a 9-1 campaign, their only loss coming 20-16 to Canton McKinley. Buster was starting as a safety, but worked his way into the starting lineup in his sophomore season after the starting running back was forced to miss some games due to an illness.
“In 1985 Buster was a sophomore, and we had an All-Ohio tailback, Chris Gaiters, who went to the University of Minnesota where he was a wide receiver and All Big Ten punt returner”, elaborated Parks. “Chris came down with pneumonia about the seventh week of the season and got sick right before the game. Buster was thrown into the tailback slot that night and just ran wild. He had three touchdowns that first night against Columbus South, and four the next week against Portsmouth. We already knew he was going to be good, but when he just stepped in and did that, we knew he was really going to be something special for the next two years.”
In 1986, Zanesville had another solid season, this time finishing 7-3. By now, Buster was the starting tailback in the Zanesville I-formation offense, putting up some of the statistics that led to his career totals of 4,055 rushing yards and 54 touchdowns. Before Buster’s senior year, Parks switched Zanesville’s offense to the single wing. This proved to be a boon to Howe, as he racked up 1,795 yards and 34 touchdowns on his way to being voted Ohio’s first ever Mr. Football. The first time they ran the single wing offense to start the 1987 season against Columbus East, Buster scored seven touchdowns.
Parks remembered well when the decision to switch offenses was made.
“Buster was a great passer and runner. I played the single wing in high school, so I knew that he would fit there. We actually made the decision on the bus on the way home from playing Canton Timken at Fawcett Stadium. Buster was a junior and it was the next to the last game. He threw a halfback pass for a touchdown, a beautiful pass. We were graduating our quarterback that year, and as we were riding home on the bus it came to me that what we should do with Buster was make him a single wing tailback and let him do both (run and pass).”
Zanesville ended up 8-2 and won their conference during Buster’s senior year. The offensive line that year was small by division one standards, with only one player who weighed above 200 pounds.
“It was a good line that Buster made into a great line,” theorizes Parks. “Since he had the ability to make people miss, and he had great vision, you didn’t have to hold blocks very long because he was in the hole and gone. They made each other. They made him and he made them. It was a unique situation.
“That was a team that was just a bunch of tough, scrappy hard-nosed kids. Buster had the unique ability to make the people around him better,” continued Parks. “His play elevated everyone else’s play. They really grew to depend on him. I’ve never been around a player in 30 years of coaching who could take over a whole game like he could. That year he basically put the football team on his back. Those kids listened to him.”
Parks still recalls several stories from Howe’s award winning season at Zanesville. “I remember a night that we played at Fremont Ross. We were ranked #3 in the state and undefeated, and Ross was undefeated. There was a huge crowd, and Buster just ran wild, going over 200 yards and scoring four or five touchdowns. I remember the Fremont people, after the game, come across the field and line up at the gate from the field all the way to our locker room, patting him on the back. They were smart football fans, and they very much appreciated how good he was that night.”
“Then there was the time we played Lancaster. There were 8,000 people there. We were still undefeated, while they had lost one game. ESPN was there to do a piece for their show Scholastic Sports America. Buster went for 298 yards that night with four or five touchdowns. The better the competition, the bigger the game, the more he rose to the occasion.”
“Buster really got himself ready to play a game. You’d look at him in the locker room before the game, and there’d be beads of sweat on his forehead and on his face. All the coaches use to talk that when we saw that we were comfortable that he was ready to go.”
The awards rolled in after the season for Buster. He was named all-conference at four positions (running back, defensive back, punter and kicker). Besides being selected as Ohio’s Mr. Football, he was also a 1st Team Parade All-American. In the postseason North-South all-star game he made a big play that won that game with a blocked field goal that he turned into a touchdown.
Of course, the colleges came looking too.
“He was one of John Cooper’s first recruits at Ohio State,” added Parks. “We were the first high school that he came to recruit at. The day of John Cooper’s first team meeting, that night he was at our gym watching Buster play basketball (Buster was also a 1st team All-Ohio basketball player). About a month later Buster committed to Ohio State. He was offered a scholarship by Miami of Florida. Jimmy Johnson was after him. George Perles at Michigan State wanted him real bad. He had a lot of opportunities.”
Buster grew up without a father and lived with his grandmother. As such, he and Parks developed a personal as well as player-coach relationship.
“I always felt like I had to be a little bit more than just his football coach. I had a very close relationship with him. Even after that football season there were times that he spent over at the house, talking to me and having consultations about his future. He was like a part of our family.”
Howe still lives in Zanesville today.
“He just built a home, he’s really a good person. I really felt that Buster was talented enough that he could have played on Sunday. For whatever reason, things didn’t work out for him at Ohio State, and he came back home. Some people measure success by if you play in the NFL or play at Ohio State, but I think Buster is very successful. He is a good husband, a good father, and a happy man who takes care of his family and works hard.”
Parks summed up his remembrances of Buster Howe’s years as a high school football player.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been around a situation where a player’s teammates respected a guy and leaned on a guy, where one person led a football team as much as I have at that particular time. He was a coach’s dream. He’d do whatever was asked of him. He was a team guy. Despite all those awards and honors he was very humble. He was very popular in the community and among the students. Everybody respected him. He was a unique fellow.”


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