Legendary lineman Orlando Pace stays busy post-football career with business, family

This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation's top high school athletes. We are digging into the archives and checking in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. Today, we catch up with 1993 American Family Insurance ALL-USA selection Orlando Pace of Sandusky, Ohio., who was an All-American offensive lineman at Ohio State and a five-time All-Pro offensive lineman in the NFL.

Orlando Pace chuckles at the question. Will an offensive lineman ever win the Heisman Trophy?

No offensive lineman has come close since Pace finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 1996.

"I think it will be tough," Pace says. "The way offensive linemen are playing now, they don't play the way I played. I was shocked that they even had me come to the (Heisman) ceremony."

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Few players were as dominant as Pace, a two-time unanimous First-Team All-American and the first player to repeat as a Lombardi Trophy winner. He was also the first player taken in the 1997 NFL draft, a seven-time Pro Bowler in 13 NFL seasons and won a Super Bowl with the 1999 St. Louis Rams.

On Dec. 10, Pace will be inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame. When today's high school players are ranked for their "pancake" blocks, they can thank Pace for making the statistic famous.

"It was one of those things that really wasn't a stat until Ohio State came up with it," say Pace, who played at 6-7 and 325 pounds. "Before that, it was just called a knockdown. During my Heisman campaign, they started keeping track of it. There aren't a whole lot of stats for offensive linemen."

Pace's numbers these days are kept on a balance sheet.

He is part owner of St. Louis radio station KFNS-AM and TITLE Boxing Club in the city. He also owns various rental properties in Ohio.

"I've always been pretty grounded," Pace says. "If you speak to my friends, they would call me tight. I'm a saver by nature. I never got caught up in spending money, getting a lot of flashy cars."

Another bottom line he watches is his weight, which the 39-year-old didn't disclose.

"It's an everyday battle," Pace says. "When you play, you can consume a lot of food. I try to make sure to work out. It's always been a constant battle. You have to be conscious of what you're eating and try to be healthier. It's a work in progress."

He's involved in various charities and until he retired in 2011, donated $10,000 a year in scholarship money to Sandusky High, where he played basketball and football. Pace credits his basketball background at Sandusky (he was a second-team all-state center) into making him a better lineman.

"When I realized I wouldn't be the next Michael Jordan, football worked out well for me," Pace says. "I think I got into basketball because I never got stats as an offensive lineman. In high school football, if you're bigger than everyone else, you can dominate them. Once you get to college or the pros, you see a lot of strong guys, but if you can't move, you can't play the game. I always tell guys, you have to work on your footwork. I  wasn't the strongest guy in the world, but I was a big guy who could move."

Growing up in Sandusky, Pace started to realize what his future could be because of two seemingly innocuous connections.

"My cousin, Keith Pace, was probably eight or nine years older than me," Pace says. "When he went to Bowling Green to play football, he got me thinking about going to college. Then, when I first walked onto my freshman football team, a coach told me, 'In four years, you can go to any school you want to go to.' It was just a statement he made, but it really stuck with me."

Pace remains close to the Rams' organization and announced their second-day selections at the NFL draft in New York in April. He's thought about getting into coaching, but for now his wife Carla and four young children, including three boys, are his priority.

"I've thought about getting into coaching, but not right now because of the stress and constant moving around. My two younger boys may be some big boys, so we'll see if they play football."

Follow Jim Halley on Twitter @jimhalley.