From Olympic gold medalists to NFL stars, from the gridiron to the basketball court, and from the racetrack to the skate park, Dayton's legacy is both diverse and inspiring. This March, we're highlighting the athletic prowess and sportsmanship that have roots in Dayton, showcasing 30 sports and athletic stars who have left an indelible mark on the world of sports.


1. Edwin Moses

Edwin C. Moses, whose name graces one of Dayton's most traversed streets, is not just a local landmark but also a towering figure in track and field. Growing up in West Dayton, Moses rose to global fame through his unmatched dominance in the 400m hurdles, maintaining an unbeaten streak for nearly ten years and setting a high bar in the sport.

Edwin C Moses

2. Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens, born in Dayton, Ohio, on August 4, 1962, is celebrated as one of the most formidable power pitchers in baseball history, aptly nicknamed "The Rocket" for his explosive pitching style. His unprecedented success on the mound is highlighted by being the first pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award seven times, cementing his legacy in the sport.

3. Jim Paxson

Born in Kettering, Ohio, in 1957, Jim Paxson carved out an impressive legacy in basketball, following in the footsteps of his father, Jim Paxson Sr., by excelling at the University of Dayton and earning All-America honors. His distinguished 11-year NBA career, highlighted by two All-Star selections and All-NBA Second Team honors in 1984, spanned successful tenures with the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics, further solidifying his place in basketball history.

4. A.J. Hawk

AJ Hawk, hailing from Centerville, Ohio, stands out as one of the most celebrated linebackers of his alma mater, finishing his collegiate career with an impressive tally of 394 total tackles, which ranks him fifth in school history. His exemplary performance on the field earned him the Lombardi Award in 2005 and saw him being drafted as the fifth overall pick by the Green Bay Packers, where he led the team in tackles five times over his nine-year tenure, culminating in a distinguished NFL career with 947 tackles across 158 games.

5. Tamika Williams Jeter

Tamika Williams-Jeter, stepping into her second season as head coach of the Dayton Flyers women's basketball team, has begun to leave her mark by assembling a team poised for growth, highlighted by her first postseason win, continuing a tradition of excellence that began in her high school days at Chaminade-Julienne. There, as the nation's top recruit and a two-time Ohio Player of the Year, Williams-Jeter laid the foundation for her storied basketball journey, which spans from an illustrious playing career at UConn, winning two national championships, to her tenure in coaching roles at major Division I programs and leading Wittenberg University to the NCAA Division III Tournament, underscoring her unparalleled impact on women's basketball both on and off the court.

6. Mike Schmidt

Mike Schmidt, born in Dayton, Ohio, emerged as one of the most accomplished third basemen in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, spending his illustrious career exclusively with the Philadelphia Phillies. Renowned for both his powerful offense, leading the National League in home runs eight times and securing 10 Gold Gloves for his defensive prowess, Schmidt's legacy includes three MVP titles, a World Series championship in 1980, and an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.

7. Kirk Herbstreit

Kirk Herbstreit stands as a defining voice in college football, earning widespread respect and five Sports Emmy Awards for Best Analyst through nearly three decades with ESPN, including his long-standing role on "College GameDay." Hailing from Centerville, Ohio, and a former quarterback for The Ohio State University, Herbstreit's deep football lineage and insightful analysis have made him the most decorated on-air commentator in ESPN history, reflecting his unparalleled commitment to the sport.

8. Ron Harper

Ron Harper, a standout at Miami University in Oxford, distinguished himself as the second all-time leading scorer in Mid-American Conference history and became the first Miami player to have his jersey retired, thanks to his remarkable collegiate achievement of over 2,377 points and 1,119 rebounds. Transitioning to a successful 15-year professional career, Harper earned five NBA Championship rings, playing key roles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, before moving into coaching with the Detroit Pistons. Dayton is the birthplace of this basketball star.

9. John Paxson

John Paxson, a Kettering, Ohio native, distinguished himself at Notre Dame with two All-America selections and was one of only four players in the school's history to receive Academic All-America honors more than once, contributing to NCAA tournament appearances in 1980 and 1981. Following his time at Notre Dame, Paxson was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1983, later joining the Chicago Bulls where he played a pivotal role in winning their third consecutive NBA Title in 1993 with a clutch 3-point shot, and eventually transitioned into a significant off-court role as Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Bulls.

10. Chris Borland

Chris Borland from Kettering, Ohio, to become a standout linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers after a distinguished collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned the 2014 Big Ten Conference Outstanding Sportsmanship Award and was named UW's Student-Athlete of the Year. Despite a promising rookie season in the NFL, with 108 tackles and two Pepsi Rookie of the Week awards, Borland decided to retire in 2015 due to concerns over head trauma, prioritizing his long-term health over his professional career.

11. Don 'Monk' Meineke

Don Meineke, a pivotal figure in elevating the University of Dayton's basketball program to national prominence during the early 1950s, left a lasting legacy as one of the school's all-time greats, with his scoring prowess still ranking him fifth in school history. Following a stellar collegiate career where he led the Flyers to consecutive NIT championship games and topped the nation in field goal percentage, Meineke transitioned to the NBA, where he was honored as the league's first Rookie of the Year in 1953, marking a distinguished professional career with teams including the Fort Wayne Pistons, Rochester, and Cincinnati.

12. Keith Byars

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Keith Byars emerged as Ohio State's offensive dynamo from 1982 to 1985, earning unanimous First Team All-America honors in 1984 and later being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as one of the most prolific players in the university's storied history. Following a distinguished collegiate career that saw him finish as the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1984, Byars went on to enjoy a successful 13-season stint in the NFL with teams including the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, ultimately earning Pro Bowl honors in 1993 and contributing to the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXI appearance, before transitioning to a career in broadcasting in his hometown of Dayton.

13. Nick Mangold

Nick Mangold distinguished himself early as a versatile athlete at Archbishop Alter High School, excelling in football, wrestling, and track & field, and earning All-Ohio honors in football before showcasing his talent as a three-year starter at Ohio State University. Selected 29th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, Mangold quickly established himself as a leading force in the league, becoming a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and the highest-paid center in the NFL with a landmark contract in 2010, underscoring his status as one of the game's premier players at his position.

14. Holley Mangold

Holley Mangold, originating from Dayton, Ohio, has led a diverse and remarkable athletic career, starting from her early training in gymnastics to becoming the first woman in Ohio history to play in a state-championship football game as an offensive lineman, before transitioning into a successful weightlifting career that showcased her at the national and international levels. Beyond her impressive athletic achievements, Mangold, who majored in theology, sociology, and philosophy in college, has also been featured on MTV's True Life series, demonstrating her multifaceted life and interests.

holley mangold

15. Dan Wilkinson (Big Daddy)

Daniel "Big Daddy" Wilkinson, from Dayton, Ohio, emerged as a formidable force on the football field, first making his mark as a standout defensive lineman at Dunbar High School and later at Ohio State, where he earned the reputation as one of the college's greatest defensive linemen over just two seasons. Drafted first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1994, Wilkinson's journey from a challenging upbringing as one of 11 children to achieving All-Big Ten honors and consensus All-America recognition exemplifies his extraordinary combination of size, strength, and speed that dominated college football.

16. Mike Nugent

From Centerville, OH, Mike Nugent has carved out a distinguished career as a placekicker in the NFL holding a record of breaking or tying 22 school records at Ohio State University, including the most points by any player. Throughout his NFL journey, which began with being drafted by the New York Jets in 2005, Nugent has demonstrated resilience and skill across multiple teams, culminating in significant achievements such as tying the NFL record for most field goals made in one half and a career-long 58-yard field goal during a playoff game, before joining the New England Patriots in 2019.

17. Shark Boy

Dean Roll, widely recognized under the ring name Shark Boy, from Dayton, OH, has made significant waves in the professional wrestling world since his debut in 1997, notably during his tenure in TNA and through capturing multiple championships across various promotions. Notably, Shark Boy's unique persona led to a legal dispute with Miramax Films over the use of his trademarked name in relation to the film "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl," a battle that concluded with an undisclosed settlement, underscoring his impact both inside and outside the ring.

18. Ohio George Montgomery

Ohio George Montgomery, a Dayton native, transitioned from working on tractors at his uncle's Ford dealership to becoming the "King of the Gassers," dominating the NHRA with eight national titles between 1959 and 1968, primarily in his iconic supercharged Chevy-powered ‘33 Willys. His remarkable career, highlighted by four U.S. Nationals victories and a successful sponsorship with Ford, led to his induction into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 1992 and earning the NHRA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, with his "George's Speed Shop" in Dayton standing as a testament to his enduring legacy in drag racing.

19. David "Salt" Walther

David "Salt" Walther, a Dayton, Ohio native, was a versatile competitor known for his participation in both car racing, including USAC, CART Championship Car, and NASCAR series, and hydroplane boat racing, showcasing a family legacy in motorsports. Despite a career punctuated by significant achievements, including making 64 Champ Car starts and competing in seven Indianapolis 500 races, Walther's racing journey is often remembered for his miraculous survival from a dramatic and fiery accident at the 1973 Indianapolis 500, an event that marked a turning point in his life.

20. Lou Partlow

Louis Jerald Partlow, known for his extraordinary career as a running back with the Dayton Triangles, made history by scoring the first official touchdown in the National Football League on October 3, 1920, against the Columbus Panhandles, earning him the nickname "The Battering Ram" for his unique training method of running through forests to improve his agility and strength. Originating from Miamisburg, Ohio, Partlow's contribution to professional football, highlighted by his powerful running style and significant achievement in the early days of the NFL, remains a celebrated part of the sport's history until his retirement in 1927.

21. Gretchen Bleiler

Gretchen Bleiler, who began her snowboarding journey at age 11 and turned professional by 15, attended Harman Elementary in Oakwood, a chapter in her life that predated her ascension to becoming a snowboarding icon, marked by a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics and victories in prestigious competitions like the Winter X Games. Beyond her competitive triumphs, Bleiler distinguished herself as a pioneer in sustainable fashion within the sports industry, becoming the first athlete to collaborate with Oakley on a signature collection focused on eco-friendly practices, utilizing recycled and recyclable materials, thereby setting a precedent for the brand's development of sustainable products.

22. Don Donoher

Don Donoher, a former varsity player under Coach Tom Blackburn at the University of Dayton, seamlessly transitioned into the role of head coach for the Dayton Flyers, dedicating 25 years to the program with a commendable record of 437-275. Under his leadership, the Flyers not only secured eight NCAA tournament berths and seven NIT appearances but also reached the pinnacle of college basketball by competing in the NCAA championship game in 1967, a testament to Donoher's coaching acumen and the legacy he built at Dayton.

23. Rob Dyrdek

Rob Dyrdek, from Kettering, Ohio, has built a multifaceted career as a producer, actor, writer, entrepreneur, reality TV star, and professional skateboarder, showcasing his diverse talents and entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, starting his professional skateboarding career at 16 and creating his first company by 18. Beyond his success in skateboarding, including founding Street League Skateboarding (SLS), Dyrdek has significantly contributed to the skateboarding community through the Rob Dyrdek Foundation, established in 2003, which focuses on building legal skate parks in underprivileged neighborhoods, illustrating his commitment to giving back and fostering the next generation of skateboarders.

24. Tonja Buford-Bailey

Tonja Buford-Bailey, a three-time Olympian and bronze medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the intermediate hurdles, established a remarkable track record from her high school days at Trotwood-Madison and Meadowdale, to setting state records and winning titles at the University of Illinois, culminating in her being honored as a member of the inaugural class of the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017. Transitioning from an illustrious athletic career to coaching, Buford-Bailey has excelled as a mentor, leading programs at the University of Illinois and the University of Texas, where her impact has been recognized through multiple coaching awards, including National Women’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year in 2016, highlighting her significant contributions to the sport both on and off the track.

25. Norris Cole

Norris Cole II, a standout from Dayton, Ohio, has consistently been a key figure on winning teams throughout his basketball career, from leading Dayton Dunbar High School to state titles alongside Daequan Cook to making significant impacts at Cleveland State and in the NBA with the Miami Heat, where he secured back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. Cole's journey from high school champion to Cleveland State star, where he became the first player in Horizon League history to be named both Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, to a valued contributor in the NBA and beyond, culminates in his enshrinement in the Cleveland State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2023, reflecting his enduring legacy in the sport.

26. Joe Greene

Known as "Jumpin' Joe Greene," born at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Greene etched his name in Olympic history with consecutive bronze medals in the long jump at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, representing the United States with distinction. A standout athlete at The Ohio State University, where he claimed the NCAA Championship in the long jump in 1989 and excelled as an eight-time Big 10 Champion, Greene's post-competitive career transitioned into coaching, sharing his expertise with jumpers at Ohio State and continuing his legacy in the sport.

27. Sam Hall

Sam Hall, born in Dayton, Ohio, distinguished himself as an exceptional athlete, capturing the NCAA 3m springboard championship in 1959 and 1960, alongside securing a silver medal in the 1959 Pan American Games, before earning a silver medal for the United States in diving at the Olympics. Beyond his athletic achievements, Hall's adventurous spirit led him from competing in track and field for the Air Force, to serving in the Ohio State House of Representatives, engaging in mercenary activities for the Nicaraguan Contras, and eventually into the real estate business in Florida, all while maintaining his passion for philanthropy and animal rescue across four continents.

28. Lucinda Adams

Lucinda Williams Adams emerged as a world-class sprinter in the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in a gold medal victory in the 4x100-meter relay at the 1960 Rome Olympics, showcasing her exceptional talent and earning her the nickname "Lady Dancer" for her graceful running style. Following her Olympic success, Adams dedicated herself to education and mentorship, earning a master's degree in physical education and inspiring future generations as a high school teacher in the Dayton Public Schools system, leveraging her storied athletic career to promote perseverance and excellence in sports among young African-American women.

29. Chris Wright

Chris Wright, a standout at Trotwood-Madison High School before joining the University of Dayton, left a lasting legacy as the "greatest above-the-rim player" in Flyers history, setting school records for dunks and blocked shots, and becoming the first Dayton Flyer to be named to the all-Atlantic 10 team three times. After a professional career that included 32 NBA appearances over two seasons, Wright announced his retirement in 2022 and has since transitioned into the role of owner of the Flyght Academy in Trotwood, a facility dedicated to nurturing the next generation of athletes through tournaments, training, and various sports programs.

Chris Wright- Flyght Academy

30. Pete Brown

Pete Brown, who significantly broke barriers in the world of golf as the first African American to win a PGA Tour event, not only began his illustrious career caddying at Jackson Municipal Golf Course but also overcame significant health challenges, including a year-long battle with polio. His groundbreaking achievements in the sport, following his receipt of a PGA Tour Card in 1963, were further complemented by his impactful post-playing career in Dayton, Ohio, where he served as the head golf pro at Madden Golf Course from 1981 to 2004, contributing to the local golf community before his induction into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame in 1986.


As we celebrate the athletic prowess and remarkable contributions of these 30 individuals tied to Dayton, Ohio, it's clear that their legacies extend far beyond their achievements in sports. Each story is a testament to the resilience, determination, and spirit that define the Dayton community. Their diverse paths—from the football fields and basketball courts to the Olympic stages and PGA tours—reflect not only their personal dedication but also their commitment to giving back, inspiring future generations, and making a difference both locally and globally. Dayton's rich athletic heritage, embodied by these remarkable individuals, continues to inspire pride and a sense of community, proving that the city's impact on the world of sports is both profound and enduring.