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Umberger receives Ohio State's highest honor with Hall of Fame choice

Former Blue Jacket enshrined among a highly decorated class of Buckeyes

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

There are a couple of ways to think about the notable impact RJ Umberger made on the Ohio State hockey program, as evidenced by his induction this fall into the university's athletics hall of fame.  

Umberger is just the seventh men's hockey alum to be inducted into the hall in more than 50 years of hockey, meaning he's one of the true titans of the program's history. 

And when the former Blue Jackets standout was inducted last weekend, he went in with a decorated class of athletes that show just how impressive one has to be to make it. 

There were national championship football players and longtime NFLers A.J. Hawk and Mike Nugent. There were basketball coaches Thad Matta and Jim Foster, who helped the OSU men's and women's programs to some of their highest heights. And in Umberger's same sport, there was Natalie Spooner, who won a gold medal in 2014 as a member of Canada's Olympic hockey team. 

That's a lot of history, and Umberger knew it. 

"To be honest, it's still hard to fully wrap my head around being one of the newest members of the Hall of Fame at one of the top athletics schools in the country," Umberger said at the induction ceremony last weekend. "When you consider the prestigious names of some of the past inductees, it makes it even more touching and more surreal." 

Tweet from @OhioStateMHKY: 🤩 RJ Umberger. Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2019! #GoBucks #ProBucks #CBJ pic.twitter.com/OaiHcBmtSb

Yet it's clear it was a much deserved honor for Umberger. The Pittsburgh native spent three years (2001-03) at Ohio State, earning second-team All-America honors as a junior and finishing his career with 58 goals and 71 assists for 129 points in 112 games. His 1.15 points per game is second among all Buckeyes to play at least 50 games since 1990, and he remains the highest-ever NHL draft pick in program history. 

He also helped usher in one of the most successful eras in program history. As a junior in 2002-03, Umberger posted a 26-27-53 line in 43 games to push the program to just its third-ever NCAA tournament berth. Riding that tide of momentum, the Buckeyes would go on to make the tournament in 2004 and 2005 while winning the Central Collegiate Hockey Association in '04.  

It's a run of success that hadn't been matched until the past three seasons, when OSU made the NCAA tournament each year and advanced to the Frozen Four in 2018. 

"The challenge (of building the program) was something that was important to me and something I wanted to take on," Umberger said. "It's a big part of why I wanted to come here. As an alum, I can honestly say I'm extremely proud of the achievements and where the program is currently headed under (head coach Steve) Rohlik and the staff." 

Of course, his Columbus bona fides don't stop there. After starting his NHL career with Philadelphia, he was traded to the Blue Jackets in the summer of 2008 and spent the next six seasons with the team, posting a 120-130-250 line in 445 games in Columbus. A hard-nosed forward with skill, Umberger had at least 20 goals each of his first four seasons with the Jackets and was on the first two playoff teams in Blue Jackets history. He remains fourth all-time in CBJ annals in goals, fifth in points and eighth in assists. 

There are few who have done as much for Columbus hockey as Umberger. Fittingly, the OSU Hall of Fame induction is just one way to recognize that.  

"This is one extremely special day for myself and my family," he said on induction day. "I feel very, very privileged to be here." 

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