Mr. Cassady was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979. When he left Ohio State, he held school records for career rushing yards, all-purpose yards and scoring.
“In those days, if I had 100 yards in the first half I wouldn’t play in the second half,” he said in a 2001 interview with the Associated Press.
Mr. Cassady, whose No. 40 jersey was retired by Ohio State in 2001, was nicknamed “Hopalong” by local sportswriters in his first game as a freshman in 1952, when he scored three touchdowns in a 33-13 win over Indiana and “hopped all over the field like the performing cowboy.” It was a tribute to Hopalong Cassidy, a cowboy hero played by actor William Boyd, who posed with the football star for a memorable photo at the 1955 Rose Bowl.
The Columbus native was a four-year starter and letter winner and a two-time consensus all-American for the Buckeyes. He rushed for 2,466 yards and scored 37 touchdowns in his 36 games at Ohio State. During his four years under coach Woody Hayes, he averaged almost six yards a carry.
Mr. Cassady was a skinny, 155-pound freshman running back for Hayes, who was under fire for finishing in a tie for fifth in the Big Ten his first season.
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Mr. Cassady caught Hayes’s attention by consistently scoring on the varsity in practice. But it wasn’t until the Thursday before OSU’s opener against Indiana that Hayes told Mr. Cassady to get a uniform.
“That was a big deal because Mom and Dad got tickets if you dressed,” said Mr. Cassady, who picked the number 40 because the only other number left was 13.
In the middle of the third quarter with Indiana up 14-0, Hayes told his coaches to “put the redhead in,” and Mr. Cassady took his first punt return to Indiana’s 45-yard line. He went on to score three touchdowns as the Buckeyes won.
He caught 43 passes for 619 yards and four more touchdowns during his career. He also starred on kickoff and punt returns. It was said that as a defensive back he never had a pass completed over him in four years of Big Ten competition. He returned an interception 88 yards for a touchdown in a 1954 comeback victory over Wisconsin.
As a junior, Mr. Cassady rushed for 701 yards and eight touchdowns when the Buckeyes went 10-0 and won the national championship. He was third in the Heisman voting.
In his senior year, Mr. Cassady carried 161 times for 958 yards (5.9 per attempt) and ran for 14 touchdowns. He was named Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press and other organizations.
He was the third of Ohio State’s seven Heisman Trophy winners, at the time following Les Horvath (1944) and Vic Janowicz (1950). He also won the Maxwell Trophy, an award as prestigious as the Heisman at the time, as the country’s best college player.
Mr. Cassady squeezed in baseball at college for four seasons, starting for three years as shortstop. In 1955, when Ohio State won the Big Ten championship, Mr. Cassady had more home runs than his teammate Frank Howard, who went on to play 16 years in the majors.
After graduation, however, Cassady passed on the chance to play professional baseball.
“I could have signed for $10,000 with the Yankees, but I would have had to go through the minors,” he said. “As the No. 1 draft choice I could start right away playing football.”
The Detroit Lions offered him a signing bonus of $15,000 that matched his annual salary. He played seven seasons with the Lions and also played with the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring after the 1963 season.
Mr. Cassady ran a concrete pipe business, sold steel and later worked for Steinbrenner at American Shipbuilding in Tampa.
For almost 20 seasons, Mr. Cassady was a first base coach for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, the top farm club of the Yankees. He traced his friendship with Steinbrenner to the 1950s when Mr. Cassady received ROTC training at the former Lockbourne Air Force Base near Columbus, where Steinbrenner coached the baseball team.
Mr. Cassady’s son Craig was a three-time letter-winner as a defensive back at Ohio State and shares the school record for interceptions in a game with three.
Mr. Cassady’s marriage to Betty Gehring ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife, Barbara, and three sons.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mr. Cassady’s nickname was based on cowboy actor Hopalong Cassidy. Cassidy was a character portrayed in film and on television by actor William Boyd.