First was C.J. Barnett, a starter who had his season come to a quick end with a knee injury suffered in the game against Miami (Fla.). Then came a pectoral muscle injury suffered by star Tyler Moeller in the fifth week of the season at Illinois. Two weeks after that, Moeller's replacement, freshman Christian Bryant, went out with a foot injury and last week Corey Brown suffered a knee injury that will not only keep him off the field for the rest of the 2010 season, but will also sideline him through next spring.
Aaron Gant can relate. The fifth-year senior has seen more than his fare share of injuries. In a twist of fate, now it is Gant who is benefitting from injury news. Gant is healthy, and with several of his teammates now sidelined, he is getting a chance to start in his final go-around as a Buckeye. Last week Gant started at strong safety against Purdue and recorded six tackles – second most on the team – in the 49-0 blowout victory over the Boilermakers.
"I think I played pretty well," he said. "I can always play better, slow the game a little bit more. But for the most part it went well. The leg held up and I felt pretty good."
The fact that Gant is even suited up this season is remarkable on its own. Gant redshirted last season with what was described by Ohio State as left knee inflammation. The 21-year-old is dealing with arthritis in that knee after undergoing two surgeries during his time in Columbus.
Injuries have been an unfortunate constant for Gant since he arrived at Ohio State as a two-star prospect as rated by Scout.com. He made one start as a true freshman in 2006 and cracked the two-deep at safety but injuries have relegated him to special teams duty. Gant took a redshirt in 2009 after undergoing surgery to clean up loose cartilage that was building up in the knee as a result of a surgery he underwent the previous year to repair a torn meniscus.
Gant admitted he sometimes thought he'd never make it back on the field.
"I kind of thought about it a few times, but as the summer progressed and I felt myself getting better and my knee feeling well," Gant said. "I figured I'd stay around and play."
Gant started the season as a backup to starters Barnett and Jermale Hines and worked on special teams, which is something he done for several seasons and is something he continues to do. He will juggle those duties while remaining as the starting strong safety for the foreseeable future.
"I took it as a blessing," Gant said getting to start on defense. "Hard work does pay off. It was fun to be out there with the seniors. It's our last year, and to pitch a shutout (last week) was a good feeling."
His work just to make it back on the field did not go unnoticed by his teammates, including Chimdi Chekwa. The senior cornerback said all of Gant's hard work has shown what time of character he has.
"He's had different problems with his knees, and I used to tell him, ‘Any day. Just be ready to play,' " Chekwa said. "That's what he did. He doesn't complain. He just continues to work. … Now he's on the field and doing a good job."
The tables have also turned for Gant. Now he is getting to play while those who were ahead of him on the depth chart deal with serious injuries. In addition to finally getting on the field and making a bigger contribution than he has before, Gant is working behind the scenes to give the injured members of the secondary advice as they work – much like he did – to make his way back to full health.
"Just keep pushing forward. Rehab strong," Gant said of what he tells his teammates. "There'll be a better day. With injuries, no one really likes them. Keep thinking positive. It's only a brief moment of your time here, so keep pushing forward and you'll be alright."