Flashback: Sabino The Youngster Picks OSU

This fall, Etienne Sabino figures to own a starting linebacker spot at Ohio State. When he committed to the Buckeyes, however, he was simply a young face long on potential but short on experience. Buckeye Sports Bulletin has more with this recruiting flashback.

Note: The full version of this article was published in the Nov. 24, 2007 edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin. What follows is an excerpt.

On Nov. 8, 2007, Etienne Sabino became the 14th member of Ohio State's class of 2008. Five days later, he celebrated his 17th birthday.

After moving to Florida from New York following his seventh grade season, Sabino was coerced into giving football a try.

"I came from New York, and in New York we didn't play much football," he told BSB. "We mostly played basketball and baseball and stuff like that. Once I got down here in Florida, football is pretty big. All the kids were playing football and one day they asked me to play. I went out there and I didn't know any of the rules or anything and I just went out and intercepted the ball on defense. That's where it started."

As a freshman at Miami Beach, it took Sabino until the second game of the season to earn a starting role under head coach Rick DiVita. Perhaps the person most surprised about the situation was Sabino himself.

"That was kind of a shocker to me," he said. "I was going in, I would hear about the high school games when I was in eighth grade. I was going in thinking I was going to be on JV and not get to play in those big Friday night lights games because I was younger. It just so happens that I got out there and straight from the summer I never even practiced with the JV. I was always on varsity."

Sabino would end up transferring to Krop when his mother moved for his junior season, where he was reunited with Coach DiVita.

That season also happened to be when Sabino began to receive serious interest from colleges across the country. The spring after his junior season, Sabino took a trip to Columbus that would eventually pay major dividends for the Buckeyes.

While taking part in a camp at OSU, Sabino walked away with top linebacker honors for all the campers in his class.

At that point, the 6-3, 230-pound Sabino said he realized he had talent.

"Everybody was telling me that I had the opportunity to go big," he said. "After I did that I was kind of like, ‘OK, well maybe it is true.' There were a few hundred kids there. I just happened to be one of the ones that they recognized."

From that point on, the Buckeyes would remain a fixture in Sabino's top five. Schools such as USC, Florida, Georgia Tech and Miami (Fla.) all began to enter the picture.

In the end, though, the final decision came down to either OSU or USC – and as late as two weeks prior to his announcement Sabino said he was split evenly between the two schools.

But after taking an official visit to Columbus to see the Buckeyes host Michigan State on Oct. 20, the same feelings he had when he camped at OSU the previous spring started to resurface.

"Ohio State was the first college campus or anything that I had ever seen," he said. "When I first started and I came back from camp, I was high on Ohio State. I really liked it, so I always liked the school. Then the recruiting process went on and I saw other schools so I kind of, it's not that I didn't like them anymore, but I guess you could say I was shying away from them a little bit.

"Then I decided to take Ohio State as my last official trip, and when I went back there I realized I still felt the same way I felt at Ohio State the first time I was there when I was up at camp. I was so amazed by it, and after seeing all those other schools I felt like that was a very good sign."

Sabino spent some time talking things over with his family, and while he did so his teammate, Travis Howard, committed to the Buckeyes. The two had taken their official visits together, and Howard had publicly stated that he wanted to bring Sabino along with him to Columbus.

"I really wasn't too sure myself (what he would pick) because he was really quiet about which school he was going to go to," Howard said. "I had a feeling like it was half he was going to go to Ohio State and half USC. I just prayed that he would make the right decision and hopefully he would come to Ohio State and that's what he did."

Sabino announced for the Buckeyes live on ESPNU on Nov. 8. While he is glad he will get to continue his career with a high school teammate, that was not one of the deciding factors for his decision, he said.

"His commitment, it really didn't have anything to do with me," Sabino said. "That's what he thought was best for himself. I committed there because I felt that was the best fit for me as well. The fact that we're going to be playing together in college is just a plus."

Scout ranks him as the No. 4 middle linebacker prospect in the country. Not surprisingly, he said he likes one thing best on the field: hitting.

"I always liked to hit," he said. "That was the biggest thing. I always wanted to be a big hitter. That's just always where I wanted to play. "I think I have a nose for the ball. I think I can find the ball, I wouldn't say with ease, but I have a desire to get to the ball."

One of Sabino's coaches is Sonny Spielman, father of OSU linebacker Chris. Despite his ties to the program, both Sabino and DiVita said he did not push either Howard or Sabino to Columbus.

"He didn't influence or talk to them any way about where to go or what to do," DiVita said. "He just told them, ‘When you go wherever you visit, you'll know if it's right for you or not.' Both of them just felt that Columbus was right for them."

However, Sabino said he did have one piece of advice about OSU football.

"The one thing he did tell me about Ohio State football was make sure you see the band," he said. "That's the only thing that he ever told me about Ohio State football."

As with most members of OSU's class of 2008, Sabino has been in contact with Orlando Edgewater offensive lineman Michael Brewster, another verbal commitment who has actively helped recruit other players to come to OSU.

"Brewster has been texting me ever since he committed to Ohio State," Sabino said. "Last year we met up at Florida at a junior day this past spring. Ever since then we've just kept in touch. He would talk up Ohio State from time to time but he wasn't pounding them. He would send me messages like, ‘We could use you at Ohio State."

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