Herron's Horseshoe Return An Emotional One

For the first time in almost a calendar year, Dan "Boom" Herron played in Ohio Stadium, and it's fair to say the comeback was a memorable one. Herron was named a captain for Ohio State before running for 160 yards in the Buckeyes' thrilling 33-29 victory against Wisconsin on Saturday night.

The enormity of what was about to happen finally hit home for Dan Herron just as the Ohio State marching band struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner" Saturday night.

The Ohio State running back had already warmed up in Ohio Stadium and taken the field with his teammates when the national anthem started to play. Moments later, Herron would be going to the center of the field in his role as an OSU captain, and after that, he'd be playing football in the Horseshoe for the first time in almost a calendar year.

So as Old Glory went up into the darkened sky on the banks of the Olentangy, television cameras focused on Herron caught up in the emotion of the moment.

"Just kind of just being at home, playing at home, being back in the Ohio State stadium, and just being around the fans and just being there with my teammates," Herron said about what overwhelmed him at the moment. "I was just happy to be back out there and have the opportunity to play back out there, play out there with my teammates."

Those teammates couldn't help but notice. Sophomore wideout Corey Brown was next to Herron at the time and felt the magnitude of what was about to happen.

"I kind of felt for him," Brown said. "It's his first game back in Ohio Stadium. He probably didn't know how people were going to accept him, but when he got that first carry, they went back to doing that ‘Boom' chant."

Indeed, that intonation from the fans – which sounds like booing to the uneducated ear – would become a common occurrence as Herron fought for the tough yards against the No. 12 Wisconsin defense all night.

"It kind of gives you a spark," Herron said of hearing his name chanted by the crowd. "It's always good to have your fans behind you, supportive of you, and I was just happy to be back, just being out there with my teammates making some plays."

In the process, everything that happened in the meantime – a season-opening five-game suspension for being part of the "Tat Five" scandal, a second suspension that cost him the Nebraska game and three losses for the team in the first six games without Herron – seemed to melt away.

When it was all said and done, the fans were left to applaud a monster evening by Herron. The senior – who was playing his second game of the season after topping 100 yards at Illinois – finished the day with 33 carries for 160 yards, and though his 13-game scoring streak came to a close Herron averaged 4.8 yards per carry and was the engine of the offense.

While those numbers were certainly very good, Herron himself said he left some yards on the field. Whether that was because of the nerves of the moment or anything Wisconsin did is unclear, but he didn't seem to hit his stride until breaking a 57-yard run on the very first play of the second half that put the OSU attack in gear.

"Just being a little more patient, setting up blocks a little better to help guys out to block people, just little runs," he said when talking of how he could improve. "I'm hard on myself. I try to be the best out there. I try to make myself better."

The acknowledgment of his efforts by the crowd had to be nice after the public scrutiny the Warren, Ohio, native fell under during the midst of his suspensions. Herron admitted that he had heard from plenty of people during his trials and tribulations who had made negative comments about his situation.

Suffice it to say, they were different from the celebratory cries heard in Ohio Stadium on Saturday night.

"I knew people would have their opinions about certain things, but it wasn't anything that really bothered me," he said. "I just stayed positive about everything.

"You get a lot of people who were definitely behind me when I was suspended, but everything is pretty good now."

Those who were always in his corner included members of the Ohio State football team. While Herron's actions were being discussed on the outside, he was continuing to mature into one of the clear leaders of the team both on the field and in the locker room.

"Boom is like that ‘it' factor," Brown said. "He's always highly energetic. He plays 100 percent every play. Boom is 100 percent at practice, 100 percent during games and he's making sure we're practicing hard and giving 100 percent just like he is."

His return has been an on-field spark, as the Buckeyes have defeated ranked teams in each of his two appearances. An offense starting underclassmen at key positions at quarterback, wideout and the offensive line has benefitted from having an additional senior in the huddle.

"That's what Boom Herron I think really brought back on the Illinois game, just one of those guys in the huddle, you could look at no matter what the situation and just see it in his eyes, competitive nature and that confidence level," head coach Luke Fickell said. "And you have guys like that, but the more you've got, the better."

It's just not often that those returns are so obvious – or emotional.

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