Having A Ball: OSU RB Enjoyed Signing Day

Warren Ball didn't seek out recognition during his recruiting process, shutting it down as early as he could when he found his dream school. His payoff on National Signing Day was getting that attention paid back when he inked his letter of intent to Ohio State.

It would have been understandable if Warren Ball had ever considered all of his options when turmoil hit the Ohio State football program.

Heck, it would have been natural to take even 10 seconds to wonder about the future given the roller coaster ride the Buckeyes took in the 18 months between Ball's September 2010 pledge and Wednesday's National Signing Day.

But Ball didn't reconsider his decision when Jim Tressel resigned in May 2011. He didn't even entertain thoughts about jumping ship when the team went 6-6 last year, he never once wondered whether he'd fit in Urban Meyer's offense, and that one-year bowl ban? Not even a blip.

It just simply didn't happen.

"Not once," Ball's father, Warren Sr., said yesterday. "There was honestly not a time where he felt like this would not be for him – and I would know. Never once did he ever waver."

That's part of what made the Ball's signing day ceremony at Columbus DeSales High School so special. There was no dramatic spectacle, just a player putting pen to paper to end a recruitment that never had much fanfare to begin with. The running back simply made his pledge, showed his loyalty and stuck to it.

"You'll turn on the TV today and see all kinds of ways of doing this," DeSales head coach Ryan Wiggins told the crowd in the school gymnasium. "But Warren does things the right way – on the field, off the field, and in the classroom the way he conducts himself. We're very proud."

With that, the students, teachers, family and friends in attendance let out a yell. A few minutes later, Ball was swarmed by local media members. A little attention isn't a bad thing every once in a while, as it turns out, and Ball did his best to take it in stride.

"It's just a little bit overwhelming," he said with a smile. "But it's definitely a blessing. It's a remarkable experience. I'm not complaining at all. I'm very happy."

It's clear he felt that way about his choice from the moment he made it. Ball gave his pledge to Ohio State on Sept. 1, 2010 – the first day he could officially receive an offer as a junior from the football program.

It was a simple decision then and remained one now, he said.

"Ohio State being Ohio State and the great tradition that it brings, I knew that was the school I wanted to go to," he said. "It was always a dream. I grew up a Buckeye fan. Any chance I could watch them, I would watch them. To have a chance to go to Ohio State and play football is a dream come true, definitely."

That was fine in the eyes of his father, who spoke of not wanting to end up part of the "circus" that can envelop recruits at the highest level.

"The fact that Warren decided where he wanted to go and it was over early, honestly, it wasn't a bad thing," Warren Sr. said. "It let him focus on his grades and homework and really let that be his focus point, and then also DeSales – focus on your football team, focus on your school, your friends and your relationships there."

In other words, Ball got to be a normal high school student, though he's one who earned four stars from Scout.com, was ranked the 21st running back in the country and was placed 196th overall in the national rankings.

But those around him say he never let that success on the football field – where he scored 29 touchdowns as a senior at one of central Ohio's top programs – define him.

"He's unique," Wiggins said. "A lot of these student-athletes that are very talented, they don't always have the whole body of work to go with it. He really is a great student and hard worker and all those things. I'm proud of him."

Added Ball's father, "We've known for a long time that he was blessed with the opportunity to do a lot of things, and we know how humble he stayed and the hard work that goes on behind the scenes that nobody sees. Whether it's staying up late doing homework – we come down there and he's still going it at the kitchen table – or whether he's out in the back sweating profusely, jumping rope, doing agility ladders on the weekend when it's not necessary. We're just proud of him."

Then again, to hear Ball tell it, those qualities are nothing special.

"It was just the way I was raised, to be humble," he said. "You don't have to be showboating, just handle your business. That's the approach that I took."

It's fair to say it all worked out in the end. Ball will report to Ohio State in June almost two years after first giving his verbal commitment to Tressel.

Despite the speedbumps for Ohio State along the way, the Buckeyes always had Ball on their side, and that's why it was more than a little satisfying for the running back to finally put pen to paper when he woke up Wednesday morning.

"I'm very excited," he said. "Today marked the day that you get that fax in and it's official. Today was a little more special. It was tremendous."

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