Buckeyes Enjoy Once-In-A-Lifetime Chance

Ohio State didn't play in a close football game on Saturday, but it was a day that many in the program will remember forever. A number of unheralded players and walk-ons got the chance to shine in Ohio Stadium in the Buckeyes' win vs. Florida A&M.

When Oklahoma was rolling to back-to-back national championships in 1974 and '75, the Sooners crushed teams by scores of 56-14 (Kansas State), 72-3 (Utah State) and 63-0 (both Wake Forest and KSU).

Those games were no fun for the Wildcats, Aggies or Demon Deacons, but they did help bring those wildly successful Sooners teams closer, star running back Joe Washington – a top-five finalist for the Heisman Trophy both years behind OSU's Archie Griffin – said.

"Because we were good and we were scoring all of these points, all of our guys were getting a chance to play major-college football, and I think that was really exciting for the morale of our football team," Washington told BSB in July. "It made our guys even closer."

The Ohio State football team, then, should be bonded even further after today's 76-0 drubbing of an overmatched Florida A&M team in Ohio Stadium.

That seems to be the case, as redshirt sophomore walk-on Kato Mitchell – who made his OSU debut at wideout – confirmed after the game he received props from his teammates throughout.

"Oh yeah, everyone was excited," he said. "A lot of them, they think I go really hard in practice so I connect with them on that, especially Philly Brown, Devin Smith, Jordan Hall, Kenny G, they're like my big brothers. I look up to them, and they really gave me a congrats."

The game was out of hand early, with Ohio State substituting liberally in the second quarter once the Buckeyes took a 41-0 lead on their first drive of the stanza. By the time it was over, a full 77 players got in the game for the Buckeyes – just about everyone who was available that isn't redshirting or injured.

Sure, it wasn't the most dramatic day in Ohio Stadium history, but it did provide a nearly once-in-a-lifetime chance for a number of Ohio State players to get on the field and play in front of more than 100,000 fans and many more watching at home.

"You want to play your players because this is their payday," head coach Urban Meyer said. "I've been on the other end of those so I try to do the best we could, just run the ball every snap and let guys earn an opportunity to get on the field."

Of those 77 players to see the field, 21 of them came to Ohio State as walk-ons. While each has their own particular story, a handful of them stood out to the point they were able to get on the stat sheet.

Freshman Devonte Butler, a Columbus Eastmoor graduate, ran the ball four times for 14 yards, while Mitchell caught a pass for 5 yards. Kicker Kyle Clinton of nearby Dublin made all three of his point-after touchdown attempts and had a trio of kickoffs, while John Holman (junior from Riverdale, Ga.), Joe Burger (sophomore from Cincinnati La Salle) and Nick Snyder (sophomore from Westerville South) each made single tackles.

A native of Cleveland and graduate of John Hay High School, Mitchell came to Ohio State on an academic scholarship through the Young Scholars Program, now in its 25th year being run by the Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

A two-way player at John Hay who was a team captain, Mitchell didn't have any plans to play football in college – "My mother would never let me go anywhere else, it was academics first," he said – but he made the team through a tryout last August and finally got on the field against the Rattlers.

Mitchell said he didn't have a knot in his stomach trotting onto the field in front of 103,595, but hauling in his first career grab did the trick.

"Actually, after that, I got a little butterflies," he said. "The first catch, I didn't drop it, I stayed in bounds – it was really nice."

Among the other walk-ons to see game time for the first time were Butler, safety Russell Doup, wideout Peter Gwilym, running back Devin Hill, defensive lineman John Holman, tight end Charles Kinzig, wideout Devlin McDaniel, safety Kevin Niehoff, wideout Brandon Ojikutu, defensive back Nick Sarac, Snyder and offensive lineman Ben St. John.

For those players, it is a day they will surely remember forever.

"It's one of the best moments of my life, for real," Mitchell said.

Then there's Ivon Blackman, a fifth-year senior walk-on who had played before, but the Bedford, Ohio, native hadn't seen the type of action he did against Florida A&M. Blackman entered the game in the second quarter and played for the rest of the contest at right guard.

"It was a wonderful opportunity," he said. "I've been preparing for all this summer, all season for the opportunity just to make sure if my number was called, I was ready. My number was called, and thank God. All the grace to God, I was prepared and went out there and performed and had a good game."

Blackman received the same kind of congratulations that Mitchell did from teammates – including fellow fifth-year linemen and starters Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall – and said that he would remember the day for the rest of his life.

"Every opportunity that you get to play in Ohio Stadium, the Horseshoe, especially being an Ohio kid, raised in Ohio, you want to cherish it," he said. "I definitely appreciate it and want to remember it, and I'm definitely going to tell my kids about it for sure."

While the lopsided game – FAMU finished with just 80 total yards and two first downs – was likely short on entertainment for many fans, the opportunity for those little-used players to get a chance to play and put to use all the skills they've worked hard on developing was cause for celebration.

And when the call came down for those players, they were ready to go.

"There's always a degree of anxiety just because there's 100,000-plus people out there and you want to make sure that you're gonna perform, but nervousness comes from a lack of preparation," Blackman said. "I know I'm prepared. I put in the work that I needed to put in, so I wasn't too nervous, but I was a little anxious to get out there to get going.

"Obviously on the first couple of series, it's like, ‘Yeah, we're out there playing now,' but there's no nervousness."

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