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The Ohio State football program has seen its fair share of great players over the years. Just 27 have been unanimous All-Americans, however.
The list is a who’s who of Buckeye greats. Hop Cassady was a two-time unanimous All-American. So were Archie Griffin and Bob Ferguson. Vic Janowicz, Wes Fesler, Les Horvath, Keith Byars, Chris Spielman, Eddie George, Orlando Pace and Troy Smith are just a handful of the other players to record their names on that elite list.
The latest to reach that status is current OSU sophomore Joey Bosa. The defensive end was placed on the Football Writers Association of America’s All-America first team last week to give him a clean sweep. He was named a first-team All-American by the FWAA, The Associated Press, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the American Football Coaches Association and Sporting News.
The usually low-key – at least off the field – Bosa was asked last week if it was cool to see his efforts rewarded with All-American accolades.
“Obviously, I go out there and try to do my best ever week and being rewarded for it feels real nice,” Bosa said.
Bosa’s second season as a Buckeye has been a stellar one. He recorded 50 tackles through the Big Ten Championship Game, including a league-best 20 tackles for another conference-best 114 yards in losses. Bosa recorded 13½ sacks for 96 yards – again, both Big Ten bests.
He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy, Bednarik Award and Ted Hendricks Award. Though he did not win any of the three, there was no sophomore slump for Bosa this fall. First-year OSU defensive co-coordinator Chris Ash said Bosa has improved as the season has progressed.
“When I saw him last spring, I saw a very talented, inexperienced young player,” Ash said. “We all talked as a staff (and agreed), ‘If Joey Bosa starts to understand how to play the position he’d have a chance to be a dominant player.’ It didn’t start the season that way, but he continued to improve. He learned his position more. He learned our defense better.
“The production has continued to improve as we’ve gone through the course of the season. He’s a great player and I think he has room to continue to improve. He can be an outstanding, dominating player at this level and the next level.”
NFL scouts are already figuratively – and maybe literally – drooling over Bosa, but the Buckeyes still have at least one more year with the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas product. Ohio State won the services of Bosa as a member of its 2013 recruiting class and had to beat out many top programs.
Bosa had scholarship offers from programs such as Florida State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin and Alabama. Yes, the same Crimson Tide who Bosa and the Buckeyes will battle in a College Football Playoff semifinal Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
In fact, Alabama was the first school to offer Bosa a scholarship.
“I was 15 and it was crazy to me, so obviously I just fell in love with them automatically,” said Bosa, who had yet to begin his junior season in high school at the time. “I almost committed there, sitting in Buffalo Wild Wings (in Tuscaloosa) with my dad. I almost went back and committed that day. But we flew home, thought about it, and now I’m here.”
Bosa recalled getting the scholarship offer from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, one of the most successful coaches in college football history. It was an intimidating experience.
“I was there for a camp, and he called me up and I had no idea what it was going to be about,” Bosa said. “I had no shirt on. He’s like, ‘Get the kid a towel,’ so I had a little towel over my shoulders.”
Then Saban pressed a button that closed the door to his office.
“I was pretty scared,” recalled Bosa, who went on to joke that it was a “super nice door.”
Bosa would not end up committing to the Tide then and went on to become a Buckeye. Now he will lead Ohio State against top-ranked Alabama and look to disappoint Saban again. Bosa knows stemming the Tide will be a challenge.
“They’re just freaks all around,” he said. “There’s a reason they’ve been No. 1 for so many years and they’ve won as much games as they have. Obviously, we’re going to have to prepare a little different for this one.”