Captains Cemented Legacy In Title Game

Five Buckeye captains joined an elite club when Ohio State won the first-ever CFP National Championship Game.

The 1968 team had Dave Foley, Dirk Worden and Mark Stier. In 2002 it was Mike Doss and Donnie Nickey. For the latest Ohio State national champions it is Michael Bennett, Doran Grant, Curtis Grant, Jeff Heuerman and Braxton Miller.

All of those players have now captained an Ohio State team to the sport’s ultimate goal, a national title. While the number of captains has grown – and may get even bigger as head coach Urban Meyer has said he will likely retroactively name wide receiver Evan Spencer a captain of the 2014 team – the significance of the leadership those players provide has not diminished.

“The captains are only a representation for this team,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “They’re a representation of their senior class. I’m so proud of all those seniors and that’s why we are here. You can say whatever you want about our quarterbacks, somebody else, or this or that, but the reality is we are where we are because of the seniors.”

The captains are representative of Ohio State’s 24-person senior class, a group that began their careers with a 6-7 record, and despite going 24-2 over the next two seasons had not won a championship of any kind entering this year. Now they are the senior class that led the Buckeyes to the first CFP National Championship.

While the seniors were the driving force this season, Bennett rightly pointed out that every Buckeye on the 2014 roster should be remembered.

“It’s not about me,” Bennett said. “This 2014 Ohio State team just won the national championship and all these guys and this picture will be up in the (Woody Hayes Athletic Center) forever and whenever they talk about the playoff system it’s going to come back to this team and what we were able to do in the first year. So it’s cool that I get to be a captain on this team, but it ain’t about me, it’s about this team.”

Still, the team thought it was enough about Bennett to vote him one of five captains in August. Miller was already ruled out for the season when the captains were announced, but the quarterback would have been entering his fourth year as the Ohio State starter. Heuerman entered the season with 22 starts while Doran Grant had 15. Both Bennett and Curtis Grant had started 13 games prior to the 2014 season.

“It means everything,” Doran Grant said when asked about the significance of being a captain for the title-winning Buckeyes. “I love these guys, I love this coaching staff. We did a great job. National champions.”

While Miller missed the season with his shoulder injury, the rest of the captains all had very productive seasons.

Bennett posted 41 tackles, including seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He also adopted the number of Kosta Karageorge, a senior walk-on who committed suicide during the season.

Doran Grant was frequently asked to lock down the oppositions’ top receiver and excelled in that role with five interceptions and a team-leading 14 pass breakups. He mentored a young position group that was a weakness in 2013 into a strength on the 2014 team.

Heuerman played through multiple injuries to grab 17 catches for 207 receiving yards this season. He also developed a close relationship with Jacob Jarvis, a young Ohio State fan suffering from Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, and was called the heart and soul of the Buckeyes by Meyer before the season.

Curtis Grant had unquestionably his best statistical season with 69 tackles. He also selflessly mentored freshman Raekwon McMillan despite the fact that the two were competing for playing time.

Meyer has said over and over again this season that this is the closest team he has ever been a part of, a key reason the Buckeyes were able to ascend to the top of college football. The captains are a huge reason why.

“I’ve said it many times, the chemistry on this team is what got us here,” junior left tackle Taylor Decker said. “We are very talented, but it’s the chemistry and that came from the top. That’s the senior leaders. They’ve been through a lot and just the way they were able to lead us and give us a good example to follow, that was huge.”

The five captains of the 2014 Buckeyes joined an exclusive club when the dust settled early Tuesday morning. Bennett, Heuerman, both Grants and Miller make it a total of 15 Ohio State players who have captained a Buckeye team to an Associated Press national title.

After the 42-20 win over Oregon in the CFP National Championship the five captains cemented their spot in Ohio State history and will forever be listed as captains on a title winning team. Shortly after the win that significance hadn’t sunk in with Curtis Grant.

“I haven’t thought about anything yet,” the linebacker said. “It all seems like a dream right now.”

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