This week could be a historic time for Ohio State athletes and the NFL draft, with numerous Buckeyes looking to start the next phase of their football careers.
With so many potential draftees that started their careers at Ohio State, it's time to take a walk down memory lane and remember each player from his high school days.
Joey Bosa. Defensive end. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. My earliest memory of the All-American defensive end was heading over to his high school to meet former Buckeye Cris Carter, who was coaching the Aquinas wide receivers as a part-time hobby. There were many seniors that needed interviewed, but Carter brought a sophomore over to me and told me this was a guy I needed to know. Even as a 16-year old, Bosa had the look that screamed future star. Watching him handle their offensive linemen in practice confirmed that this was the real deal. He told me at Under Armour after his senior season that he was going to start as a freshman for Ohio State. Good call my man.
Ezekiel Elliott. Runningback. St. Louis Burroughs. The first time I saw Zeke in person was at Nike in Illinois, and there were several highly ranked athletes in attendance. I was not sold on Zeke from watching his film, but seeing him in person changed all that. What an athlete, and you could see he was going to get bigger. Meeting his father, Stacy, only confirmed that this kid had everything he needed to be a star for the Buckeyes. He actually ended up being much better than I thought he could be, and can legitimately be listed as an all-time great Buckeye. While seeing Zeke as a kid and knowing he had all the talent in the world, that talent can be lost through bad choices, but this kid did everything right. And that's what put him where he is today.
Michael Thomas. Wide receiver. Woodland Hills (CA). Wow, talk about being wrong and I mean DEAD WRONG. I saw Mike for the first time at the Under Armour All-America practices, and I just never saw the player he ultimately became. He was not that big, not that quick, didn't have great hands and struggled to get open. For him to become the All-American he became is a testament to his work ethic, determination, dedication and pure drive. Even when he got to Ohio State there were doubts about his skills. This is a player I admire so much, because he maximized his talents and turned himself into a star. He deserves every good thing that comes his way.
Cardale Jones. Quarterback. Glenville. As I looked back at my history with Jones I saw that I wrote 12 articles on him as a high school player. I saw him a lot back then, and just like today, I never knew what to expect or what would happen next. Having to go to Fork Union was not the desired destination, but he made it work. Being behind J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller meant he was buried, but he won a national title. Being named the starter on the returning champs should have been amazing, but it wasn't. I like this guy and think he's good people, but like when he was a sophomore in high school, I do not know what to expect next. I hope things go great for him because he's been through a lot at a young age.
Taylor Decker. Offensive tackle. Vandalia Butler. THE PICTURE. My lasting memory of Taylor Decker will always be the picture on the left that caused so much discussion on the Ohio State Scout message boards, as people could not believe this little kid could be an offensive tackle. A few years later the same fans couldn't believe Ohio State refused to offer this kid. Decker was headed to Notre Dame, but all it took was Urban Meyer watching 15 seconds of film on him and offering him a scholarship a few hours after being hired by Ohio State. The rest is history and Decker is on his way to being a very rich young man.
Eli Apple. Cornerback. Voorhees (NJ). While he was Eli Woodard back in the day before taking the name of his step-father, Tim Apple, this was a kid that came to Ohio State's camp often in search of an offer. He redshirted as a freshman and by all accounts was pretty awful. He was diagnosed with an illness, and once that was solved his career took off. Early after taking over the Ohio State defense, Chris Ash told me this freshman bust was going to be an NFL player one day. I've learned to never doubt Ash with his evaluations, and he was right on this kid once again. Apple's relationship with his step-father is worth researching and reading.
Darron Lee. Linebacker. New Albany. The picture to the left was taken after Lee's second camp appearance in a ten-day span and at the time he did not know if he would get the offer he wanted. He knew he had done all he could, and now he had to wait and see if Luke Fickell would pound the table hard enough to get this kid offered. I walked with Darron and interviewed him as he met his mother, Candice, at her car. We talked briefly and he agreed to let me know if the good news came his way. I knew he was talented, but never thought he would become the All-American he became. Starting to see the link between hard work and success? Not lip service, but true hard work and unending belief in yourself that all great athletes have.
Noah Spence. Defensive end. Harrisburg (PA). I met Noah and his dad, Greg, in Orlando for the Under Armour All-America Game, and they were great people to speak with. Noah was very quiet, but a very nice kid. My problem was the day I needed to interview him he had chapped lips so bad that he didn't want to talk, but I needed that interview. The problem was solved when Laura McKeeman (now Laura Rutledge) came to the rescue with her chapstick, and the day was saved. Might be the quickest first step I've ever seen for a defensive end. Good to see he's back on his game again, and his future is quite bright.
Jalin Marshall. Wide receiver. Middletown. Might be the high school player I enjoyed watching the most of all the kids I've covered over the years. Called him "Mr. Excitement" at an early age, and he certainly was all that. Comes from a great family and he is very easy to root for. He can make magic happen with the ball in his hands, and I hope he gets drafted to a system that can best utilize his skills. We saw flashes of greatness at Ohio State, but I don't feel we saw the best of Jalin Marshall. I want to see his absolute best in the NFL, and if we do, it's going to be a heck of a show.
Vonn Bell. Safety. Rossville (GA). At the Under Armour All-America Game I learned the power of Twitter. And being right. Thank you Vonn. And thank you to my source!! https://twitter.com/BillBankGreene/status/285494437323362304
Joshua Perry. Linebacker. Olentangy. I've covered a lot of Ohio State camps over the years, but Josh Perry put on the greatest camp performance I've ever seen when he worked out for the Buckeyes. He was there with guys like Se'Von Pittman, Adolphus Washington, Chris Wormley, Warren Ball, Derrick Green, Brionte Dunn, and others, but Perry blew them all away. The best run, jump, change of direction show I've seen to date from a bigger player.
Tyvis Powell. Safety. Bedford. The picture to the left was taken at Akron, and he was about to land his first scholarship offer from the Zips. This kid is everything people picture him to be, and that's not always the case with public figures. Tyvis loves people, loves life and has the attitude that will carry him to success the rest of his life. Whatever he decides to do it's going to work out well, because when you meet Tyvis Powell, you instantly like Tyvis Powell. And that's a great quality to possess. The day he committed to Ohio State on the front steps of Bedford High School was a fun time, and it came during some dark days in Columbus after the firing of Jim Tressel.
Jeremy Cash. Safety. Plantation (FL). I wrote 18 stories on Jeremy as a high school player, and I think I used "cash money" in every title. Got to know Jeremy and his family well, and my best memory is him showing up at Ohio State to meet the coaching staff for the first time in a suit and tie. Although things went sour at Ohio State, Jeremy has a Duke degree and is about to embark on his NFL career, so I'd say things went great for him. He can hit people, cover people, and is extremely smart, so the NFL is going to love him.
Adolphus Washington. Defensive end. Cincinnati Taft. I will never forget watching The Diesel lead Taft to the state basketball title as a junior, and projecting the size, speed and athleticism on a 300-pound college junior. He became exactly what I thought he could be at Ohio State, and Washington was pretty special. He was also a very quiet, and soft-spoken kid in high school. His press conference where he committed to Ohio State was memorable, because he was the first player to talk about playing for Urban Meyer. Only Meyer was ten days away from being announced as Ohio State's next head coach.
Nick Vannett. Tight end. Westerville Central. I remember getting a call from Central head coach John Magistro about this junior tight end that he thought was going to be pretty special. Boy was he was right about that. The question was would Ohio State offer? They already had Jeff Heuerman in the class and numbers were getting tight. Had they not offered, I think Vannett would have gone to Virginia Tech, but he sure wanted the Buckeye offer. He was another one that was pretty easy to project his speed and quickness on a 250-pound body in a few years. His best days are probably ahead of him, especially if he goes to a team that throws the football.
Braxton Miller. Quarterback. Huber Heights Wayne. My lasting memory of Braxton is him taking powerhouse Lakewood St. Edward to the wire before losing in the state title game. That Ed's team was loaded, but Braxton kept Wayne in the game by himself and had his team in the lead with less than a minute to play. After the game, Miller put the blame on himself for a pick he had thrown, showing amazing poise and maturity. It's been so long since we've seen him throw the football that people forget just how devastating he was as a high school quarterback. Of all the great players I've seen over the years, Miller makes my list as one of the greatest. The running and throwing skills made him so exciting to watch, and his humble attitude made him a joy to cover. Here's hoping he tears up the NFL as a wideout.