The relationships a high school prospect builds with the Ohio State coaching staff during his recruiting process seems to be a common reason as to why he chooses to become a Buckeye.
Many Ohio State players currently on the team have been asked at some point why they chose to come to Columbus to play college football. Somewhere in their answer, the key “r” word is mentioned.
Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Robert Landers is the latest example of that. The Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne explained that the relationship he forged with assistant head coach and defensive line coach Larry Johnson was pivotal in flipping his commitment from West Virginia to Ohio State.
“Coach Johnson really made me gravitate towards him just from the simple fact that he’s a real guy,” Landers said. “When we first met we didn’t talk football at all. We talked about me, we talked about him. We didn’t talk football at all my whole recruiting process.”
Other than the fact that Landers and Johnson grew to know each other on more than just a football level, Landers said he admires how genuine Johnson is.
“One thing that really got me was he was consistent.” Landers explained. “He stayed true to who he was. He’s a God-fearing man, he doesn’t cuss, he doesn’t drink. You don’t really find too many college coaches who will not cuss you out. The fact that he is true to who he is and he sticks to his morals.”
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer brought Johnson onto his staff prior to the 2014 season. Johnson was the defensive line coach at Penn State for 13 years beforehand.
Though the two men are now in their third season coaching together, Meyer said it took a while to form a deep connection with his assistant.
"Larry and I are extremely close now,” Meyer said. “He's a guy that is hard to get close to. He lives his life in such a private manner, he's got a wonderful family and his players love him to death. I see our defensive line get better and recruiting. He is a very valuable member.”
Meyer also noted that he’s doing his best to become more like Johnson when it comes to using profanity.
“The whole thing about language, I admire him,” Meyer said. “I've improved, but still slip.”
One guarantee about the game of football is that it is intense.
Surprisingly, Johnson is not one of those coaches who will raise his voice when trying to get through to his players. Landers explained that Johnson gets his message across in a more poignant manner.
“He’s not going to yell at you, but he hits you with the, ‘I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed,’” Landers said. “That hurts way more. I’d rather you’d cuss me out. If he gets mad at you, the rest of the room is mad at you.”
Bottom line, Landers couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play for a coach like Johnson.
“That’s one of those coaches that if he gets you as a player, you’re going to buy into what he’s saying, you’re going to buy in to his program,” Landers said. “I couldn’t really say no to that.”