Ginn Reflects On All-American Debut Season

Freshman wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. will make a run at the NCAA single-season record for punt return touchdowns at the Alamo Bowl. He talked about that quest as well as his first year as a Buckeye, his hopes to run track and play defense and much more.

It has been a whirlwind first year for Ohio State freshman wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. He arrived at OSU amid much fanfare and, over the last half of the season, he delivered on that promise.

Ginn ended the year with seven touchdowns, including an NCAA record-tying four on punt returns. The Cleveland Glenville product is looking forward to finishing the season with the Buckeyes against Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl Dec. 29.

"My first bowl trip, I hope it will be fun and I hope we can go out here and get a victory," Ginn said. "I've looked at the film. They are big and fast, just like any other team that we would play. They're pretty good. We just have to go out and execute our plays and be mistake free and have fun."

Because the NCAA now counts bowl statistics as official, Ginn will have a chance to break the record by returning a fifth punt for a score in the Alamo Bowl.

"Now, it's one of my goals to go out and try to get the record," Ginn said. "It's up to my team. I hope they block well and I hope I can get some punts. But if I don't, hey."

Hey, it's been a great debut in anybody's mind, even culminating in some All-American honors for Ginn. He was named as the first-team All-American punt returner by Sports Illustrated and He was tabbed as a second-team All-American by The Sporting News and the third-team All-American at the all-purpose position by The Associated Press.

Ginn ended the regular season with five carries for 73 yards and one touchdown, 19 catches for 281 yards (14.8 average) and two touchdowns, 14 punt returns for 377 yards (nation's best 26.9 average) and four touchdowns and two kick returns for 40 yards.

"I just came in and my goal was to score a couple of times," Ginn said. "Every time I touched the ball, I wanted to do something with it. I wanted to be an impact player. I guess I made that goal.

"That's just me. Every time I touch the ball, I try to make a big play. If you don't think like that, you'll be an average player."

The media flock around Ginn on Tuesday showed he is no average player. He knows the attention goes with the territory.

"I just look at it like one day you go out here and you guys are here and the next day you're gone," he said. "I just try to come out here and answer your questions and have fun. After this, it's time to go back to work at square one and start all over again.

"It's all positive and I pay attention to it, but I don't. Every day you have to strive to get better."

With the holidays approaching, Ginn discussed his plans for the upcoming break before the Buckeyes head to San Antonio Dec. 23.

"We'll have Christmas a little bit early since we'll be gone for Christmas," he said. "I'll just hang out with some of my buddies who are home from school. I'll study my playbook and have fun."

Ginn was recruited primarily as a cornerback. But with those positions manned by Dustin Fox and Ashton Youboty, Ginn was pressed into service first on special teams and at wide receiver. Ginn may get a serious look back on defense and be a two-way player – a la Chris Gamble, who preceded Ginn as OSU's No. 7 – next year.

"Yeah, that's my dream," he said. "I just hope I can get over there. But if I can't, I'll just play hard on this side. I just want to go out and have fun. I played every position from the punter to the quarterback last year in high school. I just want to condition myself and play on both sides of the ball.

"I miss it a little bit, but it goes with the territory. Wherever they need me, I'll play there right now."

Ginn said his move to wide receiver was an easy one.

"I thought they might be like, `He's coming over here. I'm not going to show him this or show him that,' " Ginn said. "But we were together. We were a family. As I came over, they brought me in and showed me what I was doing wrong and what I was doing right and we just had fun.

"The whole receiver corps helped me. Santonio (Holmes) taught me my proper depth, how fast I needed to get there. Everybody took me and showed me the way."

Ginn's first big play came against Wisconsin, when he returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown. That started a string where he scored in five of OSU's last seven games. Included in that stretch was the Michigan State game, where Ginn scored on a 17-yard reverse, a 60-yard punt return and a 58-yard pass from former Glenville teammate Troy Smith.

Ginn may be the first Buckeye to participate in three different types of touchdown plays since Keith Byars rushed for two, caught a pass for one and threw a touchdown pass against Iowa in 1984. And nobody could recall the last time an OSU player actually scored three different types of touchdowns – if it's ever happened.

But he saved the best, perhaps, for last with his 82-yard touchdown run in the 37-21 upset of Big Ten champion Michigan. Since 1997, OSU fans have endured countless replays of Charles Woodson's punt return for a score against the Buckeyes. Now they have their own version of such a play to relive for a long time.

"The thing that stood out was my team was there and they held their blocks for as long as they had to for us to do what we had to do back there to get down the field," Ginn said. "I just had to give big ups to my team for that."

Finishing the year 7-4 was not what anybody at OSU had in mind. But Ginn felt the Buckeyes learned a lot about themselves as they fought through their adversity and won four of their last five games to snag a bowl bid.

"I'll remember just the team staying together, our seniors keeping us together and our coaches staying together," he said. "There was no falling out or anything like that. They kept pushing us every day and told us it would get better. We just saw how tough we are and how much heart we have. Our fans stayed there with us and we just tried to win."

The 6-0 Ginn said he played this season at 175 pounds. As an aspiring Olympic hurdler in track, he is hoping to compete for the OSU track team this spring. He also wants to add as much as 10 pounds of muscle to his frame. The added strength should help him with any potential two-way duty, Ginn said.

"I know a lot of teams will take shots at me next year," Ginn said. "I know if I can get bigger, then go out and run track and maintain that weight, I'll be bigger and faster.

"I don't know. I'm trying to get a little rest. It's not like high school, where you just jump from one sport to the next. I'm trying to pick up some weight and then go out and run track. I'll probably run the hurdles."

OSU coach Jim Tressel said he would have no objection to Ginn or other players running track.

"We always tell our guys, for a second sport as long as their academics are headed in the right direction, that's fine," Tressel said. "Nate Salley played basketball two years ago. Drew (Carter) and Michael Jenkins and some guys ran track.

"I think it gives them some speedwork and they get to compete against some fast guys. Our track team has some guys who can go. Running against them every day can help. Any time a guy can compete, we're for that.

"I remember one spring, going into Michael Jenkins junior year, we were concerned he might be a little tired. He had worked so hard in the season for 12 or 13 games, then he did the indoor track workouts and worked with our guys. He went on the spring break trip with the track team. Then, we saw after about five or six practices, he was a little tired and we pulled back a little bit football-wise.

"(Ginn is) a football player for sure. He is primarily a football player in my mind. He's also a world class hurdler down the line. I think the strength and explosion it takes to run the hurdles. They are three inches higher (at the college level), instead of 39 inches. It will take some strength work and some explosion work for him. Again, we will monitor how we're doing academically."

Following the Michigan game, Tressel said Ginn's father, Glenville coach Ted Ginn, told him he was not working his son hard enough.

"He's a coach," Ginn Jr. said. "Him being a coach we might not be doing the things he wants. Back home, I was doing more than I'm doing down here. It's up to me to do more."

According to the younger Ginn, his dad did not speak to him much in the days leading up to the Michigan game.

"He was just trying to make me be a man and make me stand up there and do it on my own," Ginn said. "He's not going to always be there for me. Sometimes you've got to prepare yourself by yourself."

Scoring touchdowns and basking in the glow of bright TV lights can be the fun part, Ginn said. But few know about the dedication he and his teammates have shown to get where they are today.

"It's just great, but it's still a lot of hard work you have to put into it," he said. "You have to go back and get bigger, stronger and faster. You have to look at the things you're doing wrong and just try to make them better."

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