On The Lighter Side, Part Two

Mike Boren was a top prep linebacker in Columbus at Eastmoor Academy but he ended up going to Michigan when the school that he grew up rooting for didn't want him any longer. Now his son will soon decide if he will follow the path his dad took and go to Michigan or stay at home and play for Ohio State. What does dad think of his son's situation? Could Mike Boren ever root for Ohio State if his son went there?

The precedent has already been set during the Jim Tressel regime at Ohio State.

T.J. Downing's father, Walt, was an All-American center for the University of Michigan and yet T.J. became a Buckeye and was the starting left guard against his dad's alma mater last season.

And now Justin Boren, whose father Mike was a tough-as-nails linebacker for the Wolverines, is seriously considering an offer to become a Buckeye as well. Ohio State and Michigan are his two top choices and he intends to officially make his decision known sometime this summer.

It would be like a two-point swing in OSU's favor. Not only does Ohio State get a top-rated player, if indeed Boren commits to the Buckeyes, but that act also prevents Michigan from getting their hands on a top regional, if not national, recruit. Particularly one who grew up just miles away from the heart of Columbus.

I, for one, firmly believe in keeping the best players in Ohio, in Ohio, first and foremost. Let that school up north go begging for talent in other states instead of mining our state's best prospects.

Back in the late 1970's, Mike Boren was one of the best players in the Columbus area if not the entire state of Ohio when he prepped at Eastmoor Academy, home of Mr. Buckeye himself, Archie Griffin. But he sort of went to Michigan by default - and not any fault of his own.

"I loved Ohio State. I was born and raised a Buckeye," said Mike Boren, who was basically shunned by Ohio State when it came right down to it. At least that's his perception of it. "Basically I felt that if I couldn't go to Ohio State, I'd go to Michigan to prove that Ohio State was wrong and that I could play football."

Boren's senior season in high school was Earle Bruce's first at the helm of the Buckeyes. In the summer prior to that ‘79 grid season, the new Buckeye staff wanted Boren to come to camp and test for them. Boren was considered one of the top recruits that Woody Hayes' staff wanted and he initially inherited that same status when the Bruce staff took over. But everything changed almost instantly between Ohio State and Boren, after he attended that fateful summer camp.

"They wanted me to run a 40-yard dash and I was kind of out of shape. I was trying to gain some weight at the time and basically I wasn't in great running condition," Boren said. "But they put me in some shorts to see what I could do and I ended up running a 5.0-flat 40 and that basically was it."

Boren was actually one of five kids from Central Ohio that Ohio State did not recruit that went the I-A route after the ‘79 season. To say that he harbored bitter feelings toward Ohio State when he went to Michigan is a gross understatement.

"You know I did," Boren said. "I wanted to be a Buckeye but things work out for a reason."

Not only did #40 become a starter at inside linebacker by his sophomore campaign at Michigan and amass 369 career stops, but he met the future Mrs. Boren, a Cleveland native by the way. And together the two produced one of the top-rated high school players for the upcoming 2005 season with another stud for the class of 2008 on the way, that being Justin and Zach, respectively.

"To be honest with you the reason why I ended up hating Ohio State was because I ended up finding out that the coach that was recruiting me in Columbus, Steve Szabo, not only didn't recruit me but he smeared me with other schools," Boren said. "Jack Harbaugh was the recruiter up in Michigan that recruited Columbus and Jack Harbaugh and Steve Szabo were best of friends. When I went up to Michigan, Bo (Schembechler) said he had seen more film on me than any other kid in high school football because they kept saying that I wasn't any good. So basically (Michigan) wanted to make sure that they weren't making a mistake with me.

"The reason why I hated Ohio State is basically because they tried blackballing me, or at least Steve Szabo did. Just because I ran a 5.0-flat 40 doesn't mean that I couldn't play football."

But his ill-feelings toward all things Ohio State have obviously subsided over the years and Mike Boren and his wife made their home in the Columbus area and raised three boys and a girl there.

"That was all 20-some years ago and things mend and I'm not going to hold Justin to one school over another," Boren said. "It's his decision. He's going to make it and once he makes the decision, he's going to live with it."

If his son's decision is Ohio State and not Michigan, then that's just something that Mike Boren will have to live with. And he doesn't have a problem with it.

"The Buckeye coaches are great coaches and they knew what they were doing," Boren said. "He went to Ohio State's camp as a sophomore and basically just dominated and Coach Bollman just locked on him. Basically that was it. Ohio State showed him attention and locked on him and they offered him early and they just treated him well.

"Ohio State offered Justin early and that made a big impact on a 15- or 16-year-old kid. I think from the beginning they pretty much had him. I'm not saying he's going to go there but he's leaning that way."

But it's not like Boren has thrown his old school under the bus by any means in this recruiting battle.

"The only thing is, like I tell him, is that all of the guys up there I used to play with," Boren said. "I played with Coach Moeller, who's his offensive line coach. He played inside linebacker behind me up there. And then Coach Herman played up there behind me too. So I played with those guys and I think that might be an advantage with him at Michigan.

"But I love the coaches down here at Ohio State. They got a lot of class and I like the way they do things down here."

And one ultimate recruiting nugget that will be always be in Ohio State's favor over Michigan with any recruit from Ohio is that many former Buckeye players live in the Columbus area after their playing days are over whereas many of the Michigan players return to where they came from. Mike Boren himself is certainly no exception to that rule.

"One thing about the Buckeyes that you can't deny is that they're a tight knit people and they take care of their people. They support their people," Boren said. "You know Justin is already a great businessman, he can pretty much run any of my businesses and even he said to me, ‘Dad, if I go up to Michigan I know that degree from Michigan means a heck of a lot, but look at the businesses that we have here. Imagine if I go to Ohio State and I play well.'

"When I go into businesses around here and say that I played for the University of Michigan, people are putting a cross up for me. They say ‘we hate Michigan.' But if you go in there and you say you're an Ohio State football player it's a whole different thing. We live in Columbus and one my buddies who is a Michigan graduate says that we live in the belly of the dragon. And we've got to deal with it.

"People from Ohio State would rather go with a guy that graduated from Ohio State than a guy that graduated from the University of Michigan."

So Justin going to Ohio State sure sounds like a sound business practice. And the elder Boren has obviously built his burgeoning business empire in the Columbus area through sound business practices.

He started it all off with a lawn care business and then he got into grass cutting. And about three years ago Boren opened up a laser car wash business.

"I started opening those up and building those touch less car washes," Boren said. "And now I'm into the excavation business, I just opened up an excavation business. And that's what Justin is getting into, he wants to get into construction management. Each business is just growing by leaps and bounds and right now while the building industry is good, the excavation business is a good business."

His landscaping business got so big that it started funding his car wash business and those two funded his excavation company.

"The excavation business is a big business. We're booked through July already," Boren said. "If someone wants to build a commercial building we go in there and do all the digging and the stripping of the top soil and the clay and do the parking lots and all that stuff. We do everything. When a new subdivision comes in we cut the roads out, do the roads, do the curbs, do the water and the sanitary sewer and all that stuff."

Not bad for someone who came from a blue collar family and almost reluctantly earned a degree in education at Michigan. Boren readily admitted that he went to Michigan to get a degree in football but those dreams were ruined when he tore his knee up and only started four games of his senior season.

But it wasn't until after he tried out for the Cleveland Browns the following year and he was cut that he realized his football playing days were finally over.

"I had called Bo on the phone and told him I was cut and he made me come back to school the next day and get my degree," Boren said.

So from that point on, with football no longer an option, he recognized that he needed to work hard to finish school and work hard to compete in the business world if he was going to get anywhere in life.

"I tell my kids that if you want to become a better person and a better businessman you need to work on your weaknesses and not your strengths," Boren said. "Everyone always wants to do what they do well, but you have to work on your weaknesses to make you a better person or a better athlete or whatever.

"That's what I've always told my kids, work on your weaknesses and not strengths. Your strengths will always be there and you got to work on that, but you've got to work on your weaknesses to become better."

And now Boren just built a new spread on 20 acres in Pickerington where his kids will get to work on their physical strengths and weaknesses in the surroundings of their own home.

"It's a house pretty much for the kids. All of my kids are into sports," Boren said. "We've got an indoor basketball court and it's pretty intense for the kids. I've got a college weight room down there, it's got every weight and machine available. You name it and we've got it. We're basically a sports family."

And Boren warned of his 13-old-son Zach who is a Michigan fan.

"That kid is a freak," he said. "He's amazing. He plays baseball, he plays football, and whatever he does he's unbelievable at. He's going to be a freshman next year and you'll be seeing a lot of that kid. He's already 6-feet tall and 250 pounds and he moves like lightening."

Michigan might be wise to offer him early and lock him up, if they haven't already or someday he too just might become interested in the Buckeyes like Justin has.

"Justin is a home boy," Boren said. "I'm not saying that he's going to Ohio State but he loves being around Columbus. On the house we just built we're building a pond already. He loves fishing and he loves boating and I just bought a big boat. So that's the biggest thing right now. The kid is a home boy.

"I would say if Michigan was in Columbus, Ohio then I would think that he wouldn't think twice about going there. But I think Ohio State has that one up on Michigan because he's living near family."

Boren just wants to be there for his son when he makes that huge leap from high school to college.

"I'm pretty much reliving everything through him," he said. "Recruiting is pretty much the same but we didn't have e-mail and things were a lot different back in the day. Things have changed and recruiting is probably easier now than it used to be because you can get on the Internet and see what people are thinking."

And you can read what a young guy like Justin Boren is thinking before he makes his commitment and you can even know how his dad feels about it before it happens as well.

But could dad some day actually put on those same colors and that he so very much wanted to at one time as a young kid, if his son picks Ohio State?

"Luke Fickell said that to me also," Boren mentioned. "If he does go to Ohio State I told him that I don't think that I can do it. I don't know, that would be really tough. (Fickell) said they can break me in very easily and I said yeah I bet.

"But he's my son and I'm going to back his decision wherever he goes. Ohio State has a good program for Justin and that's what he's focused on. And Michigan pretty much has the same program. But he's going to do what's best for him and if he feels like Ohio State is the best place to go then I'm going to back him."

Hail to the victors!

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