Eleven former and current Ohio State football players will receive their
degrees from OSU this weekend at commencement.
The list includes: Jason Caldwell (exercise science), Mike DeMaria (criminology), Simon Fraser (criminology), Dustin Fox (communications), Maurice Hall (communications), Mike Kne (human development/family science), John McLaughlin (biology), Brandon Mitchell (political science) Joe Montgomery (sociology), Kyle Turano (sociology), and Will Smith (criminology).
Head coach Jim Tressel always stresses the importance of academics and is obviously happy to see all the Buckeyes get their degrees.
"They're so proud of what they accomplished," Tressel said. "I guess that's why it's one of the only times that the victory bell rings. It rings when we win football games, but it rings on graduation day for every Ohio State student. These guys will hear that one maybe even louder and clearer than any other victory."
Yes, you read the list right. That's junior safety Brandon Mitchell, No. 32 in your program. He graduated in less than three years.
"I just took 20 hours a quarter," Mitchell said. "I always took a full load. It was difficult, but school kind of comes a little easier for me - especially writing papers and stuff, and that's what political science is, it's a lot of writing and reading. So, I was able to handle a full load, even during season."
Making it even more impressive, Mitchell didn't have any college credits when he arrived at OSU in the fall of 2002. Nowadays, a lot of high school kids take college classes while still in high school. Or, they will arrive at college early and go though summer quarter. But not Mitchell.
"No, I had no credits when I got here," he said. "But I did test out of math. I didn't really plan on graduating in three years. I just kind of got on a roll and it worked out."
Mitchell has always been a fine student. He graduated from Mays High School in Atlanta with a 3.8 GPA.
And with all the off-the-field problems that everyone loves to harp on, here is Mitchell graduating in less than three years.
"Yeah, this is how I look at it: There's 105 football players on the team," Mitchell said. "If you just took a random sample of any 105 people, among college students, there's going to be one or two of them that get in trouble. But ours happen to be glorified more because we play sports. I think these stories - the better stories - sometime get left out."
Tressel is impressed with Mitchell's feat.
"Brandon Mitchell had a plan when he got here," Tressel said. "If you set a plan early and then monitor that plan, you can do great things. He's been very focused; always taking the full academic load he could possibly take in every session he could possibly be in. He said before he got here he wanted to leave with a master's degree and that's going to happen."
Tressel was asked if he gives any gifts to his former players for graduating.
"Well, I didn't give Brandon Mitchell anything - I want to make sure that's clear," he said. "He still has eligibility remaining. But I give them a little wooden caricature of Ohio Stadium that signifies where they played and where they graduated."
As for Hall, a local product from Columbus Brookhaven, he's happy that he's about to get his degree. But right now, he says he's focused on a professional football career.
"As of this moment, I'm not with an NFL team," Hall said. "I was with San Diego, but got released. So now, I'm just waiting on a couple teams. My agent has talked with a couple teams. I'm just waiting to see who exactly is going to pick me up and everything."
Hall will consider a career in Canada, or possibly the Arena League if things don't work out in the NFL.
"Maybe. Maybe," he said. "It's something that I have to think about. I want to play football. Right now I want to play in the NFL, but we'll see."
After his playing days are over, just what does Hall want to do with that communications degree?
"I want to be a sports analyst on TV," he said. "I wouldn't mind getting my face on TV. Kind of like a Clay Hall (from ABC 6/Fox 28 in Columbus)."
You mean, Mo Hall doesn't want to come work for Bucknuts?
"I'd love to, but ya'll guys aren't on TV, man," he said.
Another interesting story Friday was the appearance of Montgomery. He was a Prop 48 casualty in 1994, and had to fight through a pair of serious knee injuries during his OSU career. However, he molded himself into one of the Big Ten's best running backs in 1998 and was selected in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.
His playing career is over now, but Montgomery is still working in sports as a radio and TV analyst.
As for getting his degree, he says he beat all odds.
"From gangster to graduate," Montgomery said. "I like that ring. From gangster to graduate.
"Being in a dysfunctional family, coming from the ghetto, having a lot
of uncles that didn't amount to anything, having buddies that were drug dealers
and being part of gangs and finally being able to get that degree… I think