Springboro's Jake Ballard became the third member of Ohio State's 2006 recruiting class earlier this month.
The 6-7, 265-pound Ballard is a versatile athlete that can play several positions – including tight end, offensive tackle, defensive end and defensive tackle.
He is ranked as the No. 16 prospect in the state by Ohio High Magazine and gave his reasons for selecting the Buckeyes.
"Definitely the tradition," Ballard said. "You hear ‘Ohio State football' and it's big time. It's always been an environment I've wanted to play in at the Horseshoe. I've seen games there and have always had good feelings about playing there and it's been a dream for most of my life. So, it was like a dream come true."
Ballard explained how he informed the coaching staff of his decision.
"They were in a meeting and I called (recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach John) Peterson and told him that I wanted to commit to (head coach Jim) Tressel and he was pretty pumped about that. And then he handed the phone to Coach Tressel and I told him about it.
"Coach Tressel seems like a real good guy. Really cares about his players and really likes to know a lot about them. Just a real down-to-earth guy. Definitely a player's coach."
Ballard also gave his thoughts on Peterson, one of the young up-and-comers on Tressel's staff.
"He seems like a really nice guy," Ballard said. "I like being around him. He knows when it's time to get it done on the field, and he knows when it's time to just relax and chill out with the players. He just seems like a pretty cool guy."
Ballard says he strongly considered five schools before making his decision.
"Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Louisville," he said. "It was between Michigan and Ohio State."
Ballard says his family was happy he picked the Buckeyes.
"Oh, they were definitely excited about it," he said. "They would have been excited if it was Ohio State, or Michigan, but they were pretty excited about Ohio State because it's close to home and being a Buckeye and everything."
Ballard was asked what position he will likely play in college.
"I'm pretty sure my first year I'll end up playing tight end," he said. "And then hopefully I'll keep that and get faster. And then, maybe, switch over to defense. But, if I have to, I'll help out with offensive tackle."
Ben Hartsock used to joke that offensive tackle and tight end were the same position in OSU's offense.
"They used to be a little more conservative than they are now," Ballard said. "I think they are going to use their tight ends a little more now than they used to."
Ballard wants to play as a true freshman. He is not opposed to redshriting, but would rather see the field right away.
"It is important to me, but if I have to redshirt, I will," he said. "But I think I have a chance of coming in and playing a little bit. They're losing (Ryan) Hamby and then they lost R.J. Coleman to injuries. So, they're only going to have two tight ends when I get there and I think they are both going to be seniors, so I think I'll be able to get some playing time in right away." (There will be actually three scholarship tight ends on the roster when Ballard arrives: Stan White will be a senior, and Rory Nicol and Marcel Frost will each be juniors.)
Interestingly, Ballard has a twin brother, Josh, who is "just" 6-3, 230 pounds. How does one twin get so much bigger than the other?
"I think I took some food from him when I was in my mom's stomach," Jake said.
Josh was an all-league linebacker in 2004, and Jake was the Southwest District Division II Player of the Year. Springboro was 11-2 last season, with both losses coming to Dayton Carroll. This year, with 17 starters returning, Springboro could be one of the best teams in the state.
"We're looking to be pretty good," Ballard said. "Hopefully, make it all the way, unlike last year. So, we're pretty pumped about this season. We have a lot of confidence and we just need to take it one game at the time."
Ballard will be on OSU's campus in a few days for a football camp.
"Yes, I'll be at the (senior advanced) camp on the 25th," he said. "That will be the only camp I go to. I was going to go to Iowa's, Michigan's and all that before I committed, but it just seems it would be stupid to go there now."
Ballard is happy to have his decision out of the way early. Now, he can enjoy his summer and focus on his senior season.
"It's a big relief not having to wonder where you're going to spend the next four, five years playing football at," he said. "This way, you can concentrate on your last season and hopefully do as well as you want to and play up to your ability. It will make my senior season more memorable."
But there will surely be coaches that refuse to take no for an answer. Ballard is anticipating getting more recruiting calls from coaches.
"I think so," he said. "I think some of them will still call."
Ballard will not graduate high school. Therefore, he will not participate in spring drills at OSU in 2006.
"I'm just going to graduate next June," he said.
Ballard is also a standout basketball player. He averaged a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) as a junior.
At one point, he strongly considered playing basketball in college.
"Oh yeah, definitely," he said. "When I was a sophomore, I didn't know what I was going to play in college. I didn't know if was going to be basketball, or football. I was getting letters from Big Ten schools for football and basketball. And then once I made my decision, I told my basketball coach and he told the college coaches to stop looking at me."
As for football, Ballard gave his strengths and weaknesses as he prepares for his final season of prep ball.
"I'd say my strengths are that I see the football field pretty well," he said. "
I have good movement; I'm athletic. I have soft hands; I can catch the ball.
"I'm kind of fast for how big I am, but I still need to work on that. I'd probably say my biggest weakness is that I can always get faster."
Just in case you're wondering, Ballard's best 40 time is 4.8. That's flying for a man his size, yet he says he still needs to get faster.
He has also made great strides in the weight room, and is now benching over 300.