Bucknuts Mag Excerpts: "Staying Firm"

Defensive end Ryan Williams of Mission Viejo, California grew up an OSU fan, so when the Buckeyes offered him a scholarship in the spring of 2004, it didn't take him long to accept. However, in the months following that offer, Ohio State football was in the national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Williams' teammate Kevin Bemoll, who had also committed to OSU, decided to look elsewhere, but Williams wanted to stick with his first choice. Read more in this week's Bucknuts Magazine excerpts.

As part of the redesign of the Bucknuts.com web site, we have added an area where we can publish excerpts from Bucknuts The Magazine. Each week, we will put in a new excerpt from the latest edition of Bucknuts The Magazine.

BTM has evolved from humble beginnings as a 32-page magazine into its current format as an 80-page magazine. It is published 10 times a year (monthly from September through April, then once in the Spring and Summer).

The magazine retails for $4.95 on newsstands. We also sell annual subscriptions to the magazine on the Internet for $39.95.

But the best deal going is our annual subscription bundle. For $99.95, you get a full year of BTM as well as access to all of the premium content and message boards on Bucknuts.com. Subscriptions to the web site, itself, are priced at $9.95 per month. So, for roughly $100 you receive the value of almost $160 between the web site and magazine.

In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports, including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other sports.

The Summer Issue, with A.J. Hawk on the cover, is available on newsstands now. Our next issue will be arriving in August. Check out our special offer that is in effect now to find out how to get a great deal on the $99.95 total access pass!

This week's excerpt is from our February 2005 issue. This article is on defensive end Ryan Williams, who will be a true freshman this year at OSU:

Headline: Staying Firm

By Gary Housteau

Without knowing any better, it might seem like Ohio State pulled off quite a coup when they secured verbal commitments from Ryan Williams and Kevin Bemoll, two of the most talented players on arguably the best high school football team in California, if not the best team in the entire nation.

Mission Viejo finished their season at 14-0, advancing as far as they possibly could in capturing the CIF Southern Section Division II championship in their state. It was good enough for them to be ranked as the third best team in the country by USA Today in their final poll.

Along the course of their season, the Diablos beat the two Division I finalist teams in the Southern Section and they also knocked off the somewhat legendary program from De La Salle as well. Despite having their long winning streak broken this season, De La Salle still finished the year as the Division I sectional champions of the northern section of California.

To put things in even greater perspective pertaining to MVHS, they advanced to the final game undefeated in each of the last four seasons, and they won every championship game except for one of them – last year. So Williams and Bemoll lost just one game in all during their four years as a Diablo.

"I'm just real proud of our team I guess," said Williams, who was brought up to the varsity as a sophomore. "We've had some really good teams every year and I've gotten a lot better to be able to play on our team because it's really hard to start and play and I was starting as a junior, and that was fun."

Up until late December, Williams and Bemoll were excited about the future they had in store playing together at Ohio State. But concerns over off-the-field incidents and allegations caused Bemoll to begin to look at other schools, thus making it unlikely as of press time that the two would play together in college.

While Bemoll decided to check out schools such as Cal and Oregon, Williams continued to make it clear that after graduation, he will take his immense talent on the gridiron to Ohio State where, fortunately, he has a lasting tie that binds him to the Buckeye state.

Williams was born in Ohio, and his father, Wes, who grew up there and went to Washington Court House High School, has always been a rabid Ohio State fan. Obviously, this particular Buckeye didn't fall too far from the tree.

"I've always been raised watching Ohio State, and that's always been my team," Williams said. "So it's really a great opportunity to finally get to play for them. It's like a dream come true."

Williams' early dreams of being a Buckeye were stoked in part by his late grandfather who was at one time a cancer patient at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital on the Ohio State campus. Both of Williams paternal grandparents passed away from Leukemia. Ryan's grandfather just happened to be a huge Buckeye fan.

"When my grandpa was sick, I remember being in his hospital room, and he would point out the window to the Horseshoe. We could see the stadium from his hospital room," Williams said. "And he would have us walk down with my dad to the stadium, and we would look in through the bars because we couldn't get in."

But Ryan's father was active in the ministry, and the family moved around the country during much of Ryan's formative years to places like Nashville and Phoenix before they eventually settled in southern California. The likely odds of the much-traveled Williams ever going to Ohio State at one point seemed to be about as prodigious as the amount of miles that separate Ohio and California.

"I've always thought that (Ohio State) would be the perfect school to play at, but I didn't really give it that much consideration," said Williams, who, at 6-5, 240 pounds, has matured into a top prospect as a defensive end at Mission Viejo. "I was mostly looking at the Pac-10 schools because that's where everyone around here ends up going. You don't see too many kids going back to play at a school like Ohio State, so I didn't really put too much thought into it. I didn't think it was even going to be a possibility until I started talking to them. And then I got really excited about it."

Williams was somewhat proactive in making the initial connection between himself and the Ohio State coaching staff. He flew in from California and went to a one-day camp at Ohio State in the summer before his junior season.

"It was awesome," he said. "I loved the facilities and I got to see everything. I had a good time."

Sometime after his junior season at Mission Viejo, Williams made a highlight tape of himself and asked his head coach Bob Johnson, who happens to run the Elite 11 camp every summer, to deliver it to the OSU coaching staff. Johnson was an instructor at the Nike camp at Ohio State back in April.

"They liked the tape and they called me back," Williams said. "I told them how interested I was in their school, and from then on they scheduled a trip to come out and see me practice. And then after that they offered. I just accepted it the day they offered because I knew it was where I wanted to go."

Williams committed to Ohio State in late May, and as fate would have it, Bemoll, his teammate and good friend, became very interested in OSU shortly after.

"Kevin wanted to leave California, and he was looking at LSU and all of the Florida schools at the time," Williams said. "I think Kevin might have got offered by Ohio State about a week after I did. When Coach (Luke Fickell) came out to watch me practice, he really liked Kevin too and they ended up sending him an offer in the mail."

Later during the summer, Williams, already committed at the time, was going to take an unofficial visit to Columbus to check things out and so he asked Bemoll to come along. And he did.

"(Kevin) got to walk around Columbus and he loved it," Williams said. "He was amazed by the stadium and the facilities and the coaches and everything."

With an assist from Williams and his father Wes, Bemoll grew to love Ohio State and decided to issue a commitment soon after his trip. Over time, however, things would change for Kevin Bemoll.

When the news of OSU quarterback Troy Smith's suspension for accepting money from a booster began to circulate around the country in late December, uncertainty formed in Bemoll's mind. Being constantly barraged with negative news and portrayals of Ohio State eventually took too much of a toll on the offensive lineman.

"As of now, I am keeping my options very open," Bemoll told Bucknuts assistant editor Dave Biddle in early January. "I had a really firm commitment to Ohio State, but with all the stuff that is going on in Ohio, I'm going to see what else is out there."

Bemoll said the process was very difficult, but he was unable to prevent being affected by the things in the news.

"Sure, you can't believe all of it," Bemoll said to "I'm sure they are playing it up. Like you said, a kid from California, what we see (on ESPN) is all we get out here. It just makes it difficult to know what is going to happen.

"I know Ryan and I – especially me – I'm feeling very uncomfortable with it. It's a long way from home to hear all this stuff is going on, where you're supposed to be going. It makes me a little uneasy."

It remained uncertain exactly where Bemoll would wind up, but Williams has always had an allegiance to Ohio State even before he even had any idea that he would give thought to becoming a Buckeye. Bemoll, who admires Ryan's dedication to the school, gave a description of just how firm of a hold the Buckeyes have on the talented defensive end.

"Ryan's been the biggest Ohio State fan all of his life, let alone high school," Bemoll said in December. "Ryan was the first of all our guys to commit. He got offered by Ohio State and I believe he committed on the same day he got offered. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh what an idiot, he didn't even trip around.' But Ryan is the type of kid that has been wearing Ohio State shorts to our football stuff everyday. He doesn't wear the Mission shorts, and he just bleeds Ohio State. So that's where his heart is and he couldn't be happier."

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