The word enigma might just be the proper one to use when describing linebacker John Kerr who basically starts this season off at Ohio State with a clean slate after persevering through two somewhat trying and nondescript seasons.
The real reasons why Kerr first picked up stakes and left Indiana after a very successful season there as a true freshman and then became ineligible for last season after a solid spring performance in 2004 are only left to speculation and even innuendo at this point.
But the important thing to mention about Kerr is that he's endured and now he's ready for another go-around at it. Despite whatever personal trials and tribulations that he's gone through during the first three years of his college career, he's overcome it all and has another chance in front of him.
Kerr is officially a valuable member of the highly-touted and much-vaunted OSU linebacking corps, a very deep and talented collection of football players that, as a unit, should be the backbone of the Buckeye defense this season.
And on OSU's media day Kerr managed to have a smile on his face knowing that the mountain still ahead of him to climb could be considered daunting and very steep. But after all the adversity that he's been through in his career, from initially trying so hard to unsuccessfully earn a scholarship to Ohio State out of St. Ignatius High School to being a stellar scout team player at OSU for the past two years, that friendly exterior facade is likely to run only skin deep.
"This preseason is the most important preseason that I've ever gone into," Kerr said. "I have to prove myself all over again and it's been a while since I've been out on the football field when it really counts. So I just have to show them day-in and day-out that I know what I'm doing and show them that I can play football."
Only Kerr himself knows what his level of desire it at this point and whether or not the fire still burns deep inside but he claims to still have the passion to prove himself all over again on the gridiron and help make the team better.
"It's the most important thing to me right now," he said. "The most important thing to me is to show them that I can play football and help the team achieve its goals."
And he's determined to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
"It's going to be a tough road to go no question," Kerr said. "But I just have to put my head down and go as hard as I can and I think that things will work out fine."
Already Kerr has basically gone from being a prince to a pauper and at this point he has no where to go but up.
"My job primarily for the last two years since I've been ineligible is to be a scout team player and help the offense get prepared for whatever team they were going against," said Kerr who still has two years of eligibility left at Ohio State. "And now my job is to get myself ready and get the defense ready to play and I'm excited about that."
But the clock is ticking on Kerr and the linebacker positions seem to be well-stocked and accounted for, at least for this year anyway. But he's still determined to make it back on the field, sooner rather than later.
"There's nothing more important to me than playing football at this point in my life," Kerr said. "And I've got to be honest, I think the coaches are going to give me every shot to succeed so I'm just going to put my best foot forward and go as hard as I can, and I think things are going to work out fine."
Both at St. Ignatius and Indiana, Kerr was an undersized linebacker making tackles all over the field from his inside linebacker perch and now he's an undersized linebacker who will play on the inside and the outside for Ohio State this year.
"Right now they have me playing Mike and Will, they want me to know both," said the 6-1, 246-pound defender. "Primarily to start off with I'll be a special teams guy and that's perfect for me. You've always got to prove yourself at some lower level and work your way up, and although special teams isn't low it's not the starting defense. So we'll see what happens. I'm just going to work as hard as I can, like I said, and I think everything is going to work out fine."
Confidence is something that has never seemed to be lacking Kerr's game. At St. Ignatius, Kerr was a two-time All-Ohio selection who helped lead the Wildcats to a state championship in his senior year. And then when he went to Indiana, Kerr led his team in tackles with 114 stops and was the leading freshman tackler in the Big Ten. Five times Kerr had 10 or more tackles that year including a 10-tackle game against Ohio State in Ohio Stadium.
"I'm confident in the abilities that I have. I've proved myself before in the Big Ten and I've just got to get used to being out there again," he said. "You know it's different being on the scout team for two years where you have a different mentality about playing ball at that point. Now I have to get back into that killer mentality where everything is ferocious and everything is violent and I just get after it. So I think once everything starts clicking, as far as the plays and schemes are concerned, I'll be all right."
But Kerr just doesn't want to be all right. He has a strong desire to not only play but to once again get back to the top of his game like he was when he played at St. Ignatius in high school and at Indiana as a freshman in the Big Ten. He's had a lot of success playing football but nothing has come easy to him so this is nothing really new that he's going through now.
"This is the fourth school that I've been to since the ninth grade and it's hard to break into a new system," said Kerr who actually started off at Strongsville as a freshman before transferring over to St. Ignatius as a sophomore in high school. "It's rough always having to break into a new lineup and having to impress people all the time so it's not something that I'm not used to but it's something that I'll be glad when it's not there any more."
The tank is by no means anywhere near empty. Kerr has come too far and has overcome too much to run out of gas now.
"I'm still a young man," Kerr said. "If you've lost it already by the time you're as young as we are then you aren't meant to be here anyway."
And for those nonbelievers who have already written him off at Ohio State Kerr has a simple message for them:
"We'll see what happens."