For most of the players who signed with Ohio State yesterday, the next step is to finish out their senior year before making the trip to Columbus. But linebacker Ross Homan is already one step ahead of the pack.
Homan enrolled at Ohio State in January and has been working out with the team.
"I made the choice to start early and get a head start instead of starting in the summer and getting frustrated," he said. "I am meeting the guys and learning the play book. Classes are going well and I am working out, so I am just getting comfortable with everything."
Homan has noticed that the players who have come in early have learned the system faster and have been more prepared for their freshman season. However, he is not just looking as his early enrollment as a chance to be in better shape to play as a freshman.
"The main thing was to get an early start and get a jump academically," he said. "I know that dealing with making that jump to college and football at the same time would be hard. I wanted to be comfortable that way August and preseason camp would not be such a frustration for me."
And when it comes to academics, Homan says so far, so good.
"School is going great right now," he said. "All of the coaches and players and my academic advisor have helped me make the transition from high school to college. It is a big change."
Jim Tressel and Ross Homan
Right now, on the football side of things, Homan has been spending plenty of time working out. OSU head coach Jim Tressel noted that he has seen Homan working out at 6 a.m. with A.J. Hawk and James Laurinaitis.
"This winter, I am working out everyday and then we have spring ball," Homan said. "Then I will be down at Ohio State all summer working out to get ready for next season.
"We work out Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays with speed training on Wednesdays. It is a pretty vigorous schedule, but it is working out all right."
He has already discovered the leap between high school and college football.
"There is a lot more commitment now," he said. "There is so much more to do everyday. Everything is pushed up and the intensity is greater. We watch more film and work out harder than in high school. But with that comes great success and the payoff is great too.
"The toughest challenge about going to a program like OSU is being prepared mentally. Learning the playbook, schemes, and watching a lot of film. Plus, I have to get stronger and faster."
Homan is also battling a nagging injury with his shoulders, which should be cleared up soon.
"Playing offense and defense, my shoulders got pretty banged up this year," he said. "But I am rehabbing and working out so I should be 100 percent in a couple of weeks."
Homan speaks with local media at his hometown press conference Wednesday night
Deciding to leave their senior year behind can be a hard thing for a player like Homan making the early jump to college. However, Homan will always have a town full of fans to go home to in Coldwater.
"I took care of everything before I left, but I still miss my friends and my family," Homan said. "Growing up here, everyone here loves Ohio State football, so it is great coming back here because everyone is rooting for me."
Homan capped off his career in the best possible way, by helping to bring home Coldwater's first ever state championship after falling short in the past.
"Winning a championship felt good," he said. "After last summer and working so hard and coming so close the past couple years to cap it all off, especially going undefeated, we felt we could take a breather."
Homan's senior season was filled with accolades and awards, including the ONN/Ohio High Player of the Year award for the state of Ohio. Homan had 1,431 yards and 30 TDs on offense and over 200 tackles on the season. However, he does not seem to be focused much on the individual honors.
"I kind of block a lot of stuff out," Homan said. "I try concentrate on my academics and my play. I am blessed I can get those kind of accolades, but that isn't really my thing."
Normally, a player coming to Ohio State from a small school like Coldwater (Division IV) might cause some to question the level of competition experienced in high school. But Coldwater is an exception. The Cavaliers play in the toughest small-school conference in the state -- the Midwest Athletic Conference, which includes Versailles, Delphos St. Johns, St. Henry, and Maria Stein Marion Local, all of whom have won multiple state championships in the past ten years.
Coldwater has not lost a regular season game in the MAC the past two seasons. Homan says the league prepared him well for what he will face.
"The competition in each game was a big challenge," he said. "There was no bye in the whole league. That taught me to be focused for every game."
He has also found plenty of similarities between OSU head coach Jim Tressel and his high school coach, John Reed.
"Coach Reed and coach Tressel are alike in so many ways," Homan said. "They push you and they are like having a second father helping you out anyway they can. Coach Reed has done a great job helping me get ready for this so I give him a lot of credit."
Now the next step for Homan is to continue preparation for spring practice and then for a shot at playing as a freshman. Based on the fact that Ohio State graduates all three starting linebackers, many feel there is a chance for Homan to make a run at landing in the two-deep.
Homan would likely be thrilled with that accomplishment, but what he aims to do is much more simple.
"I am going to try and compete at the highest level and show them what I can do," Homan said.