"Next year I'll be counted onto provide leadership for the younger guys," said Downing. "One of our team goals is to get back to Arizona. That's first and foremost. We want to win the Big 10 and, of course, beat Michigan. The seniors will need to step up and be leaders because we'll be playing a lot of younger guys next year. I don't like to talk about individual goals too much, but I guess being first team All Big 10 would be nice."
Downing, whose father Walt played at Michigan, talked about his first career start at Ohio State, ironically against Michigan.
"That day was a day I'll never forget," said Downing. "I had waited for my chance and I was determined to make the most of it. It was such a great thrill and I was so excited to make my first start. I think I played pretty well. That game really catapulted me to where I am right now. The fact that it came against the team my dad played for made it that much better."
According to Downing there was another game that provided even more excitment for him.
"No doubt about it, it was beating Michigan up there this year," said Downing. "That was such a great game to be a part of. We've had some really big wins since I've been here but that game was huge."
Downing also talked about his roommate and offensive line partner Kirk Barton.
"Kirk has helped me a lot both on and off the field," said Downing. "We know each other so well that it carries over to the field. Communication is so important for offensive linemen we have that down pat. I think we make each other better."
Downing also talked about the influence Jim Tressel has had on his life.
"Coach Tressel is very special to me," said Downing. "The great part about coach Tressel is that he's always been a guy I can go to. He lets me know what I need to work on to be a better football player. He's also helped me with life questions, so I can be a better person."
Finally T.J. Downing spoke about why he's spending an afternoon signing autographs when he could be doing any number of things.
"This is a great way to do something nice for people and raise money to fight cancer," said Downing. "Plus Stark County is home for me. This is where I grew up and these people have supported me all the way so it's the least I can do to make them happy. This is what coach Tressel expects from us."
The 2006 season will be T.J. Downing's final season as a Buckeye. With his awareness of how important leadership is to the team, one just might see Downing serve as a captain for the Buckeyes next year.