Kerr Looking To Hold On To Starting Spot

John Kerr always dreamed of playing for Ohio State and he's paying his own way to make it possible. He led Indiana in tackles as a freshman in 2002, and then decided to tranfer to OSU and fulfill his dream. The Big Ten prohibits an athlete from transferring intraconference and being placed on scholarship by the new school, but Kerr has no regrets about his decision.

It's been a long road for John Kerr. But now as a fifth-year senior, he's penciled in as Ohio State's starting middle linebacker, and he's determined to hold on to the spot.

"It's real nice," Kerr said of seeing his name atop the depth chart. "It helps you sleep better at night."

But the 6-1, 246-pound product of Cleveland St. Ignatius High School knows there are several young players (as well as injured senior Mike D'Andrea) that would like to take the job from him.

"I just need to keep working hard," Kerr said. "The biggest thing is when you get out there in games, go out there and produce. That's all football is, basically. Everybody is good in practice, but who produces when you get out there is who is going to play."

Kerr says he is not relaxing one bit, even though he is currently listed as a starter. In fact, he says it's making him work harder than ever.

"It's just like a guy coming out of a war," Kerr said. "You come out into that clearing, but you're still afraid to get shot. So, I go as hard as I can all the time. I don't want to let it go. I know it's mine to lose and that's a good feeling. It's mine to let go, and I'm not going to let it go."

Kerr wanted to sign with OSU coming out of high school, but the Buckeyes landed all five linebackers they targeted in the 2002 recruiting class and there was no room for him.

So, he took his talents to Indiana and promptly led the Hoosiers (and all Big Ten freshmen) in tackles with 114 (75 solos, 39 assists).

Kerr decided to transfer following the 2002 season. He could have gone to a number of Division I schools on scholarship, but decided to walk-on at OSU instead.

"Well, this was the place I always wanted to be," Kerr said. "Growing up as a youngster, everybody wants to play for Ohio State that grows up in Ohio. It was just a dream that I always wanted to fulfill and I got the opportunity to come here, so I took it."

Kerr was not surprised that he played so well at Indiana as a 230-pound freshman. Yes, someone had to make the tackles, even on a porous defense, but Kerr was nothing short of impressive.

"No, it really didn't surprise me," he said. "I don't want to sound like I'm not humble or anything, but I've always done very well as far as tackles were concerned. The Lord has always allowed me to be around the ball. It never comes to surprise me if I make a lot of tackles. It's something you're supposed to do. If you don't do it, they'll wonder what's wrong with you."

Since transferring to OSU, Kerr has faced his share of roadblocks. He explained more about some of the rough times he's endured.

"I would say just my sophomore year, the first year I had to sit out, that was tough," he said. "It was the first year I've ever had to sit out from football and that was extremely difficult for me. I've always been in the mix and for them to say, ‘Sorry, you're ineligible, so you have to play scout team,' that was weird and I've never done that and that was very difficult."

Kerr knew he was going to have to sit out the 2003 season, but he also didn't see the field for the Buckeyes in 2004. There were all kinds of speculation as to why he sat out the season, but Kerr shed some light on the situation.

"I ended up being ineligible again," he said. "So, that was extremely tough. It was about transfer things. Everything didn't work out. It was a really weird situation over there. It's all done now and I can get out there."

As a walk-on paying his own way, Kerr was forced to take part-time jobs to help pay for tuition.

"Just like any normal college kid," he said. "You get odd jobs here and there and you take out loans. I've taken out quite a bit of money now, and that's OK. It's all about doing the things that are going to make you happy in life. I'm willing to take those loans out.

"I worked at Hyde Park for a while as a valet. I worked construction. It's not the easiest life, but it's just what has to be done to put food on the table and a roof over you head. It's not the ideal situation, but it builds character. If there's one thing I've learned, it's persistence. It's perseverance."

In 2005, Kerr finally got his chance to suit up for the Buckeyes. The bad news was that he was buried on the depth chart behind arguably the best group of linebackers in the country. So, he decided to make his name on special teams.

"I knew coming into last season that I was going to be a special teams guy," Kerr said. "The nucleus of linebackers was already there. You had (Anthony) Schlegel, AJ (Hawk) and Bobby (Carpenter) and they had already built unity within that group. And I knew if there was any way I could help this team would be to play special units and play the best I can. That was the only way I could get out there and I enjoyed it. If you want to learn how to work hard, just watch any of those guys. They'll show you."

Kerr also got some mop-up work at linebacker and played well. He finished the season with 14 tackles (7 solos) which ranked 13th on the team.

And now in his final year, Kerr is slated to start. He was asked if he feels that his time has finally arrived.

"I don't know," he said. "One thing I've realized is that I don't have control over what happens. There's a plan for everything and when it's my time, when my number is called, I'll be ready to go."

Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell has been impressed with Kerr's play this spring. Fickell seems to believe that Kerr has a very strong shot at holding on to the job.

"He's been productive," Fickell said. "He's tough, he's a playmaker and he's going to keep coming after you. There's a lot of competition at that spot, but John is in there and he's doing good. He's a sound tackler."

Kerr would like nothing more than to open the 2006 season on Sept. 2 against Northern Illinois as Ohio State's starting middle linebacker.

"It's extremely exciting to think about," Kerr said. "I've always wanted to run out in that stadium in front of 105,000 people and do big things out there. Unfortunately, I had to do it my freshman season on the opposite side, but it will be a fulfillment of a dream for me to get out there."

One would imagine it would be difficult to replace players the likes of Hawk, Carpenter and Schlegel. But Kerr is just excited about the opportunity.

"I don't really feel the pressure," he said. "I think the young guys feel it a little bit more. I know that those guys were one of the best linebacking unit that we had here. But what it comes down to is if we play as a group, we'll be fine. We just need to fly around. We've learned how to work hard from those guys and I think we'll turn some heads this year."

When asked if he thinks he will be the vocal leader of the linebackers in 2006, Kerr said: "In game situations, yes. In practice, no. Something slips inside of me when I play that doesn't slip when I practice. When we get out there, I'd say yes, I'm a vocal leader on the field.

"Part of being a leader is just letting guys be who they are and just encouraging them. They are going to get yelled at by coaches and you just kind of pick them up and help them come around. And these guys are extremely mature for their age. (Marcus) Freeman, (James) Laurinaitis, these guys are mature, so they don't really need a lot of guidance. It's more of developing a brotherhood and coming together and really getting after it."

Kerr plans on hitting the weights hard this summer so he'll be ready to plug the hole in the physical Big Ten. Schlegel played at 260 pounds last year and Kerr would like to get in the 255 range.

"Now that I'm playing Mike I might put on 10 pounds before the fall, because it's not Will," he said. "You really need to be able to bruise some people in the middle."

Family Affair

When it was announced that Kerr's younger brother – offensive lineman Josh Kerr – was transferring to OSU this spring, most incorrectly assumed that he would be a walk-on.

Josh Kerr originally committed to Miami (Fla.) in 2004, but was asked to grayshirt. He never played for the Hurricanes and will be eligible at OSU this fall after sitting out the previous two seasons.

"No, Josh is on full-ride," John said. "What happened was his deal with Miami didn't work out and he started talking with Ohio State and he had to get his grades up a little bit. And now that he's got all that cleared away, he gets a full-ride. He's 100 percent eligible right now."

In practice, there could be some head-to-head battles between the brothers. Literally.

"It's kind of weird," John said. "The first time I saw him lined up at tackle I said, ‘I hope I don't have to blitz and hit him.' I would hate to really get into him. But that's football. I'm really glad he's here. I love getting him up in the morning, because he hates getting up in the morning. I just love being there for him through the tough times, like the initial coming into the school. That's tough. But he's already got a friend in me and that's good for him."

John Kerr did his best to help bring his brother to OSU: "I told him, ‘Now that this thing with Miami isn't working, I think the coaches would be interested. You're a big boy and they'd love to have you out here. You should give them a call.' He called them up and everything worked itself out."

And since little brother is on scholarship, he might have to buy big brother a meal or two as thanks.


 

 



Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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\r\n
\r\n \r\n","mobileBody":"It's been a long road for John Kerr. But now as a fifth-year senior, he's penciled in as Ohio State's starting middle linebacker, and he's determined to hold on to the spot.

\"It's real nice,\" Kerr said of seeing his name atop the depth chart. \"It helps you sleep better at night.\"

But the 6-1, 246-pound product of Cleveland St. Ignatius High School knows there are several young players (as well as injured senior Mike D'Andrea) that would like to take the job from him.

\"I just need to keep working hard,\" Kerr said. \"The biggest thing is when you get out there in games, go out there and produce. That's all football is, basically. Everybody is good in practice, but who produces when you get out there is who is going to play.\"

Kerr says he is not relaxing one bit, even though he is currently listed as a starter. In fact, he says it's making him work harder than ever.

\"It's just like a guy coming out of a war,\" Kerr said. \"You come out into that clearing, but you're still afraid to get shot. So, I go as hard as I can all the time. I don't want to let it go. I know it's mine to lose and that's a good feeling. It's mine to let go, and I'm not going to let it go.\"

Kerr wanted to sign with OSU coming out of high school, but the Buckeyes landed all five linebackers they targeted in the 2002 recruiting class and there was no room for him.

So, he took his talents to Indiana and promptly led the Hoosiers (and all Big Ten freshmen) in tackles with 114 (75 solos, 39 assists).

Kerr decided to transfer following the 2002 season. He could have gone to a number of Division I schools on scholarship, but decided to walk-on at OSU instead.

\"Well, this was the place I always wanted to be,\" Kerr said. \"Growing up as a youngster, everybody wants to play for Ohio State that grows up in Ohio. It was just a dream that I always wanted to fulfill and I got the opportunity to come here, so I took it.\"

Kerr was not surprised that he played so well at Indiana as a 230-pound freshman. Yes, someone had to make the tackles, even on a porous defense, but Kerr was nothing short of impressive.

\"No, it really didn't surprise me,\" he said. \"I don't want to sound like I'm not humble or anything, but I've always done very well as far as tackles were concerned. The Lord has always allowed me to be around the ball. It never comes to surprise me if I make a lot of tackles. It's something you're supposed to do. If you don't do it, they'll wonder what's wrong with you.\"

Since transferring to OSU, Kerr has faced his share of roadblocks. He explained more about some of the rough times he's endured.

\"I would say just my sophomore year, the first year I had to sit out, that was tough,\" he said. \"It was the first year I've ever had to sit out from football and that was extremely difficult for me. I've always been in the mix and for them to say, ‘Sorry, you're ineligible, so you have to play scout team,' that was weird and I've never done that and that was very difficult.\"

Kerr knew he was going to have to sit out the 2003 season, but he also didn't see the field for the Buckeyes in 2004. There were all kinds of speculation as to why he sat out the season, but Kerr shed some light on the situation.

\"I ended up being ineligible again,\" he said. \"So, that was extremely tough. It was about transfer things. Everything didn't work out. It was a really weird situation over there. It's all done now and I can get out there.\"

As a walk-on paying his own way, Kerr was forced to take part-time jobs to help pay for tuition.

\"Just like any normal college kid,\" he said. \"You get odd jobs here and there and you take out loans. I've taken out quite a bit of money now, and that's OK. It's all about doing the things that are going to make you happy in life. I'm willing to take those loans out.

\"I worked at Hyde Park for a while as a valet. I worked construction. It's not the easiest life, but it's just what has to be done to put food on the table and a roof over you head. It's not the ideal situation, but it builds character. If there's one thing I've learned, it's persistence. It's perseverance.\"

In 2005, Kerr finally got his chance to suit up for the Buckeyes. The bad news was that he was buried on the depth chart behind arguably the best group of linebackers in the country. So, he decided to make his name on special teams.

\"I knew coming into last season that I was going to be a special teams guy,\" Kerr said. \"The nucleus of linebackers was already there. You had (Anthony) Schlegel, AJ (Hawk) and Bobby (Carpenter) and they had already built unity within that group. And I knew if there was any way I could help this team would be to play special units and play the best I can. That was the only way I could get out there and I enjoyed it. If you want to learn how to work hard, just watch any of those guys. They'll show you.\"

Kerr also got some mop-up work at linebacker and played well. He finished the season with 14 tackles (7 solos) which ranked 13th on the team.

And now in his final year, Kerr is slated to start. He was asked if he feels that his time has finally arrived.

\"I don't know,\" he said. \"One thing I've realized is that I don't have control over what happens. There's a plan for everything and when it's my time, when my number is called, I'll be ready to go.\"

Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell has been impressed with Kerr's play this spring. Fickell seems to believe that Kerr has a very strong shot at holding on to the job.

\"He's been productive,\" Fickell said. \"He's tough, he's a playmaker and he's going to keep coming after you. There's a lot of competition at that spot, but John is in there and he's doing good. He's a sound tackler.\"

Kerr would like nothing more than to open the 2006 season on Sept. 2 against Northern Illinois as Ohio State's starting middle linebacker.

\"It's extremely exciting to think about,\" Kerr said. \"I've always wanted to run out in that stadium in front of 105,000 people and do big things out there. Unfortunately, I had to do it my freshman season on the opposite side, but it will be a fulfillment of a dream for me to get out there.\"

One would imagine it would be difficult to replace players the likes of Hawk, Carpenter and Schlegel. But Kerr is just excited about the opportunity.

\"I don't really feel the pressure,\" he said. \"I think the young guys feel it a little bit more. I know that those guys were one of the best linebacking unit that we had here. But what it comes down to is if we play as a group, we'll be fine. We just need to fly around. We've learned how to work hard from those guys and I think we'll turn some heads this year.\"

When asked if he thinks he will be the vocal leader of the linebackers in 2006, Kerr said: \"In game situations, yes. In practice, no. Something slips inside of me when I play that doesn't slip when I practice. When we get out there, I'd say yes, I'm a vocal leader on the field.

\"Part of being a leader is just letting guys be who they are and just encouraging them. They are going to get yelled at by coaches and you just kind of pick them up and help them come around. And these guys are extremely mature for their age. (Marcus) Freeman, (James) Laurinaitis, these guys are mature, so they don't really need a lot of guidance. It's more of developing a brotherhood and coming together and really getting after it.\"

Kerr plans on hitting the weights hard this summer so he'll be ready to plug the hole in the physical Big Ten. Schlegel played at 260 pounds last year and Kerr would like to get in the 255 range.

\"Now that I'm playing Mike I might put on 10 pounds before the fall, because it's not Will,\" he said. \"You really need to be able to bruise some people in the middle.\"

When it was announced that Kerr's younger brother – offensive lineman Josh Kerr – was transferring to OSU this spring, most incorrectly assumed that he would be a walk-on.

Josh Kerr originally committed to Miami (Fla.) in 2004, but was asked to grayshirt. He never played for the Hurricanes and will be eligible at OSU this fall after sitting out the previous two seasons.

\"No, Josh is on full-ride,\" John said. \"What happened was his deal with Miami didn't work out and he started talking with Ohio State and he had to get his grades up a little bit. And now that he's got all that cleared away, he gets a full-ride. He's 100 percent eligible right now.\"

In practice, there could be some head-to-head battles between the brothers. Literally.

\"It's kind of weird,\" John said. \"The first time I saw him lined up at tackle I said, ‘I hope I don't have to blitz and hit him.' I would hate to really get into him. But that's football. I'm really glad he's here. I love getting him up in the morning, because he hates getting up in the morning. I just love being there for him through the tough times, like the initial coming into the school. That's tough. But he's already got a friend in me and that's good for him.\"

John Kerr did his best to help bring his brother to OSU: \"I told him, ‘Now that this thing with Miami isn't working, I think the coaches would be interested. You're a big boy and they'd love to have you out here. You should give them a call.' He called them up and everything worked itself out.\"

And since little brother is on scholarship, he might have to buy big brother a meal or two as thanks.

 

 

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