Boone Confronts Problem; Ready For Big Year

Alex Boone was one of the most promising freshmen offensive linemen in the country last season. But little did most people know that he was battling a drinking problem. A DUI during the off-season forced Boone to confront his problem and he decided to go cold turkey. Now entering the 2006 season, Boone is in great physical shape and is looking forward to hitting the field.

Alex Boone was already plenty big at 6-8, 340 pounds. But Ohio State's sophomore left tackle has grown up quite a bit in the last year.

Boone was one of the top offensive line prospects in the country when the Buckeyes signed him out of Lakewood St. Edward. He played as a true freshman for OSU in 2005 and even logged four starts at right tackle when Kirk Barton was injured.

But Boone's freshman season will forever be known for his off-season DUI arrest and the lifestyle change that followed it.

As first reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Boone's predicament went beyond one bad night of faulty judgment. He was a 19-year-old young man with a drinking problem.

"I definitely feel that I kind of had a problem," Boone said at OSU's media day last Thursday. "Now that I'm away from it, I feel like a new man. I feel better about myself, more confident, stronger. I can do everything I did before. I realize that you can have fun without alcohol."

Boone could have handled the aftermath many ways. Most people in his shoes probably would have chosen to stay silent. But wanting to be an example for young athletes, he decided to tell all.

"I just wanted people to know," Boone said. "People kind of see me as the bad guy with the DUI who screwed up and lost everything, which I did. But the fact was that I made a mistake and I wanted people to know I was sorry. I let a lot of people down back in my hometown, but they called me and told me that they still loved me and were behind me. I just wanted people to know that I made a mistake and I was sorry for it. I just wanted to help others. Don't go down the same road as me. You don't want to get yourself in that hassle and lose a lot of respect from a lot of people."

The Plain Dealer quoted Boone as saying that he would drink up to "30 or 40 beers" per night when the problem was at its peak. And Boone confirmed a week later that his comments were not exaggerations.

"Unfortunately, that was true," he said. "That just how it was. It was just drink till you drop. That's kind of what the motivation was. And after a while I knew I had a problem and I just kind of turned around and looked at myself and realized that you have a job to do and you don't need that. It's not worth it. It ruins lives. I've always known people that it ruined and I always said that's not going to be me. I want a better road. But as it turns out it was ruining me."

Boone said he started drinking with friends in eighth grade and the problem progressively got worse.

"Basically, as everyone knows by now, it was all through high school and when I got here it escalated a little more, which I didn't think was possible," he said.

For anyone with a drinking problem, it must be difficult to quit all at once. But it's even more difficult for a college kid who could find a keg party on nearly every street corner around campus.

"Yeah, it's hard going cold turkey, obviously," Boone said. "But the motivation is the fact that if I drink again, I'm out. I mean obviously I know that if I drink again I'm going to be done. I have all these coaches who have put their faith back in me and their trust and their respect. I let them down once and that broke my heart. I cried. I couldn't imagine… I broke my mom's heart. She cried. If I do that again, I don't know what would happen."

Boone seems to be handling the situation as a stand-up guy. He's tackling his problem head-on and you have to admire his honesty and contrition.

"I appreciate that, believe me," Boone said. "A lot of guys, people say they don't confront the problem. They don't admit it's a problem. I want everybody to know that I admit the fact that I have a problem and I'm sorry. People are like, ‘You probably shouldn't have done that' (give interviews) but it's nothing I'm afraid of. I'll tell you the truth and that's how it is."

Boone even sought out professional help for his problem. And his friends and family were there for him every step of the way.

"Yeah, for a while I went to counseling and went to AA meetings," he said. "My family went cold turkey with me. They helped me out. My friend Todd Denlinger went cold turkey with me. He was great support. We would hang out and do stuff together like golfing, we just found other things to do. After a while I'm like, ‘I don't need that in my life any longer.' It ruined me and brought me down to a level I didn't need to be at. But now I feel good."

A Leaner, Meaner Boone

In the first two months after he stopped drinking, Boone lost 40 pounds. He has since put 10 pounds back on and checked in at preseason camp at a svelte 308.

"I'm quicker, more versatile and more mobile," Boone said. "I don't feel like I'm pushing myself to get back there. I feel like I'm all one motion and confident. I feel great."

And Boone was able to get stronger despite losing the weight.

"I was actually," he said. "I was surprised that my weight went down but I was able to get stronger. I was real happy about that. I feel good."

The hulking left tackle doesn't like to talk about how much he can max on the bench press.

"A lot," he said. "No, that's the question I fear the most. How much can you bench? But it's probably about 400. Over 400. Not as good as it should be."

As the man protecting quarterback Troy Smith's blind side, Boone knows he has an important role on the offensive line.

"You've got to be smart," he said. "Obviously that's the blind side and Troy if he gets any heat from that side, he could be in trouble.

"But I feel great. It's a lot different that last year. Last year I did what I could and stuff. And this year, now I feel like a new man, new season. That's how it is this year."

Boone continues to be tutored by the player who started at left tackle last season for the Buckeyes, senior center Doug Datish.

"He's been a big help," Boone said. "Obviously he's a great leader. Last year he helped me out a lot and even this year when I still have questions about stuff I still go to him first. He knows every position front and back and can tell you what to do. So, I lean on him all the time."

Boone is also close with many of the other linemen as well, namely Steve Rehring, Tim Schafer and T.J. Downing.

"Steve and Tim and T.J. we're all roommates," Boone said. "Especially me and T.J., we're very close. I feel very good about this year and what this offensive line can do."

But can OSU's 2006 O-line be ever better than the 2005 unit which included first-round NFL draft pick Nick Mangold, and fourth-rounder Rob Sims?

"I think so," Boone said. "Losing two great players obviously hurts the team, but I think with the chemistry we have this year, we could be one of the best.

"We're excited. We've got two guys back there for the Heisman (Smith and Ted Ginn Jr.) and that alone can motivate you to do anything. We feel real confident about ourselves this year, being No. 1 obviously is a good feeling. We really respect the fact that people gave us that."

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