One Small Step

With several outstanding receivers in front of him, Ray Small may not have been expected to play much if at all coming into the 2006 season. However, Small has been able to see solid playing time and give people a glimpse of his tremendous potential. In Saturday's game against Bowling Green, he caught his first of what should be many touchdowns in an Ohio State uniform.

Early last week, Ray Small made a rather bold proclamation. The freshman receiver vowed to get his first career touchdown.

Saturday afternoon against Bowling Green, quarterback Troy Smith spotted Small in the flat and threw him the ball. Small quickly turned and dashed full-speed toward the pylon for that very first score he promised.

It was an 11-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Small – both former Cleveland Glenville standouts.

"Ray did say all week he was going to score," said Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. "He's a soothsayer."

Ohio State's roster is littered with Glenville graduates – seven of them to be exact. Small and freshman defensive end Robert Rose are the latest in what has become a very wealthy pipeline from the perennial Division I power in the Northeast.

The 6-0 175-pound receiver is small in stature, no pun intended, but coming up big in making plays in practice. His speed and quickness has electrified teammates and coaches to the point of drawing quasi comparisons to his former Glenville teammate and friend Ted Ginn Jr.

"Watching him get into the end zone and him expressing himself earlier in the week and telling me how much he wanted to get in the end zone was -- it shows his drive and love for the game," said Smith who delivered him the touchdown strike. "I think the staff made a good decision putting him in the game and the line gave me time up front and he made a great play on the ball."

In high school, the diminutive Small ranked as the No. 11 cornerback in the nation by Ginn's father and Small's head coach once said Small was "probably better" than his son – a rather strong statement.

As a senior, Small caught 35 passes for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also added 292 yards on 13 punt returns for two scores, three kickoffs – two for touchdowns, 13 rushes for 175 yards and a touchdown. Add it all up and Small found the endzone a total of 15 times.

The speedy Small made first-team All-Ohio in Division I. He's been clocked at 4.35 in the 40-yard dash.

"It's just like Ted," he said. "I want to follow in his footsteps. Hopefully I'll be better than Ted."

That's called setting the bar pretty high.

Filling Ginn's track shoes can't be easy for anyone. Let alone surpassing him.

"He wants me to be better," Small added.

Small has spent a large portion of his career chasing after Ginn both literally and figuratively speaking.

When Small was a sophomore in high school, Ginn was excelling as a senior on the football field scoring 34 all-purpose touchdowns. In track, Ginn was beating Small in sprints.

"I was a couple of steps behind him," he said of their races. "Usually in practice I would win the 100's (meter dash). I would win the short races. But when we would run the 300 or whatever, I would be right behind."

Following in Ginn's footsteps, he raced to enroll at Ohio State this summer hoping to make half as big a splash as Ginn made as a freshman. Early in practice, Small was already opening eyebrows with flashy punt returns and getting a reputation as making something-out-of-nothing.

The first five games came and went without nary a peep from Small. But this week, he decided to go prophetic and predict pay dirt.

"It was just a gut feeling," Small added. "It was something that I kind of knew in my head if I get a chance I'm scoring."

So this week, Small was telling anyone who would listen he was going to score.

He told Smith at his apartment this week, his buddy Ginn, and he even went to Tressel and announced his intentions to score a touchdown.

"He kind of brushed me off," Small said with a laugh, "but I was real confident."

After the touchdown, Small went back to the sidelines with a big grin.

"My little brother, I was so happy for him," said the junior receiver Ginn. "I know how it feels, the first time I stepped on the field and got a touchdown I was so pumped."

"He said, ‘you called it – you said you were going to score this week bum,'" Small recalled of Ginn's reaction. "We call each other a bum, so that's our thing."

Also met with a lot of excitement was Small's roommate and former Glenville teammate Rose.

Rose was the first to seek out Small upon returning to the sideline where he lifted him up and gave him a hug.

"That's like my roommate, my best friend, my brother – he's a great guy," Small said of Rose.

"Everything I do he's behind me whether it's wrong or right."

With his first touchdown out of the way, the man Tressel called a soothsayer was asked to make another prediction of future feats.

He had very little to offer this time, however.

"Hopefully just get in there when I can," Small said. "When I get the opportunity I'm going to try my hardest and show what I've got."

It was only a small step. But it was a giant leap for someone trying to catch Ginn.

"I want to be like him," Small concluded. "I want to put some of his game with my game."

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