Boren Becoming A Buckeye

For the first time ever, a Michigan football player is now a Buckeye. In this article, Justin Boren -- and his father, Mike -- open up about how they have been received in Columbus, what he thinks about the process and that once piece of criticism he lobbed on his way out the door in Ann Arbor.

There is little about switching sides in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry that can be categorized as normal. With the rivalry billed the biggest in all of college football, jumping from one side to the other would certainly open any person up to all kinds of childish name-calling and alienation from most of his or her closest friends.

Not so for Justin Boren, the former Michigan starting offensive guard who opted to leave the program this spring for greener pastures he found in Columbus. Now in the fold and ready to contribute – although he will sit out the 2008 season to satisfy conference transfer rules – the team's photo day offered the first glimpse of the legacy athlete wearing OSU's scarlet jersey.

To hear him tell the story, the transition from Wolverine to Buckeye has been absolutely ordinary.

"I'm happy as heck to be here," he said. "It feels natural to me. It doesn't feel weird. It feels 100 percent natural."

In the history of the rivalry, no player has begun playing for one side and then transferred to the other. That sense of historical significance is not lost on Boren, and neither is the turmoil that was created in his wake.

On his way out the door in Ann Arbor, Boren cited an "erosion of family values" under newly installed head coach Rich Rodriguez and decried the environment being fostered under Rodriguez. Those comments clearly upset the U-M coach, who told reporters at the Big Ten Football Kickoff in Chicago that of all the criticism he has received since taking the job, it was Boren's comments that stung the most.

"Maybe I'm being ignorant, but the only one that really worried me was a question about our family values and how we approached the young men on our team," Rodriguez said on July 24. "That was the one that really upset me most because that's the one we take the most pride in."

Now that the dust has settled, Boren is not backing down.

"I don't regret anything I said," he said. "I stand by my comments 100 percent. I know I took some heat for that, but it's the way I felt and I'm not going to take anything back. It wasn't a comment that I made out of the blue or for no specific reasons."

Boren declined when asked to elaborate on what went on during his time at Michigan that helped to push him out the door, citing a desire to move forward and not dwell on the past. Since then, none of his former teammates still on the roster for the Wolverines have spoken to him, he said, although he maintains contact with former U-M players Mike Hart and Ryan Mallett.

That does not mean the Boren family has been completely stonewalled by people associated with the program, however.

"My former teammates are behind me," said Mike Boren, Justin's father and a four-year letterman at Michigan under coach Bo Schembechler. "They respect what happened and it's all good."

Justin Boren receives at least one message a day, he said, from people calling him all sorts of names or wishing injury upon him for his decision. Many come to him via his page on Facebook.com, a social-networking Web site.

Coming to OSU has been a breath of fresh air, he said.

"The first day of walking into the Woody Hayes from when I left Michigan, that was a little bit (strange) because I hadn't been there since I was being recruited in high school," Boren said. "But after that, once I started working out everything was great. I was more nervous coming here than I was when I first went up to Michigan as a freshman just because I didn't know how the guys were going to react to everything."

His goals for this season are simple: to learn the offense as best he can and help his teammates go as far as possible.

With a younger brother, Zach, a verbal member of OSU's 2009 recruiting class, the Boren family is slowly being converted into a Buckeye family. Justin said he is just now seeing his father start to don scarlet and gray clothing.

"I think my dad's starting to get converted," Justin Boren said. "I bought him his first Ohio State shirt and he's starting to wear it, so we'll see."

However, his father said he is still waiting for one of his sons to make the first move.

"It's going to come," he said. "I'm just waiting for my boys to buy me a shirt. My wife bought me a Big Ten shirt, but I told Justin I'm waiting for him to buy me my first Ohio State shirt. I'm going to wear it."

The Buckeyes and the Wolverines will meet for the 105th time this season Nov. 22 in Ohio Stadium – the place where the elder Boren's Wolverines defeated the Buckeyes by a 9-3 margin during his freshman season of 1980 for their only victory against Earle Bruce during Mike Boren's career.

There's no doubt who the Boren family will be cheering for this time around.

"We're cheering for the Buckeyes," Mike Boren said.

"It's not going to be weird to me at all," Justin Boren said. "It's going to be 100 percent natural. From what I've played with up there is a whole separate thing of what I'm going to be playing against now. I respect Michigan, I respect the program. I spent two years there and they were a good two years. I had a good time. But from what's there now, it's not going to feel weird at all."


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