Marbles Signify Final Game For Seniors

Earlier this year, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel handed out marbles to the senior class in an attempt to keep it focused and to remind its members of the time they had left at OSU. Just one marble remains, and the seniors discussed what it will mean to hand it over before Saturday's game against Michigan.

Members of the Ohio State football team have gone to being able to play Chinese checkers to just one final game in Ohio Stadium against Michigan.

That might sound confusing, but it's really fairly simple. Before the season began, every senior on the Buckeye team – 28 in all counting medical waivers, according to head coach Jim Tressel – received a glass box filled with 12 marbles, as described in this earlier story on

Inspired by a parable, the idea was that each of the 12 marbles represented a game on the 2008 regular-season schedule. Every week of the year, the seniors have given Tressel a marble for each game, and the sands remaining in their careers have thus fallen through the hourglass of time.

Now, a single blue marble remains in the cases of each Ohio State senior.

During a week that is known for traditions like the Senior Tackle and the Captain's Breakfast, there will be one additional ceremony this year as the seniors present that final marble to Tressel.

"It's real meaningful because it symbolizes this is it," cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "This is all I have. I think the seniors, when you get in that position where this is the last one, this is all you have left, you take it personal and make you savor it and you enjoy it."

The final blue marble is yet another reminder of the fact that Saturday's game in Ohio Stadium – Senior Day, no less – will be the last one each will play in.

Those seniors – ranging from a kicker in Ryan Pretorius who is nearly 30 to a 24-year-old sixth-year player in Todd Boeckman to a number of players who exhausted their eligibility in four years – have had plenty of success during their time on the squad.

A win Saturday would give Ohio State a fourth Big Ten title in as many seasons for just the second time in the school's history. It also would be the fifth straight over Michigan, graduating a class that never lost to the hated rivals.

Finally, it would probably earn another BCS bowl game for a group whose oldest members took part in an Alamo Bowl victory in 2004 and whose entire group remembers a win over Notre Dame in the 2005 bowl game as well as two consecutive national championship game appearances after the 2006 and '07 campaigns.

That this day would be coming for such an accomplished class has been signified by the ever-shrinking marble case.

"It's crazy," linebacker James Laurinaitis said Monday. "It seems like yesterday I was talking to the team about how I had four marbles left and now it's down to the last one, the case is empty. I'll definitely cherish every little moment about this week, from today and all this, to practice each day and Senior Tackle and take it for what it's worth and enjoy it and soak in every moment of it."

Success has not come only on the field for this group of seniors, as one might expect from a group brought in and coached by Tressel.

"It's unbelievable how much I've grown," senior defensive tackle Nader Abdallah said. "The last two years I think I've grown so much and changed my life around. My attitude is good, work ethic is great. I've changed so much as a man, too. All the things I've been through here have made me stronger as a man."

As a result, he said that giving the final marble to the head coach won't be easy.

"It's going to be a very emotional time for me because I spent so much time here," Abdallah said. "I've grown with these players and lived most of my life here. I've been through so many things. It's going to be an emotional time but at the same time it's going to be exciting."

Another senior who said he expects some emotion near the end of the week is Pretorius, who has admitted to crying at some previous senior ceremonies that happen before the final home game of the year. Pretorius, whose parents will fly in from London, also said that giving away the marble won't be a terrible moment because of the game lying ahead.

"I'm going to be sad to say goodbye to that marble which Coach Tressel's wife gave us, but I realize I'm fortunate enough to play one more game in the Horseshoe, which is to me the best venue in the world. I'm looking forward to that and I'll probably be a bit emotional after the game."

And then there's fullback Brandon Smith, who said he'll be keeping his marble until the last possible second.

"I like to wait until the last minute," he said. "That's tough. You see those marbles in that little case and it's like, ‘This is what I've got left.' "

One thing Smith said he does not expect is a long emotional or sentimental moment as he hands over the marble. That would simply be out of character for the way the transfer has been done in the past weeks.

"Just fork ‘em over," he said with a laugh. "It's so cold and harsh."

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