Buckeye Seniors: 'Thanks For The Memories'

In the afterglow of another victory over Michigan comes the realization that several Ohio State stars have played their last game in front of the home fans. While the 42-7 win was tremendously satisfying, it's not hard to feel a twinge of sadness over the impending personnel losses. Bill Greene takes a look back at the 2008 senior class.

If you're a true Buckeye fan, what in the world could make you feel sadness days after seeing Ohio State rout Michigan 42-7?

How about graduation day?

Although many fans will view 2008 as a disappointment, it's fairly certain that these senior Buckeyes will go down in history as one of the most successful classes in Ohio State history even without a national championship trophy in their possession.

How many Buckeye players can say they never lost to Michigan over the course of the careers? How many Buckeye players have won four straight Big Ten championships?

This group may have not won a national championship, but that's about all itfailed to do as Buckeyes, and it's time to recognize a few of these great players.

James Laurinaitis will leave Ohio State as one of the greatest middle linebackers to ever play for the school, and looking at the former players who played the position shows you how powerful that statement is. Laurinaitis won just about every individual award a player can win, and his contributions were not limited to the playing field.

Laurinaitis will forever be remembered as the ultimate teammate, and has the respect of every person associated with Ohio State. He is a great athlete, and there is no debating that fact, but James Laurinaitis has contributed just as much off the field to Ohio State's tremendous success.

Freshman Etienne Sabino might be the player who replaces Laurinaitis on the field in 2009, and he's talked about how much Laurinaitis has done to help him learn his position. What many might not know is that Laurinaitis has helped Sabino off the field as well.

Agatha Rijo is Sabino's mother, and she talked this weekend of how much Laurinaitis has helped her son adjust to life at Ohio State.

"James has done a lot for Etienne, and I know he's a good person," she stated. "He even has taken Etienne to his church, and has tried to show him that side of his life. James has never been pushy, or forced his way on Etienne, but it's nice to see he cares about other people. I know Etienne will miss James next year."

Malcolm Jenkins was a questionable recruit coming out of high school in New Jersey, but he leaves Ohio State as one of the best defensive backs in school history.

Once thought to be a player that would need a redshirt year and a few years playing special teams to learn to produce at Ohio State, Jenkins confounded the experts by starting as a true freshman.

Jenkins improved as a player every year he played at Ohio State, and he is a certain high draft pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Jenkins, like Laurinaitis, could have left Ohio State after the 2007 season and headed off to claim NFL riches, but put off that decision to return to Columbus for his senior season.

It's entirely possible that Jenkins and Laurinaitis will be forever linked as the cornerstones of a great senior class, for they were clearly the two most talented and productive Buckeyes. They are players that have earned the numerous awards they have achieved through their inspired play on the field, as well as for their citizenship off the field.

It's not always winning awards and setting records that causes people to remember their Buckeye heroes fondly. Sometimes people develop a tremendous respect and admiration for a player because of how that player handles himself when things don't go quite the way everyone hoped.

Senior quarterback Todd Boeckman is precisely that type of player, and any true Buckeye fan will always remember the way Boeckman taught all of us a lesson in grace and class.

There is no way Todd Boeckman envisioned his senior year would go so poorly, but to his credit, he took his benching like a man. Boeckman not only handed the reins of the team over to freshman Terrelle Pryor, he continually put Pryor and the team ahead of his own frustrations.

Todd Boeckman is the ultimate Buckeye captain, and he took his job as a leader seriously, even when he was banished to the bench.

There were a lot of great moments in the Ohio State victory over Michigan last Saturday, but there were none greater than the two perfect throws by Todd Boeckman, one each to his two best friends on the team, Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie.

There are certainly more than three seniors who deserve to be mentioned when you write the book on the 2008 Ohio State football season, but these three players have totally grasped how important it is to be a Buckeye, and what it means to be a leader.

Every year there are examples of exactly the type of young men Jim Tressel is attempting to mold at Ohio State. In 2008, their names were James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Todd Boeckman.

To these three seniors in particular, and to all the senior football players, it's time to quote the late entertainer Bob Hope, in saying to them "Thanks for the Memories."

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