Bank Talks With Bucks: Etienne Sabino

Sophomore linebacker Etienne Sabino became an instant Ohio State fan favorite the day he committed to the Buckeyes over USC. Sabino played his high school football in the Miami, Florida area and is one of several Buckeyes from the Sunshine State. Bill Greene has more on Sabino in this edition of Bank Talks With Bucks.

It's not too often you see a Florida high school star spurn the in-state schools, but that's exactly what Ohio State sophomore linebacker Etienne Sabino did when he chose to become a Buckeye. Sabino, whose second college choice was USC, was impressive in 2008 as a freshman contributor on special teams and at linebacker.

Sabino, who is vying for a starting linebacker position this year, spoke of how his career is progressing at Ohio State with Bill Greene.

Greene: Bino, where do you stand right now on the depth chart?

Sabino: "I've been bouncing around a lot, right off the bat. I'm getting in with the first team a lot, and I'm in with the second team also. It seems like they're doing a lot of different things and we're working on a lot of different looks. I don't want to get too specific, but we're doing more this year than we did last year."

Greene: Who are you competing with for a starting spot?

Sabino: "I'm battling with everybody really. I'm primarily at strong-side linebacker right now, but I get moved around a little bit also. I'm battling with Austin Spitler and Brian Rolle mostly for playing time. Things should be more set in the next week or so. It's very competitive and that's good for our team."

Greene: Are you still playing special teams?

Sabino: "Yes, by the looks of it I've been in on all special teams. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I've been working to get in on all the special teams. I just want to get out on the field as much as I can. Last year I really enjoyed being out there on special teams."

Greene: I know the answer to this question, but am I correct in assuming the touchdown you scored last year on the punt block against Purdue was your greatest thrill so far at Ohio State?

Sabino: "Oh yes, it sure was. It all happened so fast that it didn't hit me until later what took place. It was crazy how that went down. Malcolm [Jenkins] made the play by getting the block. I just had the ball fall into my hands and I took off. The end zone seemed a mile away, even though it wasn't all that far. I remember hearing the sound of the block and I remember trying to find the football, and there it was right there in my hands. That was the best thrill of last year by far."

Greene: Bino, you are a long way from home in Columbus. Any regrets about coming this far to college?

Sabino: "No, not at all. This was the best choice for me. I think going away from home was the best thing for me because I was able to meet so many people, and see new customs here in Ohio. This was great for me as a person, and as a football player."

Greene: Can this team win the national championship?

Sabino: "Yes, I believe we can, but it's way too early to talk about that. There's no reason to talk about Michigan or USC, either. We need to focus on getting better every day in camp. In two weeks we will start to focus on Navy. That's how the coaches want us looking at it."

Greene: We've talked before about the influence [Miami businessman] Brett Goetz has had in your life. Can you tell us a little bit about that relationship?

Sabino: "Brett is my mentor, and he has helped me and so many other players from Miami. He's like my best friend, to tell you the truth. He's helped me grow as a person and as a man, not so much about sports, but about life. I've known him since I was young and he's someone everybody trusts, because he's not about himself. He's about helping people. He's always been there for me, whether it's football, or just life issues. He is good friends with my mom, and good friends with my entire family. He's helped out a few of my friends, guys from my high school that weren't being recruited at all. He knows a lot of college coaches, but he doesn't favor any one school, or push people to a certain school. He will make calls for players and try to get them scholarships. There are guys from our youth league playing all over the country because of Brett. Brett has been a big help to me and I could never thank him enough."

Brett Goetz is a successful Miami businessman, and also runs the Miami Beach Youth Football League. In an era of street agents and hustlers, Goetz stands alone as a man of integrity, and also as a person with a passion to see young people succeed in life.

"I love being able to have a small part in these players' lives," Goetz said. "Etienne Sabino was one of the best kids I've ever been around, and there have been a lot of great ones. I can remember throwing the football around with [Bengals star] Chad Johnson, when he was a teenager. I currently mentor approximately two dozen players from our youth program. They are all over the country at places like Michigan, West Virginia, USC, Tennessee, Ohio State, and many others. The funny thing is that I'm a Florida graduate and a big Gator fan, but I don't have anyone playing there right now."

Goetz spoke of the first time he met Sabino.

"Etienne kind of showed up out of nowhere to play in our league," Goetz said. "This was where Sabino started his football career. He came out a couple weeks late and I remember him showing up and being such an impressive athlete right off the bat. He played quarterback at first and did well. He was so big that we had to negotiate with opposing teams that he could only play half the games, because he was overweight. At the end of the season someone mentioned that it was Sabino's birthday. Because this was a 14-15 year old league, I assumed it was his 16th birthday. I was stunned when he said it was his 13th birthday. He had played in the league all year as a 12-year-old. I couldn't believe it.

"Remember, he just turned 18 last summer. He played at Ohio State as a 17-year-old freshman last year. He is so mature and so driven to be a success, that there's no way he won't be a star at Ohio State. I should say, 'Take that to the Bank.' "

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