It had been a tumultuous four-plus months, to say the least. By now, the details are well-known. Central Ohio native. A letter winner as a true freshman at Michigan. Son of Mike Boren, four-year letter winner for the Wolverines. The first player to transfer from Michigan to Ohio State, opting to pay his own way and sit out a year in order to wear the colors of his most hated rival.
It was August of 2008, and Boren would have to wait until the end of his second year in Columbus for his first shot at his former team. Donning what appeared to be an ill-fitting No. 56 jersey, he was asked if he had an appreciation for the historical significance of his decision.
"I do," he said. "It's the biggest rivalry in college football and I'm going to be able to live both sides. It's going to be interesting, but I'm looking forward to it and it's going to be a good time."
The time has arrived for Boren to finally face the Wolverines, and he will do it away from the now-friendly confines of Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes face Michigan on Saturday at noon for the right to earn an outright Big Ten title and also deny the Wolverines a chance to play in a bowl game for the second consecutive season.
He ceased communication with current players shortly after arriving in Columbus, and it did not take long for Boren to be embraced by his new Buckeye teammates. Rather than view him as a traitor, OSU senior defensive lineman Doug Worthington pointed out that the native of Pickerington, Ohio, simply decided to come home.
Senior offensive lineman Jim Cordle painted Justin as a player who wanted to be a Buckeye all along.
"His dad tried hard to get him to go there, and now his dad hates everything about Michigan," Cordle said. "He wanted to come here (to OSU) and he eventually did."
Worthington and Boren two matched up against each other during the 2007 season in what would be a 14-3 OSU win.
"We talked a little bit during the game and it wasn't great words," Worthington said. "And then just to go out there and practice with him now and see how good of a kid he is and knowing he fits our mold of a scarlet and gray offensive lineman and just having him on your side is always good.
"We got one of their best offensive lineman and I'm just happy to have him on our sideline."
The Boren family has been quiet this week. Both Justin and younger brother and freshman fullback Zach Boren were requested for interviews following the Iowa game but did not appear because either they could not be located before they left the stadium or because they chose not to speak with the media.
They had the option that evening, however. On the one day Buckeye players were available for the week, the coaches did not afford him the opportunity to speak. A phone call to his parents' house was not returned.
That did not prevent the junior from being a hot topic of conversation, however.
"I'm sure he'll be excited," OSU head coach Jim Tressel. "I'm sure it will be difficult in some ways because he has great feelings for both teams that are going to be on the field and a lot of great memories up in The Big House with his dad and himself and all the rest, but his focus will be on what he can do to help his team."
Jay Sharrett coached both Borens and currently has sophomore Jacoby on his roster. As a result, Sharrett has gotten to know Mike Boren and described him as someone who will have no conflict as his son suits up for the Buckeyes against his alma mater.
"You don't go and play the type of football that he did at Michigan and not be a Michigan man," said the head coach at Pickerington Central. "I understand that, but before anything you're a dad and I think that's where he's at now. He supports his sons 100 percent.
"You will get every ounce of fire from the Boren family for this game. There's no doubt in my mind about that."
It will be the second homecoming of sorts in three weeks for the Buckeyes after sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a native of western Pennsylvania, led OSU to a victory against Penn State two weeks ago. He, too, was unavailable for interviews, but said Boren can take comfort in what Pryor did at Happy Valley: he will have his teammates by his side.
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Pryor said after the Iowa game. "He has our support. They'll be ragging on him, I'm sure, but it doesn't matter."
OSU offensive line coach Jim Bollman laughed in mock indignation when asked before the Iowa game to look past that contest and talk about Boren's return to Michigan but sided with what Pryor would say after the win against the Hawkeyes.
The Buckeyes have his back.
"I'm sure there will be added emotions for him, but he'll have to try to prepare as best he can," Bollman said. "You don't get ready for that game. It's not a normal game. Will there be some added things? I'm sure there will, but you have to make sure that the added things don't become detrimental things.
"That's where he's keeping the right frame of mind and we're trying to help him do that. I think he'll do a pretty good job of that."