Homan, Chekwa Prepare For Fifth Year

Ohio State fans like seeing juniors come back for their senior seasons. For Ross Homan (pictured) and Chimdi Chekwa, the decision to come back was an interesting one given the fact that it means joining the list of fifth-year players to suit up for the Buckeyes. Read on to get their thoughts on coming back.

By the academic calendar of an average college student, Chimdi Chekwa and Ross Homan should be preparing for life after Ohio State.

With four years of college in the books, both players have opted to pass up a shot at the NFL for the opportunity to be fifth-year seniors for the Buckeyes. While both players are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, Chekwa pointed out that the decision to return for a fifth year is not one that one comes to easily.

Including Chekwa and Homan, nine members of OSU's class of 2006 are expected to be on the roster as fifth-year seniors next season. One – defensive end Thaddeus Gibson – opted to skip out on his final year of college football and enter the NFL draft, while Chris Wells and junior-college transfer Larry Grant are already on NFL rosters.

This from a recruiting class that initially numbered 20 members.

"If you're here for four years, you feel like this is sort of your senior season," he said. "A lot of guys you came in with are leaving, so you feel like you've done enough and been here long enough so maybe you should go. I think it's a lot different than being a third-year junior."

Both players have taken different paths to get to this point, however. Chekwa went the conventional route and redshirted as a true freshman, giving him four full years to man his cornerback spot.

Homan, however, was in such a hurry to start his collegiate career that he graduated early from high school and enrolled in winter courses prior to the 2006 season. When Chekwa signed his national letter-of-intent to join the Buckeyes in February of that year, Homan had already been on campus for about a month.

This spring, he will join a small group of players to go through spring practice for a fifth time – a fact the native of Coldwater, Ohio, said he is embracing.

"Practice is fun to me," he said. "Any time you get to come out here and run around with your guys, it's a fun time. I don't mind it at all. I've definitely had my years here but I don't take it for granted."

But the reason Homan is still around is that he wound up taking a medical redshirt during his sophomore season after coming down with a case of turf toe. He saw action in four games, recording 12 tackles.

If not for the injury, Homan would have no choice but to be suiting up in the NFL this fall.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I got hurt, came back and hopefully it all worked out for me."

For Homan, the debate about whether to stay or go began shortly after the Buckeyes returned to Columbus after defeating Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The paperwork he had filed with the NFL projected him as a third-round draft pick.

"When everything is said and done, you get home and you sit down in your bedroom and think things over," the linebacker said. "One decision that you make can be life-changing and you run everything through your head. I thought about that, that this could be the last time with my teammates, wearing this jersey, playing on the field as an Ohio State Buckeye. You always think about that after the game."

Chekwa's projection came in a bit lower. The cornerback said the NFL simply told him he would be a "mid-round" pick. That knowledge did not really help his decision, Chekwa said, because the projection was right in the middle.

Among the people he consulted before making a decision was Donald Washington, a former OSU cornerback who left after his junior season and was a fourth-round selection by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2009 draft.

"He asked me what I was thinking a few times and I told him what I was thinking and how I felt at the time I was trying to make a decision," Washington said. "He told me what I would get if I came out or what it would be like and I took that into consideration."

While both players considered going pro, Chekwa appeared more torn than Homan.

"There was a point where I was split 50-50 about the situation," he said. "I don't know if I was actually leaning or not. I tried to hold off on it until I was absolutely sure."

Now that both are on board for one more year, Chekwa and Homan said they are looking forward to assuming leadership positions on a team expected to challenge for the national championship.

It's a big part of the reason both decided to come back – regardless of how they arrived at this point.

"It's like in anything: if it's your last time around you cherish it a little more," Chekwa said. "You think about it a little bit more and I know going into the season I'm going to have to do more than focus on me. I'm going to have to focus on the younger guys and help them come along like older guys did for me."

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