Only about 300 of those jammed into a pizzeria attached to the Shawnee Lanes bowling alley on Wednesday night to honor Ohio State signee Drew Basil, but it sure felt like the entire town was there to celebrate as Basil put pen to paper.
Numerous people involved in Basil's life went to the lectern to honor the kicking prospect, resulting in a ceremony that lasted more than an hour.
"It means a lot," he said. "I didn't realize this many people would even show up for something like this. It's really cool just to think a lot of these people were able to help and support me. It was very humbling. The people didn't have to come out and talk about me; it was their choice to. I'm just really thankful and appreciate them."
Among those to speak were coaches – not just from football but soccer and bowling – along with family members, church members and teachers.
"We're all very proud of him," father Brad said as guests ate pizza afterward, "but we know that it's the result of endless hours of hard work. The price to reach where he is has been a high price. It's been a real commitment on him. The number of days in the summertime he didn't go swimming with friends and the number of nights he hasn't stayed out late with his friends – it's because of his commitment.
"He has known for a long, long time that this is where he wanted to be. Fortunately, we have a son that was willing to pay the price to make his dreams come true, and that's what he's done."
When his high school career was over, Basil had made 24 of 37 field goals with a long of 47, numbers that allowed Scout to make him the No. 6-rated kicker in the country and a three-star prospect.
Basil has known for some time that kicking could be his ticket to bigger things, but to say he's a specialist would diminish his athletic abilities. Much of the night was spent discussing his propensity for big hits on return men, and he also excelled as a three-time All-Ohio soccer player and a bowler with enough skill to make the Cavaliers the No. 2-seeded bowling team in the state this year.
"It has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid to play some sport up at Ohio State," he said. "When I was a little kid I thought I was going to be playing baseball, and I stopped that after the sixth grade. Then I thought it might be soccer because I was pursuing that pretty hard, but when I got into kicking it came pretty naturally, and with Tim's assistance, we're taking it to the next level."
The Tim he spoke of is former Ohio State kicker Tim Williams, who has become a kicking coach in the central Ohio area. The two have worked together for years, and Williams said that Basil's athletic ability is what allows him to be so good at his craft.
"It allows him to make adjustments that I ask him to," Williams said. "His intelligence allows him to make adjustments that I ask him to. And it's not just I tell Drew to do something and he does it. Drew works on things on his own. To be great, you have to spend time outside of the structured practices, and Drew does just that."
The kicking guru also said Basil will be ready to contribute at Ohio State next season, and to help in that regard, 6-2, 195-pound Basil graduated early and will start classes at OSU in March while taking part in spring practices. That decision will cause him to miss the state bowling finals, but Basil and his family decided it was the prudent thing to do.
"We thought the benefits of enrolling early give him an opportunity to acclimate himself academically and athletically," his father said. "The kicking position has a couple of incumbents coming back, but there's also going to be a great opportunity for Drew even early on in his career. We just felt like spring ball was a great chance for him to get started early."
The Buckeyes return part-time kicker Devin Barclay but lose punter Jon Thoma, so Basil will have to battle with the former pro soccer player as well as Ben Buchanan when it comes to kickoffs, placekicks and punting in 2010. He said he'll do whatever they ask upon arrival 45 minutes up the road in Columbus.
"I'm going to challenge the best I can, but we just need the best person out there for the position," he said. "As far as I know, there's going to be three of us up there. We want to do what's best for the team. Whoever gets the job gets the job, and I'll be supportive 100 percent."
Basil's signature on a letter of intent – the true one of which was faxed to Ohio State nearly 11 hours before his signing ceremony – signaled the end of his period as a commitment and the start of his time as a Buckeye, making him the first scholarship football player at Ohio State from the town in quite some time.
"It's great just to know that I'm not just a committed recruit anymore," he said. "I'm actually going to be up there and ready to go."