Norwell Excited To Sign, Get Started at OSU

Ohio's No. 1 college football prospect for the class of 2010 walked into the Anderson High School gymnasium on National Signing Day resembling the type of kid a Hollywood producer would be looking for if he were shooting a movie and needed an offensive lineman.

A mountain of a young man at 6-6, 290, Andrew Norwell trudged in dressed in a gray suit with a red tie, his shoulder-length hair combed nicely and a look on his face that said he didn't mind the attention but would probably just as soon not have it.

Respectful and humble during interviews, he turned out to be exactly the guy his principal and high school coach described when they took the stage Wednesday for the ceremony to celebrate the day he signed his letter of intent to be a Buckeye.

"I told (Ohio State offensive line coach Jim) Bollman I think Andrew's going to go up there and he'll keep his mouth shut and do what they ask and try to get better and when he sees an opportunity where he can shine, he'll take advantage of it," said Anderson football coach Jeff Geisting. "I think he's definitely prepared and he's excited and ready for that huge challenge, because to be honest, here there were very few games he was challenged the last couple of years. When we've played big games, he really was excited for those games, and it will be the same way when he goes to Ohio State."

Geisting said his lasting memory of Norwell on the football field would be his physicality.

"He gets a guy going backwards and he stays on them and finishes blocks," Geisting said.

Asked if Norwell is really as soft-spoken as he leads on, and the coach laughed and replied that it was no act.

"Yeah, he's pretty much always that way," Geisting said. "Guys call and want to interview him and it's like, ‘Andrew, you want to talk to him?' ‘Nah, not really.' If I say, ‘Well, you probably ought to,' then he will, but he's really grown up the last year or year in a half. He's coming out of his shell a little bit. All of them are that way. Chris was that way at first and now you can't get him to shut up after he went away to Illinois.

"He's going to be a fun kid to watch."

As for Chris Norwell, the story of Andrew's older bother also came up and is worth repeating.

He was a four-year standout at Illinois as a defensive tackle from 2004-07. An important part of the defensive line that bedeviled Ohio State in a 2006 test and a 2007 upset, the elder Norwell seemed ticketed for bigger things until cancer prematurely ended his bid for an NFL career. The good news is things have been looking up for him, as I was told he is healthy and has returned to football as an assistant coach at Thomas More College, a Division III school in Northern Kentucky.

"It's a tremendous family with some great athletes," Geisting said. "The determination and how tough they are physically and how much they want to excel is really special about them, and Andrew really epitomizes that. Andrew is really a dominant player. It's a shame that he didn't get to play this year because he would have had even more highlights."

Andrew is in the process of learning what it's like to bounce back from a physical setback, too, although not a life-threatening one.

He broke his leg in the first half of a 28-25 week four win at Columbus DeSales.

That ended his high school career but is not expected to limit him by the time the Buckeyes begin practice in August.

"I'm back to healthy," he said Wednesday. "I'm just getting in shape and doing rehab still. It's going good. Everything's coming along good."

Even while the leg was still broken, he was able to continue doing upper body lifts and he looked to be in fine shape. He said he was up to 290 pounds and maintains hopes of contributing to the Buckeyes as a freshman.

There figures to be a battle for at least one tackle spot in spring practice - Norwell will not hit Columbus until June - but there is no telling if those 15 days of work will be enough to convince Bollman he has found his best lineup.

And from the sounds of it, Bollman is understandably excited to get the chance to coach Norwell when the time comes.

"Oh, he's really a good player, really a good player," the Ohio State offensive line coach said. "I can tell you from having him here in the camp in the summer, he's a tremendous, tremendous athlete, much more than you can see on film sometimes. You'll see on film how tough he is and the way he approaches the game and everything, but having him in camp, he's a fine, fine athlete for the position."

Bollman said Norwell has the ability to play any position on the line but that he expects to begin him at tackle.

That suits the prospect just fine.

"I'm just going to go up there and compete and see what happens," Norwell said.

There will be time to worry about that later, though.

Wednesday was less about football and more about taking another step in life by signing that letter of intent.

"It's very exciting," Norwell said. "I'm officially a Buckeye now, so it's a great feeling."

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