Linsley, however, had nothing to show for his first three seasons at Ohio State. The hiring of Urban Meyer at the end of the 2011 season changed Linsley's fortunes forever.
"I knew I wasn't going down the right path," Linsley said. "Really, the turning moment for me was when Coach Meyer said, ‘Your kids are going to look at you one day and you're either going to be a good dad or a bad dad. It is what it is. You're either going to do right by your kids or wrong.' The choices you make now — this isn't verbatim — but the choices you make now affect your kids. That's a reality. I was like, ‘Man, he's right. He's right and he's talking about me.' I was like, ‘Man, I have to make a change. This isn't about me anymore. It's about my kids (and) my future family.' That's when it really changed for me."
Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who was part of Meyer's new staff, quickly noticed the new and improved Linsley. With Mike Brewster — a 49-game starter — taking his game to the NFL, there was an opening at center entering the 2012 season. It took just two practices, Warinner said, for Linsley to seize control of the starting job. Two all-conference seasons later, Linsley was selected in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers.
"They're getting a very hard worker, a very smart guy, a very tough guy and a very strong one. I think they'll love that," Warinner said. "I think that he fits the Packer mentality. He's exactly what Green Bay fans are and love. He's also a very good player — very good player. I think he could be a big contributor. I think the world of him. He obviously played well for me for 26 games and I think that he can still get better. I think there's still some things left to improve and take it one more notch. He'll do whatever it takes to do that. He's an early riser. He's in there at 5:45, 6 o'clock trying to get in the building. He'll do everything in his power to get himself ready to help the Pack win games."
Linsley redshirted in 2009, played in six games in 2010 and 10 games in 2011, failing to win an opening at guard in 2011 — due in part to an undisclosed violation of team rules that resulted in a two-game suspension. The coaching change provided a clean slate.
"I think that prior to Urban Meyer and myself and our arrival, he was just kind of going through the motions," Warinner said. "I don't think he was sure what he wanted to do with his life. Football, where did that all fit in? I just think he was maybe a little bit — maybe not immature but he hadn't totally committed. He realized that, ‘Here comes a new coaching staff and they're going to give me a chance and, if I want to play, I need to recommit myself here and use my talent that God gave me.' I think that's what happened. I don't think there was any epiphany or any major issue, other than just, ‘Hey, I've been here three years, I haven't really done much, here comes a new coaching staff and a new offensive line coach. Whatever I do from this day forward is what he's going to think of me.' We made sure that those guys knew that they had a clean slate with us and were starting from scratch. It was impressive, because it wasn't just one month or two months trying to fool us. It was two-and-a-half years of him being a man."
In 2012, Linsley was an honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. Playing through a foot injury, he helped Ohio State to a conference-leading figure of 37.2 points per game. The Buckeyes' 37 rushing touchdowns were their most in 34 seasons.
Following offseason foot surgery, Linsley was first-team all-conference as a senior. Ohio State led the conference and ranked third nationally with 308.6 rushing yards per game, 45 rushing touchdowns and 45.5 points per game. The team's sack total declined from 30 to 22.
"His leadership, that's where it changed for us," Warinner said of the difference in Linsley from 2012 to 2013. "Just his leadership and getting everyone to watch film together. I think that and then he was a good practice player. He loved to compete at practice, and when you've got a guy who goes hard every snap, it elevates everyone around you."
Linsley is a power player, as evidenced by his 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press at the Scouting Combine. There's more to his game that brute force, though. Warinner pointed to Linsley's intelligence in directing the communication at the line of scrimmage. The need to know his assignment as well as the assignments of those around him is a task he took "seriously," Warinner said. Ohio State operated out of the shotgun for 75 or 80 snaps a game and Linsley was an excellent snapper; Green Bay operates out of the shotgun most of the time, too.
Athletically, Linsley isn't great but that's not an overly important trait as the Packers' offense has gone to more of a power-based running game. He ran his 40-yard dash in 5.24 seconds at the Scouting Combine; of the 10 centers that were drafted, Linsley's time ranked fifth.
"We pulled him a lot and he's good at moving laterally," Warinner said. "He can get downfield. He had some great hustle plays downfield. I don't know what his 40 time was and I don't really care, but in that space that he had to play in, he played very fast and very efficiently. He can get off the ball — his first two steps are really good. When you've got one hand between your legs and you've got a nose guard trying to crush you, you've got to have quick feet and quick hands to make up, because you're usually starting a half-a-count behind. He's so explosive that he can do that."
Linsley couldn't have picked a better landing spot. He grew up cheering for the Packers, and he'll certainly have a chance to win a starting job immediately in a wide-open battle to replaced departed free agent Evan Dietrich-Smith.
"Provided he can stay healthy, he's the kind of guy who could be in the league eight, 10 years," Warinner said. "He has all the characteristics that you would think that would make him a pro that could stick around for a while."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.