Ohio State has always been my dream school.
Let me start this off by saying that. I got to go to my dream school — and I got to play football there for three amazing years. It’s something I’ll always treasure.
Before I say goodbye, though, I want to give a little background here — and talk about why I’m writing this letter right now instead of getting ready for the Rose Bowl. On one hand, it’s pretty simple: My season is over. I suffered a season-ending injury on September 15th against TCU. I knew right away that it was serious. I’d been trying to push through groin and abdomen issues since training camp, and the pain that I was feeling made it obvious that I’d re-aggravated those injuries and then some.
But even still, right? There’s serious, and then there’s season-ending. And not even in my worst idea of how bad I was injured did I think that my entire SEASON was at risk — or that my Ohio State career was FINISHED, right then and there, on the field at AT&T.
I remember sitting in Coach Johnson’s office after finding out that I’d need bilateral abdominal surgery. And man, we just started getting tears in our eyes….. because we knew what that type of surgery could mean. We knew it could mean I’d never play another snap in 2018. We knew it could mean the playoffs, Rose Bowl, Michigan game — off the table.
Most of all, though, we knew it could mean that my time as a Buckeye football player was over.
And when my surgeon confirmed all of that the following week….. what can I even say here, you know? I was CRUSHED.
I was just crushed. End of story.
That “dream school” thing — it isn’t talk.
My family has a history with Ohio State. My mom, my uncle, and my brother Joey: all Buckeyes. So as a kid, growing up, Ohio State wasn’t just some “team we rooted for.” They were MY TEAM. OSU was like a part of me. And to be honest with you, by the time my official visit rolled around….. there wasn’t much recruiting to be done. I was basically a lock.
I was born to be a Buckeye.
And what an absolute rush it’s been, over these last few years, to get to accomplish what I was born to do.
What an absolute honor and privilege.
There are so many teammates and coaches who made my time in Columbus the most incredible three years of my life.
Coach Meyer is someone who I can truly say got the best out of me — and I can never thank him enough for that. The same goes for Coach Mick, our strength guy. I owe both those men so much for how they’ve helped me to develop as a player and as a person.
Then there’s my position coach, Coach Johnson. I don’t even know how to put into words the appreciation I have for that man. He’s a one-in-a-million type of person — one of the most caring people I’ve ever been around. Coach J genuinely loves every single one of his players. We love him back.
And then last but for sure not least, I need to thank all of my D-line guys. Being in our D-line room, day-in and day-out, with some of my best friends…. I think I’m going to miss that the most. I will always be proud of everything that we accomplished on the field. But the bonds we built together in that room — those will last our lifetimes.
Right now I’m in Southern California, living with Joey, while I recover from my surgery and wait to begin my pre-draft training. Joey was recovering from his own injury when I first came out here, and I could tell that he was pretty down about it. Of course, I wasn’t in a great spot either. And one thing that’s been cool about this year is how we’ve gotten to be there for each other, and support each other in a way that just wouldn’t really have been possible if I’d been at school. So while it was tough leaving Columbus mid-semester, and I miss being around all my friends and teammates every day….. the chance to be with Joey, and to spend time with him as I recovered, that’s also meant a lot to me.
And I’ll tell you what: It’s just the craziest thing, man, being a Buckeye.
This school, this city, these fans…… there really is something SPECIAL about Ohio State. I’m not sure what the exact right word is: spirit, pride, I don’t know. But even 2,000 miles away — even all the way out here in California. You can feel it.
It’s just there.
And I think that has to be one of the best lessons I’ve learned — both over these last few months of ups and downs, and during my amazing three years in Columbus.
That it doesn’t matter what happens, or when it happens, or how, or why.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the entire world.
Ohio State is forever.
And when you’re a Buckeye?
You’re a Buckeye.