The best place to be in central Ohio this Thanksgiving Day might be the Larimore residence.
Dexter Larimore’s parents Jeff and Theresia have come down from their home in Merrillville, Ind., to cook a holiday feast for Larimore and a few other members of the Ohio State football team. According to the OSU senior defensive tackle, no one will leave the place hungry.
“My mom cooks great food, so to be able to come in and have great food for the guys who maybe couldn’t go down to Florida or whatever for a day, we’ll have some of those guys coming up,” he said. “She’s an unbelievable cook.”
Then again, the best place to be might be Justin Boren’s residence over in Pickerington. The Boren family is hosting a similar affair for a number of Buckeyes. Just how many is up in the air, with Boren guessing anywhere from five to 10 teammates might come over.
“I don’t even have a count,” he said Monday. “My mom has been on me to try to find out how many so she can know what to get. Knowing my mom, she’s going to have a lot of extra food in the house.”
Or, perhaps, the best place to be is Brian Rolle’s place. Though the linebacker celebrated with his extended family during the open week, his parents still have come in for the holiday, with his mom promising to cook one of the Floridian’s favorites.
“I can eat cornbread any day of the week,” Rolle said. “I love it and she knows that's my favorite meal. She fixes a lot. When she cooks, she cooks.”
Those are just a sampling of the plans for members of the Ohio State football team as it gets ready to play Michigan on Saturday in its first post-Thanksgiving regular-season game since 2001. That year, the schedule fell so that Turkey Day was on Nov. 22, its earliest possible date, and the Buckeyes won 26-20 in Jim Tressel’s first Michigan game in Ann Arbor two days later.
This year, Ohio State’s home game will be its first post-Thanksgiving contest in Columbus since Nov. 25, 1995, a 31-23 loss to Michigan that spoiled OSU’s bid for an undefeated season.
Tressel laid out preparation for The Game to be the same as any usual year through Wednesday. Today’s practice was moved up to the morning so the team could break around noon and go its separate ways before reconvening Friday.
“We're going to have some turkey for them before they leave, but we'll have them out of here shortly after noon,” he said. “The ones that are within an hour or two of here may have a chance to get home, take some of the guys with them, that type of thing. It's hard to make a practice day special, but we'll do the best we can. It will be good turkey.”
In past years, Tressel spoke of how he preferred to see the Big Ten slate end so that players and coaches could spend the holiday with their families at the conclusion of a long season.
However, after a series of high-profile bowl losses some attributed to the long gap between the Big Ten slate and the bowl season, the conference opted to extend the season past Thanksgiving. It also allows the opportunity for the league to stay in the late-season spotlight, as in past years, Big Ten football came to a close two weeks earlier than games in some leagues.
“It was nice (to be done), but I don’t think it changes anything,” Boren said. “I think everyone will be ready to go. They know how big this game is. If it was any other game, maybe (it would have an impact), but the Michigan-Ohio State game, I think we’ll be fine.”
Larimore also saw a hidden benefit of the change, especially for the seniors whose families will stay in Columbus throughout the weekend in preparation for Senior Day ceremonies before the game.
“I think it will also help being able to talk to your family,” Larimore said. “A lot of guys’ families are coming up and they’re going to be able to talk to their family and have their family tell them how proud they are of and stuff like that. Sometimes it helps you and motivates you to play a little bit better and play for those people who care about you.”
Linebacker Ross Homan added that his family is coming in from Coldwater, Ohio, to celebrate the holiday with Ross and his brother Adam Homan, a fullback. Jermale Hines said he’d visit with family in the Columbus area.
Not everyone had exciting plans on top, however.
“I haven’t decided (what I’ll do),” senior defensive end Cameron Heyward said. “Maybe I will cook something for myself. I’ll figure out something for Thanksgiving. During the bye, I went home and we celebrated Thanksgiving at home. My girlfriend will be out of town. She’s got a couple of (volleyball) games. I’ll figure out something to do.”
If he wants, he can go over to the Boren household, the Larimores or any number of other places the players are congregating to celebrate the holiday.
“My mom said she doesn’t want anyone being in their apartment by themselves for Thanksgiving, so if their families are not coming into town or they’re not going home, she wanted me to invite everyone to our house,” Boren said. “I’m fine with it.”