Christian Bryant’s interception of Kenny Guiton in the fourth quarter of the Ohio State spring game last Saturday turned out to be a bigger deal than the players realized at the time.
That much became clear when Guiton and the rest of the members of the Gray team – a 20-14 loser April 21 – showed up at the Buckeye Grove on Friday afternoon for a “community service project,” a fate sealed by the turnover that ended a late Gray drive in the red zone.
Head coach Urban Meyer told them before the game the loser would have to put in some work, but the reality of the situation did not set in until the Gray team members were standing in the shadow of Ohio Stadium to receive pitchforks, hoes and spades.
Their task? Fix up the Buckeye Grove, the group of Buckeye trees south of the stadium that commemorate every former Ohio State football player to earn first team All-America status.
That meant edging the sidewalk that weaves through the grove, sweeping away debris and spreading new mulch.
A group including Guiton, linebacker Etienne Sabino and safety Orhian Johnson helped transplant shrubs at one end of the grove, something Johnson said he had not done before.
“It’s something different,” the senior from Florida said. “It’s nice because it’s not just us. Some of the coaches are out here, too.”
Elsewhere, senior tight end Jake Stoneburner worked a rake through some of the old mulch in the middle of the grove. He was in good spirits but admitted to being surprised at the workload.
"At first it wasn't a big deal, but now that we're here it is a big deal,” he said with a smile. “We weren't sure what we were going to be doing. I didn't think we'd be mulching and hedging. I thought we'd trim a few trees and get in and out of here. If he keeps this up, the spring game is going to be a lot more intense.”
Not many complaints could be heard. In fact, some of the Buckeyes seemed to have fun with the job.
Offensive lineman Andrew Norwell climbed the huge pile of mulch dropped on the sidewalk behind the South Stands of the stadium helping to load wheelbarrows for delivery to those working in the trees. Among those lugging the stuff back and forth was linebacker Ryan Shazier, who said loud enough for strength and conditioning director Mickey Marotti to hear, “Coach, we don’t need to go to the weight room anymore. We can just do this and get country strong!”
Buckeyes old and young agreed the project was more satisfying than merely picking up trash or something else not tied to the history of the program.
"It's a little tedious, but we lost,” Stonebuner said. “And this place is really nice, so if we can help fix it up that would be really cool."
Brionte Dunn, a freshman running back who enrolled in January, admitted not having been through the grove before and said he appreciated the history lesson.
“I did some yard work for my grandma before, so this ain’t too bad,” Dunn said with a laugh. “This is a good cause to clean up everything for the All-Americans. We lost the game, so we’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do.
“This is my first time being out here. I didn’t know about the things for the All-Americans until this year. It’s pretty nice. I’m planning on getting me one some day.”
For more on the day, including interviews with several other Buckeyes, check out the Ask the Insiders message board.