Safety Has Taken Road Less Traveled To OSU

BuckeyeSports.com
Posted Nov 8, 2013


Most players on the Ohio State football team excelled at the sport throughout high school, but one walk-on took a more circuitous route. Russell Doup barely played a down of high school football but has now been part of the Ohio State program for the past four seasons, even moving positions as part of a journey he never could have expected.

Let’s be honest here – Russell Doup is kind of a funny name.

It looks like “soup” and many think it is said “doop,” which is exactly how an official Ohio State pronunciation guide listed it as a few years ago. Later, that was found not to be the case, leading to this note in his current OSU bio:

The pronunciation of his name – it sounds like "wow" with a "d" and a "p" and not "oooh" like soup – caused a minor Twitter trend one time when an official player pronunciation guide incorrectly listed it as "Doup like soup."

John Smith it is not.

So perhaps that’s why when one fan in Ross-Ade Stadium's student section two years ago noticed the then-redshirt freshman kicker standing on the bleachers, watching what would be Ohio State’s second straight loss at Purdue, he couldn’t help but bring attention to Doup.

“When I noticed Doup standing on the bench, I couldn't help but start a chant for him in the student section,” that fan, Brad Herman, told BuckeyeSports.com. “Chants such as ‘Russell Doup,’ ‘Put Doup In,’ and ‘Here We Go Doup, Here We Go’ slowly became a hit.”

For his part, Doup was amused by the attention.

“I don’t know if they liked my name or whatever,” Doup said with a laugh recently. “They probably thought this scrawny guy with a funny last name was a guy to start calling out."

That was the start of @DoupNation, a Twitter feed that lists off Chuck Norris-esque facts about the Buckeye.

“The tweets are pretty funny to see every now and then,” acknowledged Doup.

But Doup’s career as an Ohio State player is no joke. In fact, it’s one of sacrifice and opportunity, as Doup has grown from someone who didn’t play a snap of high school football until midway through his senior season to a valuable part of the Ohio State program as a walk-on safety – and gained the respect of his teammates along the way.

“Honestly, I never would have even dreamed about this kind of thing happening,” Doup said.

A Quick Ascension
Fast and naturally left-handed, Doup grew up in Mount Vernon, Ohio, probably best at the sport of baseball, his father Kelly said, and as a youngster his favorite sport was basketball. But dabbling in soccer also provided him with a strong leg and would ultimately prove to be the gateway into a spot in one of the best college football programs in the country.

In fact, one of Doup’s first instances of kicking a football came after his sophomore year of high school when he worked out at a kicking camp at Ohio State. At the time, Doup was considering going out for football his junior year of high school, but an injury suffered playing baseball ended up keeping him off all fields of play during his penultimate fall as a prep athlete.

So back to the hardcourt and the diamond he went, and things were going to stay that way until a three games into Mount Vernon’s 2009 football season when the team’s kicker, Nick Sahr, tore his ACL. Suddenly, Doup, a senior, had a good reason to hit the gridiron.

“I had messed around with it before and I did pretty decent, and our high school team had a game where our backup kicker had a game-winning field goal and he kicked it into the back of our offensive line, so they asked me if I wanted to join,” Doup said. “I was kind of nervous about doing it because I knew my basketball coach probably wouldn’t like that, but then I decided to just do it for fun.

“It was my senior year, so why not do something that would be fun to do? And I had a lot of friends who played football.”

Soon enough, Doup was out on the gridiron with the Yellow Jackets as a left-footed kicker. He didn’t try any field goals – his father said the team didn’t have anyone who could hold consistently for a southpaw, or a southfoot, so to speak – but boomed many of his kickoffs through the end zone for the rest of the season.

At the time, Mount Vernon coach Gary Keller compared him to Tim Seder, who had kicked for Keller at Ashland University before going on to play for Dallas, Minnesota Jacksonville and Kansas City in the NFL. But even more encouraging words soon came from Dan Stultz, a one-time Ohio State starting placekicker who now coaches the kickers in central Ohio.

Soon after Doup started booting kickoffs through high school end zones, his father remembered that he had received a flyer from Stultz about his kicking lessons at the OSU camp a few years prior. As luck would have it, the piece of paper was still on his desk, and soon Doup was kicking with the former Buckeye.

“We weren’t with Dan any time at all and Dan said, ‘You need to give some time to chasing this a little harder,’ ” Kelly said. “He made a couple of comments like, ‘I think you’re going to be sorry if you don’t consider pursuing this.’ That got us to thinking, ‘Well, we’ll at least put some videos together.’ ”

Using a family camcorder, the Doups took video of Russell kicking and sent it to Division II and Division III schools around the country. On a whim, they also decided to include a handful of Division I programs, including Ohio State.

About a week after the video was sent to Columbus, an email came back from Ohio State staffer Greg Gillum. The Buckeyes were interested, with head coach Jim Tressel having a long history of turning unknowns like South African former rugby player Ryan Pretorius and former professional soccer player Devin Barclay into productive college kickers.

“We were all real anxious to at least go and have a conversation to see what their comments were,” Kelly said. “Right out of the gate, they were willing to hold him a spot as an invited walk-on.”

Just as quickly as he was thrust onto the field by an injury to a teammate, Doup was an Ohio State Buckeye under the tutelage of a legendary coach who said he had the ability to be a diamond in the rough.

Time And Change
Doup was not one of the 105 to report to fall camp in 2010 but joined the team once school started that season. At the conclusion of that year, the famous scandal hit that cost Tressel his job, but Luke Fickell kept Doup on the squad when he took over in the summer of 2011.

And not only was Doup on the team, he was on the travel squad. With the graduation of Barclay and the full-time move of Ben Buchanan to punter, Doup found himself as the second-team kicker behind sophomore Drew Basil.

Though he didn’t see the field, it was fun for Doup to trek across Big Ten country with the Buckeyes, but his status on the team was about to endure a major shakeup when head coach Urban Meyer was hired following the conclusion of the 2011 regular season.

With no stats on his record to speak of and kicking with his left foot – which makes him a bit of an oddity – Doup had to find his place on the team. And to the new coaching staff, that place was safety.

Just as quickly as Doup went from high school baseball and basketball player to OSU football kicker, he had to go from special teams to the defensive backfield.

“My reaction was, yeah, whatever would help the team out is what I wanted to do,” he said. “I think they must have thought I had a little bit of athleticism if they wanted to move me to safety.”

Included in that position switch was a mandate to hit the weight room, resulting in a much different Doup than the one that reported to Ohio State three years ago.

“I weighed about 160 pounds when I came in, and now I’m around 195,” he said. “I never really would have thought that. I never really lifted in high school or anything, so coming here and lifting, I started eating more, and I still would have never guessed that I would gain this much weight.

“It’s pretty crazy. Seeing the pictures people take on the sidelines from freshman year, I feel like I look like a kid in middle school.”

The effort has paid off. A redshirt junior, Doup worked as a second-team safety this spring while the position dealt with major injury blows, and he played in the team’s 76-0 blowout of Florida A&M earlier this year. It was his first appearance in a game for the Scarlet and Gray, and it earned the family a lot of plaudits from the fellow parents in of the Buckeye players, Kelly said.

“Actually going out into a real situation was a lot of fun,” Russell said. “I thought I was going to be more nervous in general, but really, I felt pretty comfortable when I was out there.”

Doup was unable to make a return visit to Purdue to see where DoupNation began this year, but it’s fair to say he’s still held in high regard in West Lafayette.

“Russell Doup's talent knows no bounds, only one of few athletes able to switch from playing kicker to safety at a Big Ten school,” Herman said. “I currently attend Purdue University, but I have all the respect in the world for Russell Doup and the Ohio State football team.”

Doup is well on his way toward a marketing degree and still has a season and a half left to play for the Buckeyes. He still hasn’t made a field goal in game action in his life but has played in one more game as a safety in Division I football than he ever could have expected.

Not bad for someone who played only a handful of football games before arriving at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

“Coach Tressel saw an upside that he was interested in seeing if they could develop,” Kelly Doup said. “I give Coach Gillum and Coach Meyer a lot of credit for at least acknowledging his athleticism and giving him an opportunity to be part of the program.

“To have three coaches in three years, that in and of itself is an interesting experience, and then to survive that as a walk-on, it’s been a life experience as much or more so than a sports experience in some ways.”


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