He’s never been in trouble, never felt the urge to transfer and never succumbed to injuries, which is more than six others who also signed in 2011 and left Ohio State voluntarily or otherwise can say.
But Hale also believes he’s capable of making a bigger impact than did last year, which is why he marched over to offensive line coach Ed Warinner prior to spring practice and told him that he would like to be considered for a position change.
“He came to us as coaches and he wanted to see what my impression was,” Warinner told reporters in March. “When he looked at me and said, 'Hey, what would you think of me playing O-Line?' I said, ‘I would love for you to.’ We went in and talked to Coach Meyer and Coach Meyer thought it was a great idea because Joel can help us there. That gives us a veteran guy that is tough, that works hard, that has energy.”
“I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing for the team toward the end of the season last year, and that was really bothering me and sticking with me,” he said on Thursday, carefully choosing his words. “I just wanted to do what I could and what I know I can. I know I can do a lot more for the Buckeyes because I’ve got a lot in my heart and a lot in my mind to make this team the best, and that’s where I want to be.”
Through the first three days of spring practice, Hale was firmly in the mix at left guard, a position that Meyer as described as one of the most troubling on the team. At the same time, he said it’s not easy to watch some of the guys he came in with – players like Bennett, Jeff Heuerman and Evan Spencer – worry less about their roles on the team.
“I’m fighting for my life right now,” he said. “I’m going to fight every day. I’m a senior and that’s hard. Four years of grinding and guys like Mike Bennett and Jeff and Evan, all those guys who are comfortable because they’ve got their spots. I’m a fourth-year guy, and I’m fighting for my life every day.”
Hale described his choice as a “huge risk,” but it may be less of one given Warinner’s past. When asked this spring if Hale was perhaps biting off more than he could chew in taking on a new position in his final season of eligibility, Warinner’s smile grew into a smirk as he evoked the memory of Reid Fragel, who made the move from tight end to offensive tackle in 2012.
The Greenwood, Ind., native, moving into the team hotel for the final time in his career, firmly believes he’s made the right choice.
“It’s a big camp for me, but it’s a big camp for everyone,” he said. “Big camp for the Buckeyes. I’m trying to be the best for this year, and we’ll see where it goes.”