Everyone's got a story to tell. Some stories are funny, some are sad,
and some (like my life story) would put you to sleep. And some, like the
story of Corporal Cliff Reynolds, are uplifting and will
put a smile on your face.
Often times, we are told to follow our dreams. It is not uncommon to
see a famous person get on television and tell people that if you work hard, you
can achieve anything. We hear that so many times that it almost sounds
cliche, but too many examples exist proving that saying for one to say it is false. The following story is one such example.
Cliff Reynolds comes from the heart of Buckeye country in
Lancaster, Ohio, which is located Southeast of
Columbus. Cliff played high school football at Lancaster High School,
which is the same school that produced incoming Buckeye freshman Bobby
"Bobby was a freshman when I was a senior," Cliff
said. "Funny how things workout."
Cliff did a lot on the field during his high school football
career. We asked him to give some stats from high school, and he couldn't
remember everything, but he gave us some good stuff nonetheless.
"It's hard to recall some stats from then but I'll try," he
wrote. "My sophomore year, I played DB and WR but we had a strong
senior class so playing time was hard to come by. My junior year I started at
OLB but no offense because my thumbs were broke the whole season. I can say
without a second thought that I had over a hundred tackles, a tenth of those for
loss. I had one blocked field goal, an interception returned for a touchdown (50
yards) and received a couple player of the games, week, county.
"My senior year I was selected by my peers as captain of
our team. I started out the year at MLB for the first 5 games. I recorded 48
tackles, 4 for a loss and also played TE and FB. The last 5 I was moved to DE
because of an injury at that position and we didn't have much of a pass rush. I
recorded 6 sacks 68 tackles, 11 for a loss, 3 blocked punts, 3 caused fumbles, 1
blocked field goal, made all conference, selected to the Gridiron Greats
(whatever that is) and was selected to the East-West All-Star game. In that
game, I started OLB and TE. The 3rd series I dislocated a finger and the coach
said I was needed more at TE. I had 3 catches for 78 yards and was game MVP. Of
course it's easier to remember my senior year, but it gets harder the further
you go back. I guess I'm just old!"
Football is something that Cliff has always loved, so wanting
to play again seemed natural.
"It's just born in you," he
said. "I started playing football as early as I can remember.
Kindergarten I believe, out on recess. As soon as you can get somewhat of an
organized game. Then from there I had older sisters and older neighbors. We'd go
down to the local park and I'd beg to play. At some points I'd hold my own, and
then at others I'd be walking home crying with blood pouring out of some cut. I
started playing flag in 4th grade then moved to pee-wee (tackle) in 5th. I was
getting my butt kicked the first year, the grade level was 5-7th. I was pretty
small then. From there I just played until where I am now, still playing, in the
Joining the Marines
Cliff Reynolds had opportunities to go to college after
playing football at Lancaster, but he didn't seize them and elected to go into
the Marines instead. Why?
"That question I've heard about everyday of my military
career," he said. "I can't really pinpoint an answer but I
remember my father saying something to me that stuck. He said 'You better
choose your future before it chooses you.' With that I mean I was offered
football scholarships that really didn't tempt me. I didn't feel that
camaraderie like I did with my high school team, you know, the "I'm willing
to sacrifice everyting, I'm going to do my part." They were all there by
default it seemed. The academics, well, I wasn't the best student, I wasn't the
worst student... I just did what I had to, which is wrong, I know now. Pretty
much it was hard to pass by to play football, but I couldn't make a decision
because of what I said above, and I couldn't see myself going somewhere and not
playing, so time was dragging on and on. I had to make a decision before I was
stuck somewhere because I couldn't. Does that make sense? Pretty much it's a
choice NOT to stay in my home town, or do construction, or whatever. Choose your
future before it chose you."
Being in the Marines has meant that this Cliff, who is 21
years old now and will turn 22 during this season, has seen and done more in his
time than the majority of people his age.
"Well, Marine Corps boot
camp was enough of an experience to last a lifetime, but that's a story of it's
own," Cliff said. The military in general is full of experiences. Not many
people get to fire machine guns, artillery, rifles, throw grenades, repel off
100 ft walls... It's a good time. It's a child's fantasy, except the weapons are
real. I've been everywhere in the U.S.A.; I asked to go to Japan, but I was
Currently, Cpl. Reynolds is stationed in North Carolina, and
he won't be the same rank too much longer. "I'm currently stationed
at Camp Lejeune, N.C.," he said. "It's about 100 miles north of
the border of North and South Carolina. I've been a Corporal/E-4 for almost a
year. I will be promoted on October 1 of this year.
Whenever someone says "9/11" or "September
11", nothing else needs to be said. Everyone has his or her own
thoughts on that day, and everyone can tell the story from their own unique
point of view. For Cpl. Reynolds, it was a time of fright and anger.
"The most memorable experience (since joining the
Marines) was 11 Sept, 2001. I know it hurt every American in the U.S., but being
in the military I believe you have a different sense of hurt and anger. The few
days after that was unexplainable. Making wills, setting up power of attorneys.
Some people making out their own epitaph. You're scared, but not, in a way. It's
like practicing for the game but the game never comes. Well, that day, the U.S.
called out for a game and the military was ready. We were all scared but we were
"Talk about camaraderie. You will never find a closer
knit (family) like the Marine Corps. I had 61-year old man come up to me at the
L.A. airport because I was in my uniform and offered to buy me a steak dinner. I
of course denied and thanked him but he wouldn't take that answer in a second.
He said he was a retired Marine and he was going to buy me dinner. Well, he did,
and you know the cost of airport restaurants. I haven't experienced as much as
most but I have enough to remember the rest of my life. Mostly the men I've
The Next Step
Along the way, Cpl. Reynolds decided to try and be a
Buckeye. Since he had football in his blood, this just seemed like the
next step to take. "What do you do when your in junior high? You go
the the varsity games," he said. "You can't wait to get there.
You stare at the field and just imagine. There is no question, if you're a
football nut, that being on the varsity team is the main goal and with Lancaster
being so close to Columbus, there is no question it's just the next step."
Despite living in Lancaster, Cliff had never been to an OSU
game until this year. He took in the San Diego State game and loved what
he saw. And later, he had a chance to stand in the Horseshoe with a
"The people that love Buckeye football, it's wonderful.
It's hard to watch football games in the stands for me. The first OSU game I
watched was last year against San Diego St I believe and I couldn't believe the
vibe there. Every single person there had one feeling, love for Buckeye
"Then to top it off I went to a Spring Practice with
Bobby (Carpenter) and stood on the field. This was all before I made my
decision, so now there is no question, that I have to do this."
But getting to where he is now was more than that for
Cliff. He had work to do, both physically and mentally.
"First, I think convincing myself was a big step,"
he said. "How many people go skydiving for the first time by
themselves? Not too many, and I knew this was going to be a bigger challenge
than just jumping out of an airplane. It's always better with someone beside
you, but I didn't have that."
Once he decided to go for it, he started to get to work, and
it wasn't easy.
"The workouts and running/conditioning is all on my
own," Reynolds said. "When I made my mind up that it's Buckeye
football or nothing, I started working out hours upon hours to get my physical
characteristics where they needed to be to be able to compete or even be looked
at seriously as a Big Ten prospect. I wasn't that far off when I started this
journey, but I don't want to be looked at as a hitting dummy. I know I'll have
to work for everything I get, but going in there with some domineering
attributes will not hurt also. "
Staying Persistent and taking 'baby steps'
The next step was to get his name out there and let it be
known that he wanted to be a Buckeye.
"When I felt I was at a point where I could be taken
seriously I started contacting everyone I possibly could," he said.
"Anyone from coaches, scouts and recruiting gurus. I even e-mailed Coach
Tressel and Coach Dantonio, which meant I probably skipped the whole chain of
authority, but I felt I needed to be heard. Coach Dantonio was the only one to
reply from the Buckeyes, but pretty much said in so many words, 'thanks for
the interest but contact us after your out of the military.' It was a knife
in the stomach, but I carried on."
Cliff Reynolds did carry on, although the disappointment
caused him to keep his options open. "I just had to play football so I kept
on writing everyone I could," he said. "In the following weeks I
was contacted by Oregon, Penn St., ECU and Notre Dame, some from coaches, some
from guys that keep web sites, like yourself."
However, a mention of that school up north got Cpl. Reynolds
refocused on his true goal. However, once again, he was unsuccessful.
"One day a buddy of mine said 'why don't you send your
info to Michigan,'" Cliff said. "I answered quickly with a
derogatory remark and then I remembered why I started this whole thing. Yes,
love for the game was the main reason, but once I had that scarlet taste in my
mouth, I couldn't even imagine being a Duck, Nittany Lion, Pirate or a god awful
Wolv#@$! So I started all over with the OSU Staff and again I was shut
Still, Cpl. Reynolds did not give up, and he decided to show
his desire to play.
"People have a hard time understanding the military and I
had a lot of problems with reasons saying 'we don't want to step where we
shouldn't,' from many people," he said. "So one day I wrote
Coach Dantonio, saying that I was going up to watch a spring scrimmage and that
was the best way for me to let him know how I felt about playing for the
Buckeyes. So I drove 10 hours one Friday to watch a practice. It was in the shoe
and I was with Bobby (Carpenter). I watched the whole scrimmage hoping I'd get a
chance to introduce myself. Well, the time came, Coach Dantonio came up to Bobby
to say 'hello' and he must have saw my name tag with the school I was from
saying USMC. He came up to me and asked if I was the Marine, and I said 'yes
sir.' So we had a conversation and he asked for me to send some film on
That's not all. While on the trip, Cpl. Reynolds
experienced an unexpected meeting.
"I was very happy I made that trip," he said.
"I drove 20 hours in 2 days, but it was worth every mile. That's not all
though; when I was walking out of the stadium, (Coach Dantonio) caught up with
me and told me to follow him. So I did, and after a second I realized I was
going to see The Man, Coach Tressel. I was filled with emotion so I did what any
man would do, go back to his roots, yes sir, there I was at Parade Rest
(military stance when speaking to a superior) talking to Coach Tressel.
Afterwards I realized what an idiot I must of looked like."
"Anyways, to say the least I was very pleased with the
way it went. So I went back to North Carolina and made a short highlight tape
along with a single game and a week later, I made the drive again. This time it
was the practice before the Spring Scrimmmage, so there was all these people
there and coaches. After the practice, I ran up to Coach Dantonio and spoke with
him a bit and he said the film would dictate what would happen. He took my
number and that was that. I told him that I hope the film would be a
representation of myself but not a direct one because it was 3 years ago."
And so it was done, and it would seemingly rest on this
tape. The wait was long, but it proved to be worth it.
"So I went home, to North Carolina, again and just
waited," Cpl. Reynolds said. "Let me tell you how long those days went
by. Well, about a month later, I get a call from Coach Dantonio. He said he sat
down with Coach Snyder and they were pleasantly impressed with the film. He told
me to get my academics in line and he was looking forward to seeing me.
"Through the whole thing I told myself 'take baby-steps.'
Don't imagine the finish line; to this day I don't imagine it. The finish line
is the glory, but the race is the guts, and I ask myself everyday, 'do I have
the guts to do what I have to do to achieve my goal, my dream?' I asked myself
at the end of everyday 'Did I do everything I could today to be one step closer
to being a Buckeye?' It was hard because I had about 2 handfuls of supporters.
Friends, peers and old coaches said "it's not possible," or 'don't
shoot too high' and 'how about Youngstown St?' Who ever heard of that, don't
shoot too high and dream small? I just want to thank Duane Long. He was
one of a few that backed me up. He did a lot for me."
Cliff now has his foot in the door. He plans on being
there for the start of spring practice in 2003. Naturally, fans will want
to know what he brings to the table.
"I'm 6'3", weigh on average 235 (it's hard to keep
steady weight with all the field operations, I've weighed
as heavy as 248, last winter) and I average a 4.48 at the
40 yard dash," he wrote. "Last night my fastest time was 4.4. I try to keep all my stats up to date each month- Bench-360,
Squat-490, Hang Clean-345, Vertical Leap-34 in, 20yd
agility- 4.4 sec, 10yd dash- 1.0 sec. Each of these are
after a run of anywhere from 1.5-3.0 miles and recorded by my
Platoon Sergeant, if there is any reason for doubt."
Those statistics and measurements are identical to the type
you want to see out of an outside linebacker prospect, but Cliff just wants to
help the team. "I believe I'll be playing WLB,"
he said, "but if there is anywhere they want me at, I will
fill the spot to my fullest, (waterboy, 3rd string Center.)"
Cpl. Reynolds will not be on scholarship, but he seems to be
all set financially anyway. "I won't be a
scholarship player," he said. "We really didn't talk about why. It's
the answer I got and that's all I needed. I will not have
to worry about money though, the military is paying my
way, I have a $50,000 college fund and a $20,000 bill that
come to me, the last being put right into my personal account."
He also thinks he already has his major selected as
well. "I think I'll be majoring in Criminology,
he said. "I have family history in that field and
with all the military experience I feel it's that best way for me. The
So what does he expect when he gets to OSU? What have the coaches told
him? "Just that college football is a whole new
beast," he said. "The bar is raised on everything.
Everything I earn I'll have to work for. I've had conversations
with Coach Dantonio and spoke with Coach Tressel, they both had
things to say but I'd like for everyone to have their own opinions. All the
things I said above are standards, I'd believe. I think Coach Tressel has
upped everyone's standards that had to deal with Buckeye football in anyway.
I have a little slogan for the team up north: 'Buckeye Football-
we've upped our standards, so up yours!'"
Age and Experiences
Cliff Reynolds, needless to say, is not your everyday college
football player. He has a background unlike any other player for the
Buckeyes. One of the more fascinating things to consider regarding Cliff's
future is how his age and experiences will help him (or hinder him), and he has
some thoughts on that as well.
"I believe in a competitive sport, age will neither put a
person in an advantage or in a disadvantage," he
said. "On the field, I think it's a person's character
that will put him above or below someone. You have to know what your
capable of. Chris Weinke and Kobe Bryant's age neither excelled or
hindered their playing.
"In the sense of playing or the game of football all
together, I'm no different than any high school kid. What is done off the
field I guess is where maybe I might have an advantage on some, if any. You
have to make sound decisions and have your priorities straight. Wherever
you go in life, there is a chain of command or depth chart. Good and
bad decisions will reflect how your placed and moved in everything you do.
"I've made my mistakes and have learned. My priorities
are to get an education and to play Buckeye football. I
guess the only advantage is that I've been through that
age and those choices that some of those guys will have to
Cpl. Reynolds is also not sure if what he has learned from the Marine Corps
will be an advantage.
"I have learned and have many characteristics form the Marine
Corps that those guys will not have," he said. "Whether or not that is an advantage,
I don't think that's my place to say. I think those characteristics
will help me out and be at my aid when I need them but an edge, I'm not
sure. The Marine Corps' motto- Honor, Courage and Commitment
characteristics I try to possess, but any good man that's dedicated to something should
"Many men have strengths and weaknesses, maybe my strength is
mental toughness. I think I'll bring that to the table but I hope I'm
not the single provider. The Marine Corps is mostly mental toughness.
I'm sure there are guys that lift more or run faster than I do, but I
believe with everything mental toughness plays at least a small part. I know
the limits the brain puts on itself and the body, I know how to go beyond
that. There are no limits, cannots and being tired. If you can walk, you
Comparisons and Improvements
One of the things we often want to find out from recruits is
how they describe themselves as a player and person as it will give us a better
idea what to expect. We asked Cliff the same questions, and it sounds like
we can expect a winner.
"How I'd describe myself as a person and a player are the
same," he said. "I'm a perfectionist. I might not be perfect but I'll die trying.
Everything I do is to my max, whether it's a pick up game of basketball or
playing thumb war. I hate to lose. In life, I want no regrets. I don't want
to look back when I'm forty and ask myself, 'did I give
In football there is camaraderie. It's all about pride and the man
next to you. That's your family. I'm not a man to let my family down. I'm
going to do everything that's asked of me and do it to my max. I find it
hard to compare myself to someone. I ask myself how can I stand myself
next to someone that's achieved what I haven't.
"I believe I have
traits from many players that are known. I know that I'm willing to sacrifice
everything and that I have an unrelentless demeanor like Dick Butkus, (he's
my football idol.) I know I have a love for Ohio State Football that's
unexplainable; that's why my friends have compared me to "Rudy". I
know I love the game of football like Vince Lombardi loved to coach it and that I have
the pride in the OSU Football program like the thousands of fans that are
at the game every week because that's what I am, a
Cpl. Reynolds has come all this way, but there is still work
to be done and improvements to be made.
"There is always something you can work on," he
said. "Nothing is
perfect. I will never stop trying to get bigger, stronger, faster and have a
overall better knowledge of the game. The Buckeyes run a 4-3 defense which
I'm familiar with but I think out of everything I need to be more
proficient on the steps, reads and the overall defense. You can run like the
wind and hit like an ox, but if you can't make your reads and play your role
in the defense, you might as well be playing your role of 103,000 in
Cpl. Cliff Reynolds has been through quite a journey, and in a way, it may be
just beginning. The football and college career to come will be the next
chapter. But he has some advice and words of wisdom for everyone out there
"Never, ever lose your passion to dream," he said.
achievable. The only limits in life is the ones you put on yourself. I
have two quotes that have inspired me and pretty much answers this question. A
good friend that has supported me from the beginning gave me them."
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out
how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them
better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose
face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs
and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great
devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in
the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with
those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor
The greatest sadness is not in trying and failing, but in
failing to try.
We are looking forward to seeing Cliff Reynolds put on an OSU uniform for the
first time in the Spring of 2003.
Special thanks to Cliff for the interview!