T.J. Downing is one of four offensive linemen in
Ohio State's 2002 recruiting class. And
although that number could grow to six by signing
day, Downing is looking forward to the competition.
"We have a lot of linemen coming in and
that's a good thing," Downing said.
"I love competition. It's something I never shy away from."
Downing sees himself playing tackle at OSU, but
is keeping his options open. "I've
always played tackle, but I'm versatile enough to make the switch
to guard. It's wherever (offensive coordinator/offensive line) coach
Bollman needs me."
From a conversation he had with Bollman, the
6-foot-5, 280-pound Downing is confident that
he could see playing time as a true freshman.
"With the lack of depth on the offensive line,
I want to come in this fall and hit the
ground running. Coach Bollman said there will be spots
open on the two-deep. He said two guys could redshirt, but at least
two (of the incoming freshmen) will be in the two-deep. My goal is
definitely to be in the two-deep this fall," Downing said.
The Canton GlenOak product verbally committed to
the Buckeyes June 22, 2001, just two days
after leaving OSU's football camp.
"I was down there for the senior advanced
camp and I loved it. I just felt real comfortable with everything. When they
offered, it was a no-brainer."
It was? Even though Downing's father is a former
player from the... gulp ...University of
"It really was. Ohio State's coaching staff
made me feel more wanted and respected than
Michigan's. I think (Michigan) assumed that just because
my father went there, I would too," Downing said.
So what did his father think when the final
choice was made?
"He was excited. He was really impressed
with Ohio State's coaching staff -- really
impressed. My dad was great through the entire process.
He told me from the beginning that it was totally my decision.
There was never any pressure to go to Michigan. In fact, I think
he wanted me to go to Ohio State."
Downing checks out the recruiting rankings from
time to time and is proud that he'll be part
of one of the nation's top classes this year.
"That's prime time stuff right there. We are
ranked as one of the best and it might get
even better. It's just a tribute to the great recruiting
that coach (Jim) Tressel is doing."
Downing has spent time with most of OSU's '02
verbals, including the other three O-linemen
-- Doug Datish, Rob Sims and Nick Mangold.
"I already consider us really good friends.
We got to know each other on our official
visit which was the first weekend of December. They brought
in all of us and we had a great time just seeing everything and
Downing already is close with his former GlenOak
teammate, Buckeye defensive back Dustin Fox.
"Dustin and I are good friends. He is a hard
worker and an incredible physical specimen.
He's very gifted. It will be fun playing with
Although he was a first-team All-Ohio selection
at Division I GlenOak, Downing's senior year
didn't go as well as he would have liked.
"We only went 5-5 this year. We shot
ourselves in the foot a few times, but we
were probably only a couple of plays away from being 9-1."
Downing said that coming from the football hotbed
that is northeast Ohio definitely helped him
get ready for the physical Big Ten.
"Nothing is better than Ohio high school
football, especially in our part of the
state. We played a lot of tough teams this year and although
it's nothing like college, it was good preparation."
Downing saw as many Buckeye games as he could
this year, including the big win over
Michigan and the near-thrilling comeback in the Outback
"That was a huge win up there in Michigan. I
was really excited. But it would have been
nice to win the Outback Bowl too."
Did he turn the TV off when the score was 28-zip?
"Oh no, I watched the entire game. I got a
little depressed there for a while, but that
comeback was awesome. It's just too bad they didn't pull
Downing and the rest of the freshmen will be put
on a workout program by OSU strength and
conditioning coach Allan Johnson as soon as they sign
their letters of intent in February.
"I'm expecting it to be very tough and I'm
going to push myself to the limit. I want to
be up to 290 by fall camp, but still keep my quickness
(runs a 4.9 in the 40)."
This year's freshmen will report to camp about
two and half weeks before the 2001 class did
thanks to the addition of the Pigskin Classic
in late August.
"Yeah, we'll be in there a little earlier,
which is exciting."
The Bucks will play a 13-game regular season
schedule in '02, the most games ever at the
school. That number will jump to 14 if the Bucks
make a bowl game.
"Just more chances to play," Downing
said with a laugh.
Off the gridiron, Downing enjoys listening to
music and playing recreational sports.
"I love music. I listen to everything from
Metallica to Jay-Z... I really like to play
basketball. I also golf a lot in the spring and
play racquetball with my dad in the winter."
Downing holds a 3.0 GPA at GlenOak and said he
"might" major in business at OSU.
"I like the new business school," he said.
As for now, Downing just wants to take care of
some personal business. "Until I get
down there, I'll just be lifting a lot of weights and getting
ready mentally. To play at this next level, you need to come in
with the right type of mind set."
It sounds like T.J. Downing has just that.
Special thanks to T.J. and his family for the