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In each issue of Bucknuts The Magazine, we have in-depth features on Ohio State football players, coaches and prospects. We also have analysis pieces on the Buckeyes as well as their opponents, the Big Ten and college football world in general. Plus, we have features on OSU athletes in a variety of sports, including men's and women's basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and other sports.
Headline: No Small Details
By Gary Housteau
(From October 2006 issue)
Not even Cedar Point has the kind of roller coaster ride that Ray Small was on for the last month or two before the start of summer camp at Ohio State.
One day it seemed as if Small was all set to be admitted to Ohio State and then another day it looked like he would not.
But after Small stood before the various cameras and tape recorders during OSU's annual media day, he was very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it.
"I feel very fortunate," Small said. "First of all, I feel very fortunate about getting in because of my situation and I feel very fortunate that I have an opportunity now to do my thing. It just feels great."
It seems like, for the longest time, that no one really knew, for sure, whether or not Small would actually have the chance to do his thing at Ohio State. By the minimum NCAA standards, Small was qualified for quite some time but no one really knew if his particular academic situation at Cleveland Glenville High School would be enough to get him through admissions at Ohio State.
"It was kind of like a test for me," Small said. "All eyes were on me. How was Ray Small doing? Was he working hard? Was he doing what he was supposed to do? So I took that as a challenge for me. I worked hard, lifted, came to everything on time and did whatever I was supposed to do."
Small came directly to Ohio State after he participated in the Big 33 Football Classic on June 17 in Hershey, Pa. He arrived in Columbus with the intention of enrolling into summer school to officially begin his career as a Buckeye. But when his Tarblooder teammates Robert Rose and Bryant Browning and other early freshmen enrollees were admitted to summer school, Small was not. And that's when things got really difficult for him.
"It was really hard," Small said. "I was down here in the Ohio State environment and that's where I wanted to be. But at the same time I was feeling like, if I was not to get accepted then I was like, ‘Where would Ray Small be?' I'm just so grateful that eventually I got accepted."
So where exactly was Small going to go if he didn't get accepted to Ohio State?
"I really don't know," he said. "I probably would have reported back to Coach (Ted) Ginn and talked to him and we would have gone from there."
The proverbial weight, however, was lifted from his chest when Small was informed that he did indeed clear admissions and he would be eligible to enroll at Ohio State for the fall quarter. He's been more than eager to begin his career as a Buckeye ever since.
"I feel that there are certain things that you have to go through in life and that was just one of my things that I had to go through," Small said. "And now I feel that I have to work even harder going forward because that experience is always going to be in the back of my mind."
Looking back on it now, Small, who carried a 2.9 GPA at Glenville, is not really sure why he had such a difficult time scoring high enough on the ACT standardized test that he took numerous times to gain admission.
"As far as my work ethic is concerned, I went to a tutor every single day," said Small, who was chastised by some on the Internet for competing in track in the spring instead of preparing full-time for the next ACT test date. "I was only supposed to go three days a week to the tutor but I went every day. I went every single day and sometimes two times a day. I don't know what to say. I'm just not a great test taker. But (Ohio State) looked at what I did and they fought for me. Coach Tressel fought for me and so I'm going to fight for him."
And after being around some of the players for a while now, Small has a pretty good idea of what he needs to do in order for him to fight hard and become successful on the gridiron at Ohio State.
"Everything has been great here so far," Small said. "I'm just here now to try to carry on the tradition here at Ohio State. I'm here to work hard and try to earn a spot and try to get on the field. I just need to study my play book, play as hard as I can and go 100 percent in every drill."
Listed generously at 6-0 and 175 pounds, Small was the only wide receiver in the 2006 recruiting class but he's likely to first make his mark as a kick returner first at Ohio State.
"I'll be going back deep on punts a little bit," Small said. "I've been doing good at that so hopefully I can get out on the field faster with that. And right now I'm working with the receivers, position-wise. I'm real comfortable there."
And by all accounts, Small is proceeding forward with everything as quickly as possible. His position mates have been extremely helpful.
"Making the adjustment from high school to college is a real big difference but they all have helped me with the transition," Small said. "They've taken me in and helped me with all the plays so I'm doing real well right now."
It's basically all up to Small now to make the most of the opportunity that's in front of him.
"I'm hoping to make it real big here but I'm not going to rush things," Small said. "If that's how it's going to come then I'm going to take it but I'm just trying to get on the field just like everybody else here."
A redshirt season, one could argue, might actually help Small on the field -- allowing him extra time to put more weight on and learn the offense -- and in the classroom as well.
"I don't even think of taking a redshirt," Small said. "That's not even in my mind, a redshirt, because I'm the type of person that works hard to get what I want. But if things don't work out for me on the field then I'll just have to redshirt."
However, Small is confident that he'll be able make an impact of some sort sooner rather than later at the college level. Self-confidence is something that really isn't lacking with any of the kids that come to Ohio State from Glenville and Small is certainly not any exception to that.
"I know it's early but I just feel really good about getting into a game right now," Small said. "I feel that I'm going to get in for a couple of plays as a true freshman and when I get in I'm going to show everyone what I can do."
Ted Ginn Jr. had a similar mind set when he first came to Ohio State from Glenville just two seasons ago. Small stepped up his game at Glenville after Ginn left there and many have favorably compared him to Ginn for what they've both accomplished on the gridiron at the high school level.
"I love it when they compare me to him," Small said. "I look at him as a big-brother type and a role-model type so when they say I'm the next (Ted Ginn), that kind of brightens up my day. What he's done since he's been here is just incredible."
And now that the roller coaster ride is seemingly over for now, Small has a real good chance to do some incredible things of his own at Ohio State as well.
No Small Achievements
Small, who boasts 4.4-second speed in the 40, helped guide Glenville to a 12-1 season as a senior. He was an impact player at wide receiver, cornerback and in the return game. He had 35 receptions for 521 yards and 10 TDs, 175 yards and a TD on 13 carries, 13 punt returns for 292 yards and two TDs. He also returned three kickoffs for 270 yards and two TDs.
He earned first-team All-Ohio honors in Division I and was a member of the ONN/Ohio High All-Ohio team. He was a national top-100 pick by Scout.com (No. 98 overall) and the sixth-best prospect in Ohio, according to Ohio High magazine.
As a junior, Small had 33 catches for 429 yards and three TDs. He also had 26 carries for 241 yards and three more scores.
"When you see him, he is really explosive," OSU coach Jim Tressel said. "He played so well at the receiver position in our camp that (wide receivers coach Darrell) Hazell would not let him go over with the corner group and work on his cover skills. He did not want to give any indication he could be a corner. He is an outstanding wide receiver, kick returner and cover man. His coach, Ted Ginn Sr., said he may be the most explosive athlete he has ever had, and that includes his son. I don't know, we'll see."
Hazell also discussed what he liked with Small.
"He's as explosive as a guy I have been around in a long time," said Hazell, who worked with Small at OSU's camp in June 2005. "He covers a lot of ground. He plays with great body control. He has natural hands. He can make you miss. We think he can be a good returner for us and also stretch the field for us on offense because he has really good speed."
Small took visits to USC, Michigan State and Tennessee as well as Ohio State. He said it was not the slam dunk decision a lot of people may have thought.
"It was a tough decision for me," Small said. "Everybody was like, ‘He's going to Ohio State all the way.' But it really wasn't like that."
Small said he has benefited from learning from fellow Glenville alum Ted Ginn Jr.
"I learned everything from Ted," he said. "He was always a leader, no matter what grade he was in. He would always sit down and show me a couple of moves. I talk to him quite a bit and he said he would show me the ropes."