Notebook: Classes, Cleveland And More

Denlinger in action against Washington.

Wonder what it's like to be a student and a member of the football team as classes resume? What does Dionte Johnson remember about his father's NFL playing career? How did Vernon Gholston feel when Ohio State lost to Northwestern in 2004? Find out the answers to these questions in this notebook.

Classes began at Ohio State on Wednesday, and with the return of thousands of students comes some change for the Buckeye football team. Saturday's game against Northwestern marks the first game for students who purchased season tickets.

Namely, there is more going on than just practice and games for the Buckeyes. Now, football players have to make time to study, go to class and live up to that student-athlete moniker.

In some cases, going to class makes things easier for the players – according to recruiting coordinator John Peterson.

"The kids have to embrace their new schedule and be ready to adjust to class schedule and their new schedule," he said. "It's kind of a relief to them because now they get to go to class all day and see – I think it works opposite in the sense that they get more excited because you have 50,000 students on campus with the buzz around walking on campus and going to campus."

While most consider the football team to be made up of campus celebrities, sophomore defensive tackle Todd Denlinger said that is not always the case.

Now in his first year as a starter, Denlinger said he is counting on being recognized more frequently as he walks around campus.

"I guess you could say probably more now that I'm in a bigger role," he said when asked if he gets noticed. "Last year, probably not too much because I was in a lesser role. Hopefully now I can start making a name for myself and people might start noticing me."

Still No Answer Senior captain Dionte Johnson is no stranger to football. As a child, he grew up watching his father, Thomas "Pepper" Johnson, as he played in the NFL. Now a 21-year veteran of the league, Pepper is a defensive line coach for the New England Patriots.

His playing career lasted 13 seasons, but he was a member of the Cleveland Browns from 1993-95 and took part in the last game played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium before the team's owner, Art Modell, moved the franchise to Baltimore.

When the move occurred, Dionte was 9 years old. To this day, he still remembers being at the final game in the stadium.

"I can remember the day of the last game before they moved to Baltimore, the fans tearing it up," he said. "Next to me, ripping the seats up out of the stadium and all these Art Modell posters. I already knew how crazy the Cleveland fans got, but that day really showed: Wow, these guys get after it.

"Once we got back to the house, that's when he told me that ‘This is how dedicated they are. I don't know why this guy is moving this team.' "

A Cold Feeling The last time a 3-0 Ohio State team squared off against Northwestern, the Wildcats pulled off one of the biggest recent wins in school history. On a nationally televised night game, Northwestern stunned then-No. 7 OSU with a 33-27 overtime victory.

Nearly all the players from that Buckeye team have since moved on, but junior defensive end Vernon Gholston – who spent the 2004 season redshirting as a freshman – was on the sidelines for the game.

When asked about being there, one thought immediately came to his mind.

"The biggest thing I remember is it was cold because I was on the sideline for most of the game," he said.

As a freshman out of Detroit Cass Tech, Gholston said he did not appreciate the magnitude of the win – Northwestern's first home victory against OSU since 1958, snapping a 24-game losing streak at the hands of the Buckeyes – at the time.

"It was big to them," he said. "I didn't really know too much about it, the importance of that, but I understand it now. It's something that we've got to think about and have in the back of our minds to go out there and play our game."

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