Even nearly a year after being the first player in the class of 2008 to declare publicly that he would be playing his college football at Ohio State, kicker/punter Ben Buchanan still had a hard time suppressing his anxiety and getting to sleep the night before Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
“Oh, you know what, it really was (hard to sleep). I stayed up until about midnight,” Buchanan said “I couldn’t go to bed.”
And, appropriately enough, Buchanan was among the first players to send his national letter of intent to the Ohio State football offices.
“My alarm rang and I faxed it in at 7:01 this morning, talked to Coach (Jim) Tressel,” Buchanan said. “He just welcomed me to the family, and that was so special to hear that from a guy with such class, someone who I’ve known for the last two or three years getting to know throughout recruiting. To have him be our leader and be able to play for him is really exciting.”
If there was a word of the day for Buchanan at the signing day ceremony at Buchanan’s high school of Westerville (Ohio) Central about 25 minutes north of the Ohio State campus, “excite” would have been it. Buchanan continuously uttered some form of the word while chatting with the local media, using it to describe anything and everything from learning about his craft from current Buckeyes Aaron Pettrey, Ryan Pretorius and A.J. Trapasso to his high school career that included 14 made field goals in 2007 and a conference championship in 2006.
And then there was the topic of whether or not he believes he has a chance to see the field during his first year as a Buckeye despite the fact that the aforementioned talents return.
“I’m going to go in there and compete,” he said. “I’m going to go in there and learn. I’m enrolling in the summer so I’m going to go down there and take classes and get in there and mix it up with the guys and be able to practice with them, which is exciting, be able to adapt to college life. Hopefully I’m going to do the best that I can for the Bucks and my fans here. This is really exciting.”
Ohio State fans will be excited should he approach his high school escapades at the college level. During his senior season, Buchanan made 14 of 16 field goals, missing only two kicks from longer than 50 yards. As a junior, he made a 54-yard field goal and added a 57-yarder, the longest ever for a central Ohio prepster, against Sunbury Big Walnut. He also led the Columbus area with a 41-yard average on his punts.
Those abilities have his future head coach, Jim Tressel, looking far into the past to find a similar athlete.
“He’s just an outstanding guy and unusual,” Tressel said of Buchanan’s ability to both kick and punt at a high level. “I had one, Jeff Wilkins (at Youngstown State). I had him 14 years ago and he’s still playing in the NFL and only doing one of them, but he did both and he was extraordinary.”
While he hopes to showcase his skills once he arrives on the OSU campus, the most likely scenario involves Buchanan on the sidelines in 2008 while Trapasso finishes his career and fellow senior Pretorius or junior Pettrey holds the placekicking spot. Then, in 2009, Buchanan appears to be the heir apparent for the punting job while perhaps slotting into the kicking battle.
“That’s really what the plan is, but it’s never really set in stone until you get in there and compete,” Buchanan said. “I’m excited to get in there and learn under A.J., Aaron and Ryan.”
To do so, Buchanan said he will spend the time leading up to his June arrival on the Ohio State campus working out and stretching in an effort to become stronger and more flexible. He will also play in the June Big 33 game after already having had a stint at the January U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
However, it was in preparation for that game when Buchanan recently suffered a small injury to his plant foot. The result was that Buchanan spent two weeks resting with his foot in a boot and now will resume working on his kicking over the weekend.
“I’m just finishing up with a little rehab. It’s doing great. It’s feeling really good,” he said. “It was one of those things where I have to be smart and think ‘What am I going to do for Ohio State?’ ”
Off the field, Buchanan has drawn rave reviews for his character, facts driven home by his inclusion in the National Honor Society, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and his mission work. After signing his letter of intent Wednesday, Buchanan stood up and hugged both parents in front of the packed press conference.
“That’s just very typical Ben,” his father Tim said. “Really, the two most important things in his life are his faith and his family. He lives that.”
Of course, much of that won’t matter to many should Buchanan develop a habit of pushing too many field goals wide of the goalposts, but the three-time All-Ohio pick said he’s looking forward to chance to have such an important role at OSU.
“I look at it, pressure is a privilege,” Buchanan said. “That’s the type of saying I like to look at, it really is. To have the opportunity to play in the Horseshoe in front of all those fans and to contribute to the team to get us three points or get us a booming punt when we need it, it’s special.”