Perhaps during his redshirt year this past season, Ohio State offensive lineman Evan Blankenship has been working on his voice in addition to his blocking skills.
The Buckeye offensive lineman was the lone solo act in Wednesday night’s talent show, “Buckeyes Got Talent,” put on by OSU's Student-Athlete Advisory Board, and showed he had plenty by wowing the crowd with a version of Bill Withers’ often-covered classic hit “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
However, the celebrity judge panel, which included notables like Kirk Herbstreit, Archie Griffin and Brutus Buckeye, did not reward Blankenship with the overall team title, which went to the men’s cross country team.
Blankenship did receive plenty of compliments from the panel, though, with Herbstreit encouraging the Monaca, Pa., native to try out for the FOX show American Idol.
The event was put on by SAAB at St. John Arena to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Columbus. Judges were instructed to rate the teams on items like costumes, talent displayed and the reaction of the crowd to the performance.
The cross country team actually tied the men’s track and field team with 130 points, though the cross country team won the tiebreaker for most points awarded for talent.
The harriers win came after they tied a year ago but lost the tiebreaker against wrestling at the first annual event by performing a barbershop version of Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time.”
This time around, the squad started with Taylor Candella and Glen Collins singing the a cappella version of “In the Still of the Night” popularized by Boyz II Men before teammate Patrick Woods ran on stage and told them that they had lost by performing a similar song last year and would have to add something to the show. At that point, Taylor Williams played drums and Paul Shivers donned an electric guitar for a rocking version of “That Thing You Do” crooned by Candella and Collins.
“It’s awesome because our coach (Robert Gary) has really been getting on us this year as a joke,” Candella said. “He’s like, ‘We gotta win that talent show trophy this year.’ We got a 40 out of 40 last year and we got second place. We didn’t win with a perfect score, so it was kind of a bitter loss for us.”
Candella was also one of seven track athletes to take part in that team’s first-place tying performance, a rendition of the “Thriller” dance from Michael Jackson’s music video. After Candella’s two performances, Herbstreit pointed out that the junior could have won the individual star award had one been given.
“That was really sweet, coming from a man like him saying that I should have won the individual competition. I was flattered,” Candella said. “I love Michael Jackson so I was real pumped about the Thriller one. I was glad I could get six other guys to do it with me.”
Left disappointed was the wrestling team, which produced an epic performance that might have been lost on the crowd and judges. The nearly 10-minute long dance routine (including some flips) had a love story theme with Reece Humphrey attempting to woo teammate J.D. Bergman, donning a wig and red dress for the occasion. Each had six backup dancers, with Bergman’s six all going in drag.
The epic included a mashup of around 10 songs, including Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and the Black Eyes Peas tune “My Humps.”
“We had a theme and we stuck to it,” said Bergman, a 2008 NCAA finalist at heavyweight who took part despite a recent severe knee injury. “It took me like three days to get the exact lyrics to match up and tell the story. It was all original choreography. We taught 14 wrestlers, most of whom are uncoordinated, how to dance original choreography. There was a lot put into it, so it’s kind of a shame. But it was fun.”
Bergman, used to participating in his sport in a singlet, was more affected by the loss than the cross-dressing required for the performance.
“Being that feminine and not being in the top whatever – I don’t even know if we were in the top three this year – that’s kind of a shame,” said Bergman, who aspires to be an actor once his wrestling career ends.
Also participating were the men’s and women’s swimming teams, women’s soccer, men’s lacrosse, synchronized swimming and men’s soccer.
The swimmers performed dance routines from “Little Miss Sunshine” and “National Lampoon’s European Vacation”; the women’s soccer squad performed a cheerleading duel; the lax squad, who participate in an NCAA quarterfinal Sunday against No. 1 Duke, performed scenes from the 1980s, including bits from Pong, “American Gladiators” and “Baywatch”; the synchro Buckeyes channeled the dance troupe Stomp; and the men’s soccer team did the climactic dance scene from “Napoleon Dynamite.”
Danielle Meyer, a women’s volleyball player and the chair of the event, was pleased with the show.
“The idea started at the student-athlete level, and obviously it takes a lot to put on something like this,” said Meyer, an All-American. “I think it’s safe to say that every single department within athletics has had a hand in this. Everyone has just been so willing and helpful.”
At the end of the evening, the top three attendees for the “Scarlet and Gray Games” in 2007-08 were announced, with synchronized swimming toping rifle and women’s soccer. The games encouraged student-athlete attendance at 15 OSU sporting events throughout the year.