In the “About Me’ section of Todd Boeckman’s page on social networking Web site MySpace.com, it lists the quarterback’s personal motto as “take the road less traveled.” Although that might serve as the perfect metaphor for the path Boeckman has taken to get to his senior season, there is just one problem.
The MySpace page claiming to be Boeckman’s is a fake. The soft-spoken native of St. Henry, Ohio, has never been a member of the social networking site, nor has he perused his fake profile.
So it goes for Ohio State’s starting quarterback. Even as he seeks to dodge the spotlight, someone drags him into it.
“I don’t like to be that attention-getter,” he said. “I’m more of a laid-back guy. I want to stay out of that spotlight, but it’s obviously hard to do when you’re a quarterback at Ohio State.”
That much is obvious. When he took over the starting reins as the quarterback of OSU’s high-powered offense, more than a few questions were raised as to whether or not Boeckman had enough of a voice within himself to inspire his teammates in the heat of battle. At one point, right tackle Kirk Barton – no stranger to being vocal – had to tell Boeckman to be more assertive inside the huddle.
But as the starting quarterback for the two-time defending outright conference champions, being vocal is just one part of the job description. It also opens up the first-team all-conference quarterback to more criticism from his fellow students while on campus.
Although Boeckman said the majority of students who stop him en route to class have positive things to say, that is not always the case. Even in class, it is hard for a player of Boeckman’s stature – he stands 6-4, 250 pounds – to go unnoticed.
But some help might have arrived in the form of Terrelle Pryor, formerly the nation’s No. 1 and most highly scrutinized recruit. The freshman signal-caller from Jeannette, Pa., dominated much of the conversation at the Big Ten Football Kickoff in Chicago and was arguably the most talked-about athlete there.
In a way, Pryor’s signing helped deflect some – but not all – of the conversation away from Boeckman, and that is just fine with him. It allows him to simply be himself.
“It doesn’t bother me as long as I do my best and try to get the job done,” he said. “I’m not worried. I know living up to Troy (Smith)’s status is probably never going to be accomplished again because he was probably the greatest quarterback in Ohio State’s history. That was a tough thing to do, but I just try to do my own thing and be my own person.”
ESPN college football analyst and former OSU quarterback Kirk Herbstreit said he has seen Boeckman handle the Pryor situation admirably.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit about that, and he is saying all the right things,” he said. “I talked to him away from microphones and I really think he’s buying into it.”
Of course, one thing surely helping Boeckman stay humble is the knowledge that he still has room to grow. Although he finished the 2007 season having thrown for the fifth-most yards in a season in school history (2,379), he tossed 14 interceptions – the third-highest single-season total in OSU history.
Tressel is hoping his senior will take another big step in his final season.
“He’s got an innate ability to make the big play,” he said of Boeckman. “He’s got good vision. I think if he’ll improve and have a career-best year … that’s what we need.”
He, too, admits that Boeckman probably gets more questions about his poor performances – such as his 50-passing-yards performance against Michigan – than his standout ones, such as his three-touchdown game against Penn State at night on the road.
But Boeckman simply takes such criticism in stride, knowing he has plenty of room still to grow.
“One of the main things I definitely need to work on is my footwork,” he said. “I struggled with that a little bit and my dropback wasn’t as smooth as it should’ve been. I wasn’t stepping right when I was throwing and I was opening up too much. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve been trying to correct. It all starts with your feet.”
While his performance might start with his feet, as Boeckman said, the experience of being the starting quarterback at Ohio State all starts in his head. In that case, Buckeye fans should expect quiet Todd Boeckman to continue to find ways to grow as a person.
Just don’t look for his MySpace page to reflect that.