As the Ohio State football team regroups for a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes will rejoin their football family after spending the past few days with their actual families.
It is an OSU team full of players who have plenty to be thankful for. Having won the program’s fifth consecutive Big Ten title, the Buckeyes now head to their eighth BCS game and fifth in a row.
But to get to this point, each player first had to decide that he wanted to play his college football in Columbus for head coach Jim Tressel. On Christmas, BuckeyeSports.com offers a few tales of players who committed to the Buckeyes and the reaction they received from Tressel.
Junior CB Chimdi Chekwa: The native of Clermont (Fla.) East Ridge had no doubts about OSU’s interest in him when it came time to issue a commitment.
“They came out and they offered me and they really wanted me to come,” he said. “They gave me the offer and Coach Tressel came down in less than a week to see me, so I was expecting them to be excited.”
Fans might not have known much about Chekwa at the time. A two-star prospect as ranked by Scout.com, the 6-1, 170-pound athlete doubled as a wide receiver in high school but viewed himself as a cornerback through and through. Scout did not rank him as a cornerback in the class of 2006.
It was almost exactly four years ago that he issued a verbal commitment to the program. Chekwa called Tressel on Dec. 21, 2005 and told him he wanted to be a Buckeye.
“They sounded excited for me,” he said. “I don’t know for sure how excited they were. They gave me the offer so I’m sure they were excited that I committed.”
Senior OT Jim Cordle: As a central Ohio product, the lineman from Lancaster was one player who was able to issue his commitment in person April 6, 2004.
He did not receive a bear hug or anything like that from Tressel, however.
“That was pretty cool,” Cordle said. “He seemed excited about it. I came up during a spring practice. I went into his office and told him about it. He had a smile on his face. He said, ‘Welcome aboard.’ ”
A four-star prospect, Cordle was ranked the No. 30 offensive lineman in the nation out of high school. He became the third member of OSU’s class of 2005 and the first to commit after National Signing Day during his junior year.
Now a fifth-year senior, Cordle has been a starter for the past three seasons as a Buckeye. He celebrated the team’s clinching of a Rose Bowl berth this season by throwing a cup of water on his head and leaping out of his chair during post-game interviews.
He did not receive the same reaction from Tressel when he committed.
“He’s not a guy who will throw water on his head,” Cordle said with a laugh.
Sophomore RB Dan Herron: The product of Warren (Ohio) Harding did not care how he committed to Tressel as long as he did so.
“I committed over the phone,” Herron said. “I was fine doing it that way. As long as I got committed to Ohio State, I was fine. Whatever I had to do.”
A four-star running back, Herron was the second running back to join the class of 2007. Scout ranked him as the No. 27 running back in the nation. Listed at 5-9 ½, 188 pounds, Herron committed July 10, 2006.
“I think (Tressel) was pretty happy,” Herron said. “I think the whole coaching staff was pretty happy with me committing. I can’t see how his face was when I said it but he seemed pretty happy over the phone. Everyone was pretty happy with it.”
Asked how he could tell Tressel was excited over the telephone, Herron said, “He seemed happy and excited and I was happy and excited also. I think it was a big deal.”
Junior RB Brandon Saine: The native of Piqua, Ohio, beat Herron to the punch and joined the class of 2007 on May 3, 2006, becoming the second member of the class.
He needed a little bit of help in doing so, however.
“I talked to my family and told my coach and he called him and broke the ice a little bit and then I got on and told him,” Saine said. “I think he was recruiting in Florida. He was excited.”
Also a four-star prospect, the 6-1, 205-pound Saine was rated the No. 11 running back in the country. Like Herron, he said Tressel sounded excited when he spoke to him over the phone but added that an excited Tressel does not sound much different.
“He might have said, ‘That’s super,’ or something like that,” Saine said with a laugh.
Senior DL Doug Worthington: The Buckeyes landed a big commitment when the five-star prospect from Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis issued one Sept. 15, 2004. When he called Tressel, the head coach first pressed him to make sure he was not making a premature decision.
“He said, ‘Are you sure? Make sure because we want you and we want you bad but we know the process is big,’ ” Worthington said. “I said I want to be an Ohio State Buckeye and I kept my word and here we are.”
The Buckeyes had an ace up their sleeve in Worthington’s recruitment. His high school head coach went to Baldwin-Wallace at the same time as Tressel and the two were already on familiar terms when it came time to recruit the 6-7, 257-pound Worthington, who was ranked the No. 3 defensive end in the nation.
Worthington was the 10th player to join the class. Within the next three months, he would be joined by Austin Spitler, Anderson Russell and James Laurinaitis.
More than five years removed from his decision date, Worthington said he could still clearly remember how it all went down.
“(Tressel) was calm,” he said. “He was like, ‘that’s great, that’s wild.’ Then he said, ‘Are you sure?’ and gave me the reassurance that he wants me here and wanted to make sure it was the best decision for me. After that I called (defensive line) coach (Jim) Heacock.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday. This five years went by like five blinks of the eyes. It was a great opportunity and I’m glad I made that decision.”