Those Who Stay...

By Kyle Rowland on November 22, 2012 at 10:00a

A group of Ohio State players was visiting a Columbus hospital last December when they heard the news: the Buckeyes would not be eligible for the postseason in 2012. 

Leaving Ohio State wasn't on John Simon's agenda.

The immediate reaction was one of shock. The players didn’t even hear the news from a coach; instead hospital visitors and workers were asking them about their opinion of the ban.

“We were like, ‘What are you talking about,’” senior linebacker Zach Boren said.

For a year, Buckeye Nation and those inside the football program were reassured by Ohio State athletic officials that a bowl ban was not on the table. But when the NCAA came back with the sanctions, Ohio State’s worst fears were realized.

Urban Meyer had been the head coach for less than a month. He said it felt like he was punched in the gut when the NCAA’s punishments were read to him. Of immediate concern was the upcoming senior class. Part of the guidelines from the ruling stated that seniors would be permitted to transfer to any FBS school and be eligible to play without sitting out a season.

The same scenario played out in the summer of 2012, when Penn State was hammered with unprecedented sanctions by the NCAA after the Freeh Report outlined recklessness inside the football program in regards to Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse scandal.

A handful of Penn State seniors opted to leave and finish their careers elsewhere.

No Ohio State seniors left.

At Michigan, legendary head coach Bo Schembechler coined the now famous phrase, “Those who stay will be champions.” For Ohio State, that saying came to fruition last Saturday in Madison. When Christian Bryant knocked down a desperation fourth-down pass in overtime, the Buckeyes clinched an outright Leaders Division title.

In two days, that group of 21 seniors has an opportunity to close out their careers and one of the most improbable seasons in Ohio State’s 123-year football history with a win over archrival Michigan in Ohio Stadium.

“Those kids could have all went wherever they wanted to go,” said Meyer, fighting back tears. “I had no idea who they were, and they didn’t know me, so it was a leap of faith. I think it was also the love for their school.

“Now that I know them, I know exactly why they stayed, for the love of Ohio State. It’s really cool in this day and age to witness that. We’re forever indebted to them because they didn’t have to do what they did.”

The senior snapshots have helped define Ohio State’s undefeated season. This week alone Meyer has talked about the “heart and soul” of the Buckeyes, John Simon, the defensive stabilizer, Zach Boren, and the savior on the offensive line, Reid Fragel.

Zach Boren and the 2012 Buckeyes are on a mission. 

“This team is honestly like my brothers,” senior safety Orhian Johnson said. “Those guys really became close to me. The stuff we had to go through with all the coaching changes and with the bowl ban and then the sanctions. You could only get closer through all of that, and I really appreciate those guys being there for me and me being there for them.”

Leading up to the 2011 season, the Buckeyes used the “shock the world” mantra as their rallying cry. It didn’t work well, though, as the year included week after week of uncertainty and turmoil. Ohio State sleepwalked through a 6-7 season.

No talking points were needed as fall camp began in 2012. There was no clever motto, no motivational ploys and no speeches were needed. The team, without the urging of Meyer, knew the opportunity that lie ahead of them.

“I don’t really know a word to describe it, but we just all stuck together,” Boren said. “I think when Coach Meyer came in and especially the seniors and stuff, we just sat down and said, we have to stick together and help lead this young team.

“We knew we had to make a statement this year because a lot of our team are sophomores and they had a losing record last year. We knew we had to get Coach Meyer off on the right foot and have a successful season, and I think we’ve done that so far.”

Have they ever. All of the above has been accomplished. But more importantly, the fourth- and fifth-year seniors that came to Ohio State in top-five recruiting classes have progressed the movement of the program.

When they arrived in Columbus, the Buckeyes were coming off consecutive appearances – and losses – in the national championship game. Combined, the two classes were supposed to lift Ohio State to a level that their predecessors were not able to attain.

Big Ten championships and bowl wins followed, but the national title never came. It probably won’t come this season either. But the trajectory that the seniors have set Ohio State on will be remembered for years.

“It is starting to settle in,” senior linebacker and captain Etienne Sabino said. “It’s kind of surreal. It feels like you’ve been living a dream for the last five years, and to know it’s coming to an end, it’s hard.”

Said Meyer: “It’s an incredible group. If they find a win this last game, they’ll go down in history books as one of the greatest senior classes of all time.”


Comments Show All Comments

pukindawg's picture

Great Story Kyle. Love this team!

buckeye76BHop's picture

Good stuff Kyle...only 2986 minutes till 'the Game'  This team deserves to go out 12-0...

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Kevbo714's picture

@ buckeye76bhop...  I am so sorry.  I was trying to up vote you, but I have tremors in my hands and I accidentally missed and hit the down vote on my touch screen.  I am just being man enough to admit it, but I don't know how to change it.  Sorry...  On a side note, I am also terrible at Jenga... 

Tom Crean listens to Nickelback...

Baroclinicity's picture

I got him for ya.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Kevbo714's picture

Thanks all...  It was a complete swing and a miss and I felt bad

Tom Crean listens to Nickelback...

BuckeyeVet's picture

Added an upvote for you. Feces occurs......

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

Brutus's picture

I'm tempted to down vote you on purpose because when you put it in terms of minutes, it seems so much further away.

Bucknut-in-the-South's picture

This is what college football should signify:  loyalty, brotherhood, mutual achievement, and growth as a team.  I have been a Buckeye fan for over 50 years, and I am more proud of this team than any I can remember.  Not as dominating as Archie's teams of the seventies, as scintillating as the mid-nineties Cooper teams, or as perfect as the '68 Super Sophs; but this team has demonstrated that commitment and heart overcome adversity every time.  One last step to take, though:  TOTAL ANNIHILATION OF THE WOLVERWEENIES!!!! 

Jugdish's picture

It was a love of the OSU that these players stayed and to get their degree from the university with such great prestige. I couldn't be more proud than I am right now of these seniors. Just remember guys to go out and finish the job. I know their hearts are 100% Buckeye. Go Bucks.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

BuckeyeChief's picture

Felaas, one more game and you close it out; thanks for representing our university and state so well over the last 4 years.

"2014 National with it!!!"

headina's picture

Respect to all those seniors. Love the team from this year. Rates up there with 06 and 02 teams in my book. So excited for the next two years. This team is so young they can be destroyers of worlds by the time they are seniors. 


Bucksfan's picture

A handful of Penn State seniors opted to leave and finish their careers elsewhere.
No Ohio State seniors left.

Yeah, but Penn State seniors got a free pass from the NCAA to transfer anywhere without having to sit out the year.  Generally speaking, seniors are pretty much stuck where they are.

btalbert25's picture

I think our seniors were given the same option, since the team was ineligible for a bowl. 

Urban Meyer had been the head coach for less than a month. He said it felt like he was punched in the gut when the NCAA’s punishments were read to him. Of immediate concern was the upcoming senior class. Part of the guidelines from the ruling stated that seniors would be permitted to transfer to any FBS school and be eligible to play without sitting out a season.

BuckeyeVet's picture

@BucksFan - Our seniors got the same free pass. The difference is that PSU is banned from bowls for 4 years, OSU for 1. And any player, senior or not, could transfer from PSU & play immediately.
The other big difference is our guys are Buckeyes. It's 11:33 am & scUM still sucks.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

Bucksfan's picture

Oh, nice job, you guys.  I'm stupid.

Bish45's picture

Is it me or are the Snorg Tee models on the 11W site really HOT?

TheHostileDwarf's picture

Especially the redhead. Yum.

ThatOhioStateGirl's picture

I love this team more than anything. This article pretty much sums up why.

Indomitable in victory, insufferable in defeat.

bucknut3011's picture

There are so many special classes, each within their own right.  This one... well, it's dealing with something no other OSU class has ever had to.  And handled it with the utmost dignity and focus.  I'm sooooo proud of them.
The fans in the shoe better give it their all on Sunday.  Everyone better be hoarse by the end.  These guys deserve it.  During and in between plays.

btalbert25's picture

This is my favorite Buckeye team hands down.  It's not always the most talented or championship teams that go down into history.  Sometimes it's the gritty team with a great bunch who are the ones that go down i nhistory.  11-1 or 12-0, I'm always going to remember this group.  This senior class has been through so much and have given so much to the program.  Their legacy will last past this season to be sure.  The examples they set this year will be a big part of the 2013 and 2014 season successes. 

BoFuquel's picture

Don't forget 1956. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

buckeyedude's picture

I remember all of the incessant speculation on this site and others about "whether these 2012 Buckeyes will be able to stay focused? Especially if they drop one or two games?"
Glad that didn't happen. Credit Meyer for keeping them on task, one game at a time.
Holy Buckeye, we have to win this game, Saturday!



MediBuck's picture

This senior class is the most memorable I've seen in my history as a Buckeye. Without their leadership, this team would not be here now, and it's evident that they left quite the impression on Meyer. Their energy and fight inspired not only their team, but also their new coach that he made the right choice and that the Scarlet and Gray will never be cut down by any adversity. O-H-!!!! LET'S GET TO 12-0!!!!!!

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

ODEEZ330's picture

I. O. some guys in this sr class will go down as legends in buckeye lore when we beat scums ass saturday. My fav sr's this yr though r Simon and Boren.

stark county football

lsanders7177's picture

I agree and also love that Sabino stayed with it,practiced,got better and became a valued player and teammate....Go Bucks!!!!!

In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey

dubjayfootball90's picture

Beautiful..... This game will be historic... Believe that. Ohio State, 12-0 baby!!!!

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

btalbert25's picture

It really does speak to the character of this team, especially the seniors that we are sitting at 11-0 coming into The Game.  It would of been easy for them to have just kind of went through the motions.  I mean they got this new coach and yeah he's a rock star and all, but they won't get to enjoy a title under his leadership.  This group could of just packed it in when Meyer came in and said he was surprised at the lack of explosive players, that he was disappointed with the talent at LB, that the O-Line was fat and not motivated etc.  If any group on this team was prime to be underwhelming, it was the seniors.  Coming in this year looked like it was going to be a transitional year.  Those players could of looked at it that way, and not given it their all and just accepted 3 or 4 losses. 
They didn't, they have too much pride for that.  They refused to have another disappointing year that was easy to forget.  They put in the time, and bought in to what Meyer was selling. They put the team first and switched positions in their final year.  They refused to be underwhelming, and because of it this team could go down in history as one of the most beloved Buckeye squads of all time.  I don't hope this team is going to go 12-0, I know they're getting there.  The Game may be close, the battle could be hard fought, but they will finish this year 12-0. 

zbd's picture

The Bucks have only 1 more game this year.  Might as well win it and watch Wisconsin play Nebraska for the Big Ten Championship.   Why Gene Smith would send a 6-6 team to a bowl game last year was incredibly stupid.

jarheadbuckeyefan's picture

Thank you seniors! you have made Buckeye Nation proud of your dedication, commitment and loyalty to the school and program, and a selflessness and camaraderie that surely has Woody smiling. It's 32 hrs 44 minutes until kickoff and michigan still sucks. may the underclassmen you have mentored be as worthy of their buckeye leaves as you all have proven to be.  thank you

"The only meaningful statistic is number of games won."~ Woody Hayes

osubuckeye4life's picture

Thank yoiu so much fellas! I'mso proud of you guys!
It's time to finish what you started! You can go out on top!
Let's GO BUCKS!!!!!!!!! Beat TTUN!!!!