The Sunshine Boys

By Ramzy Nasrallah on February 5, 2014 at 11:15a
We're floating!
I've never actively followed recruiting but I still remember the first time I heard Braxton Miller's name.

The scene was the Louisiana Superdome and I was watching the Buckeyes warm up for the BCS title game against LSU - which means Miller was four months removed from 8th grade. No driver's license. That mustache he currently grooms was still mustache seeds.

A Buckeye fan seated in front of me was watching Todd Boeckman throw and mumbled something to his friend about Ohio State being set at QB for the next eight years.

Eight years. Eight years?

"I'm sorry," I said, abruptly barging into their conversation, "did you say eight years? How could you possibly know that?"

To appreciate how bold of a statement this was January 2008, consider that Terrelle Pryor was in the middle of his senior basketball season with the Jeannette Jayhawks and he was still undecided on a college one month before signing day.

This Braxton kid's voice was probably still changing as awkwardly as Pryor's college choice was. 

Pryor was a name you couldn't avoid hearing then, even if you were that college football fan intent on not getting caught up with recruiting. He was a one-man football team. He was a one-man basketball team.

Every single superlative was appropriate. Pryor was that guy in the Class of 2008.

Kirk Herbstreit was even on ESPN openly campaigning for him to go to Michigan and play for the newly-hired Rich Rodriguez suggesting Rod had the perfect system for him to flourish in and get better (Herbie was both correct about this and super annoying).

Buckeye fans saw Pryor as a freak who could mask the maddening shortcomings of Tresselball, effortlessly turning those routine 3rd and nines into 1st downs with his legs. [SPOILER ALERT: This unequivocally happened in every single game for three consecutive seasons - Buckeye fans see and know everything.]

"I need a ride home - can I borrow your car?"Ohio State's biggest recruit in so many ways.

Ohio State absolutely had to have Pryor. Its scholarship quarterbacks in 2007 were Boeckman, Joe Bauserman, Antonio Henton and Robbie Schoenhoft. Had. To. Have. Him.

But Penn State, heading into 2008 already having lost four or more games eight times (!) in the young century had to have him too. How badly did Penn State want Pryor?

Joe Paterno actually bothered to get off his couch to visit Jeannette and meet with Pennsylvania's best high school athlete. He had been recruiting exclusively by phone or on campus for several years prior to that little road trip. That's how important Pryor was to the Nittany Lions.

And since he was so ubiquitous even as a high school senior, Pryor was the only Ohio State recruit taking up space in my head during that 2007 season. But Braxton Miller? I immediately had Unbreak My Heart playing in my head upon hearing his name.

"Pryor is coming," deadpanned the guy, not at all weirded out by my eavesdropping, "and he'll stick around for at least three years before Braxton comes in and takes over. He started as a freshman in Dayton and he's already ridiculous. Ridiculous. And he's all Buckeye."

"Okay, sure," I said, briefly suspending belief that high school boys could be predictable for four years, "but who's going to be quarterback after Braxton Miller?" He wasn't impressed by my sarcasm. Our brief interaction then ended, and Ohio State lost to LSU that night.

Pryor officially committed to Ohio State two months later; a month after signing day. However, he texted Tressel right after the LSU game: Don't worry about it, Coach. We're going to get it done in the future. He knew that night he was going to Ohio State.

And so Pryor - and his high school freshman successor Miller - are both emblematic of why I don't actively follow the high school recruiting sagas: Teenagers, man.

That's not to say I don't enjoy some recruiting sagas, though. I treat them similarly to movies: Wait for the ones with good reviews to hit Netflix and watch them then.

I selectively and retroactively follow Ohio State recruiting - as in, looking back on the recruitment of players who eventually proved to be interesting. Actively following these kids can be both time-wasting and depressing, like paying to see a shitty movie in the theater.

Like Seantrel Henderson, the Pryor of his class, whose father openly encouraged him to play somewhere most conducive to his own pursuit of a rap career: Time-wasting. Not interested.

g'byeBaby Brax running from Centerville's awful helmets.

Or Trey DePriest, who came from a very humble upbringing in Springfield, choosing Alabama over Ohio State while his family members allegedly arrived at his announcement in newish-looking Land Rovers: Depressing. Not interested.

Then there's Cam Newton, whose recruitment by Auburn was so spectacularly shady it resulted in the NCAA enacting The Cam Newton Rule. Newton was facing expulsion when he transferred from Florida, where his head coach was...right. I'm sure he chose the Gators for free before heading to Auburn for the price of a wholesale church renovation.

I've playfully deluded myself into believing this sport we all love is almost pure for so long. Looking too closely at recruiting isn't unlike lifting up a giant rock to see what lies beneath, and that's a little too gross for me. I'd rather look away and whine endlessly about how far away September is - or hear some fun, not-depressing story after the fact.

After the fact. That's when recruiting stories are fun, because - frankly - that's when I know that I actually give a shit about the kid. I guess failing to get too worked up over a name and a high school highlights on YouTube set to ear-raping music makes me weird. 

Fun stories, like the one about the tight end prospect who was on campus for his official Ohio State visit in December 2006 and cheered with his Buckeye hosts as Troy Smith was awarded the Heisman on television. That cheering kid was future all-pro Rob Gronkowski.

I had no idea who Gronk was or would be in 2006 and neither did you. It's a cool story now only because man it would have been cool to have Gronk catching passes blocking at Ohio State instead of Arizona.

Or Jason Winrow, who told me he hadn't given Ohio State much of a thought before John Cooper arrived at his home prior to his senior year and spent time with his father. After Coop left the house Mr. Winrow told his son, "yeah, sorry, you have to go to Ohio State."

Or how Woody Hayes never stopped recruiting Michigan legend Rob Lytle even a full decade after he finished playing for the Wolverines.

Those recruiting stories - the ones with substance that aren't fleeting, time-wasting or thoroughly forgettable - take significant time to marinate. The answer to so how did his visit go this weekend requires significant incubation to garner my interest.

It's not that I don't care about Ohio State's talent pipeline. It's just that - and there's no delicate way to put this - teenagers are generally vain and boring. I know this because 1) I once was one, and 2) Instagram now exists specifically to remind former teenagers just how vain and boring they used to be.

Only once Miller announced his collegiate intentions, arrived at Ohio State and shined despite the circumstances he inherited did I realize that Superdome exchange would be one of those recruiting stories I would end up holding onto.

I have no idea how Miller's visits went but I'm still thrilled he's a Buckeye, and I'm looking forward to reading about a few of the kids signing their letters today - once they emerge from that list of names as more than just a name.

After COACH CoopER left the house, Mr. Winrow told his son, "yeah, Sorry, you have to go to Ohio State."It's guaranteed to happen every year: Almost 30 seasons prior to Miller's arrival William Roberts, Cedric Anderson, Doug Hill and Rowland Tatum all visited Ohio State. They all hailed from Florida except Tatum, who came in from California.

The four players immediately hit it off, eventually became Buckeyes and because of their home states nicknamed themselves "The Sunshine Boys" - which isn't unlike "Dream 14" or "Block O" or any of the other nicknames Ohio State recruits collectively give themselves these days.

Tatum had also been recruited locally by UCLA, which put him up at the posh Beverly Hills Hilton on his visit. That weekend he was escorted around campus in a fancy limousine. Then he visited Columbus and shacked up in student housing with Tim Spencer. They ate at Buckeye Donuts and visited the library. They traveled on foot.

Looking back on his recruitment long after he graduated from Ohio State, Tatum said of his Columbus visit, "that was real. That was my style."

Yeah, that's my style too. Welcome, OSU Class of 2014. May you all someday make it real.


Comments Show All Comments

tennbuckeye19's picture

Good stuff as always , Ramzy. 

+1 HS
Getcha Gallof's picture

Awesome to hear that story about Gronk.  Would have been great to see him in Scarlet & Gray! 

Once ate an entire bowling ball

osu07asu10's picture

Its scholarship quarterbacks in 2007 were Boeckman, Joe Bauserman, Antonio Henton and Robbie Schoenhoft.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

+1 HS
O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Getting tired of how some fans deride our former players. Most don't turn into stars, but they still chose to be Buckeyes and should be granted some respect, especially years after their playing days are over.

-1 HS
gumtape's picture

Boeckman could actually play. You don't get your team to the MNC without some skills. Henton was a head case and couldn't stay out of trouble.

Those other guys were all good teammates.

Family guy ipecac bit made me hurt the first time I saw it. Funniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

High and tight boo boo

Furious George 27's picture

I guess if you should be upset with anything, you should be upset with the QB coaching or the lack of for the back up QBs under Tressel. I think KG is a prime example of a player with legit talent not developed until Herman came to town.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

You know, you're right. Misplaced frustration. Schoenhofts are family friends and he's a great guy. It's all Meg's fault.

-1 HS
droessl's picture

Boeckman wishes he had Bernie Kosar's mobility 

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

If Boeckman had never played for OSU, then what would ToddNotBoeckman do?



+1 HS
SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Antonio "$19" Henton.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Rapping Bum's picture

Now I want some Buckeye Donuts.  Thanks Ramzy.

Help is on the way.

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Great article - thanks for sharing the stories

toad1204's picture

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

+1 HS
causeicouldntgo43's picture

Great insight on Tatum - I'll be marinating in that for a while.....

ohst8buxCP's picture

The great thing is, if we end up getting Torrence Gibson. We'll be set for at least the next 8 years  again with him and Danny Clark. That's not even including Barrett who imo is underrated right now.

OSUBias's picture

He'll show you, Ramzy. Wait all you want, everyone else will still speculate about future recruits right in the comment section of your article about not speculating about future recruits.  

7 yards and a cloud of dust is a beautiful thing

ohst8buxCP's picture

I missed the Italics.

TMac's picture

Great story Ramzy! UFM gets the big bucks to pay attention to the high school kids, and I put my faith in him and his staff to get the right mix of kids to be Buckeyes!! 

ONE Not Done!

RoyMunson's picture

Excellent article. I wish I could participate as passively as you can, but this website has sunk its claws in for good.

iball's picture

Ramzy..if you wrote a book ,Id read it. I dont know how old you are and Im usually a tad prejudice toward the opinions of younger generations...but good stuff man.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

+1 HS
CALPOPPY's picture

He's old enough. That's all you need to know.
But I'd read his book as well. Slowly ('cause that's how I read) but I'd get it done.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

HighBallAce's picture

I've always thought one of his best articles was, "The ghosts that we knew." That is if that was the name of the article. I do believe it was though. I truly enjoyed it!

+1 HS
CALPOPPY's picture

I saw that link earlier this week. I had emailed it to a friend at work and saw it when I was searching my email. That is a great article.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

ToledoMan's picture

This is one of my favorite articles in a while.  Excellent.

+1 HS
UFest57's picture

Where are they now: Antonio Henton...

cinserious's picture

Cool story. I really like the last part about Tatum. It shows how much fun a young recruit can have on limited resources.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

whobdis's picture

I always love the recruiting stories. I remember hearing Everett Ross (I think it was him) talk about recruiting weekends. Some of the players always hosted the high profie kids but Ross said he wasn't in that group. He got a quite kid out of Fork Union named Eddie. The kid would hardly speak and he had no idea if he liked the place or not. Most of the attention that weekend went to other recruits but the Eddie kid didn't seem to mind. Maybe he knew he would get his attention later

Seattle Linga's picture

Still to this day Eddie is one of my all time favorite Buckeyes. He's also very insightful on FoxSports1 which IMO is heads and tails better than the 4 letter network.

whobdis's picture

Sorry..after looking it up I think it was Marlon Kerner. I knew it was a Cbus kid

droessl's picture

Ramzy, you magnificent bastard!  Great article, and great perspective about not getting too caught up in ALL things college football. Now if I could only implement some of that restraint in my own life...

zhamilton05's picture

How long before we lose Ramzy to a national writing gig? Seriously, I predict that in 5 years we'll be reading his stuff and talking about how awesome he was on elevenwarriors #backintheday.
Anyway, this was a good reminder for me not to get too worked up over the recruiting of high school kids. They are vain, and fickle, and hard to project. I got another reminder in the whole Malik McDowell saga - do you honestly wish he would have signed with tOSU? Doesn't it seem likely he would have switched his commitment, or maybe stayed one year and then transferred? I'm kind of glad the Buckeyes avoided the drama there.

+1 HS
UFest57's picture

Marcus Ray (sorry guys) was our DB coach while I was at Ohio Dominican. He told us a story about how Shaun Alexander took a recruiting visit to scUM and him and Woodson were planning on taking SA out to a party and show him around campus. Apparently SA was pretty straight laced and cried, refusing to go to a party. Ray said they kept demanding that he go with them to the party and the tears ended up in SA calling his mother. Long story short, SA ended up with Bama.

JOhio1560's picture

Great read, Ramsey!  I always enjoy reading these kind of stories.

I'm not finished!  Before we let you leave, your commander must cross that field, present himself before this army, put his head between his legs, and kiss his own arse.

Maestro's picture

I follow maybe a little more closely than you do Ramzy, but yes it is mostly a waste of time.
 When I read that someone has convinced himself that a recruit is going to flip his commitment I have to wonder.  Are you clairvoyant?  Is Ms. Cleo an 11Dubster?  How does one get so caught up in trying to read the tea leaves of a teenager?
I definitely follow it way less than I once did, and I can thank Seantrel Henderson for that.  After that odyssey I decided that I was tragically wasting my time by following recruiting with any intensity.
Fun read as always Ramzy.

vacuuming sucks

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Another top notch "Ramzy Read".  I defer all of my recruiting info to the 11W staff, never followed it at all until I started coming (daily) to this site.  I'm of like mind for the most part, let's wait until the kids have signed on the dotted line and see what we have before I get too emotionally invested.  The 11W staff does a great job with the recruiting reporting, kudos to them, I know a lot more now than I ever did previously for sure.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

osubuckeye4life's picture

Another great piece Ramzy :)
I keep an eye on recruiting and I'm happy that these young men have chosen to come to tOSU.

Art Harrell's picture

Wow !! Super story Ramzy--enjoyed reading it--I'm 67 years old made me feel good reading it

NashBuckeye's picture

Great read! I loved the Rob Lytle story that was linked to the article. I grew up in the 70s as a Broncos fan because of Randy Gradishar and never liked having to root for Rob Lytle. I never heard the story about Woody following Lytle's Pro career, but it doesn't surprise me.  I have always loved reading or hearing "New" Woody Hayes stories.  Thanks for the chance to read another good one, Ramzy.

buckeyedude's picture

My biggest turnoff is how the schools, much like Southfield did today, make a huge deal out of these athletes, along with the whole moving hat thing.
Why can't they just call the HC of the school they've chosen and call it good? Why do they have to make it a big production?



Maestro's picture


vacuuming sucks

Codeezy's picture

You're my favorite, Ramzy. 

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Ramzy is a 5-star, blue chip, captivating sportswriter.