Jim Honigford, the father of 2017 offensive line standout Joel Honigford was a former Ohio State basketball player who walked on and played with the Scarlet and Gray in the mid-1980s. For the younger Honigford, it seemed basketball may be his path too, at least at an early age.
"I was a big basketball player for a while," Honigford, a 6-foot-5, 275-pounder told Eleven Warriors. "I actually almost quit football in 8th grade to golf. I could absolutely kill the (golf) ball, the problem was it was never straight. I continued to play football and I fell in love with it."
It appears that was a good choice. Now with 18 scholarship offers from schools all over the country and more seemingly getting added every day, the Sugarcreek, Ohio native (Pop. 2,223) is on his way to blowing up. Being the son of a former Ohio State athlete and being born and raised in Ohio, it's not surprising that Joel has long rooted for the Buckeyes. He remembers his first Buckeye football game, at eight-years-old. Speaking on Ohio State, Honigford, who told 11W last week he hears from the Buckeyes at least once a week, he says plainly it's something he's dreamed of.
"I really want that offer," Honigford said, echoing a sentiment he shared in November. "I'd love to play for Ohio state."
Right now Honigford, who lines up at left tackle for Sugarcreek's Garaway High School, doesn't have that Ohio State offer from among the almost 20 he holds. The dream of playing for the Buckeyes is real, but the bigger dream is to play–and play well–at the highest peaks of the next level and his game has begun rounding into shape to make an impact.
"Growing up it was always a dream to play at the D1 level but now that some majors schools such as Ohio State have shown interest it's really humbling and exciting. It gives me hope to go places a kid from my area was never thought to achieve," Honigford told Eleven Warriors. "I don't want to be a kid to make it big but not get to play. I want to make it big and make a difference. I'm not into the idea of just getting to a Division One program. I want to get in and really make myself known and make a difference."
"I love being aggressive and getting pancake blocks, (I love) the scheme of football, and just hitting people," Honigford said. "(Basketball) helps a lot with the footwork and athleticism entirely. It also is a very mentally involved sport so it taught me how to think during a play, or analyze something mid-play."
The primary thing the Garaway star has to analyze now is what to do about his rising profile. At 6-foot-5 and 275-pounds, he's got offers from Michigan State, Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma already to his name and the list is growing rapidly as his film and name get out of Ohio. He's been to Ohio State a number of times in the past few months, and he's started seeing other schools that have expressed interest. He visited Michigan State two weeks ago and made trips to Penn State and Pittsburgh this past weekend. Those trips are just the start of what's sure to be a busy few months for this small town star. He plans on being all over the country and will take his time to make his college decision.
"I'm going to visit Auburn, Ohio State again, Michigan State again, and West Virginia," he said. "(I'll also) fly out to Oklahoma and Oregon."
Honigford's visit at eight-years-old notwithstanding, he says recent trips to Ohio State have been an eye-opener as he compares the school he grew up rooting for against the places he's now considering.
"When I was a fan I only thought about Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, etc., but since I've been a recruit and had the offers I've had and the interest from the many other schools, it has really opened things up for me," he said. "I haven't been biased at all with being a fan and recruit of many schools. I'll be choosing my school on who I feel most comfortable with, not with who I was a fan of."
Of course, that could mean he ends up playing his college ball somewhere other than Columbus. That transition may be more difficult for his family than it would be for him.
"It seemed pretty different at first," he said of the idea of his father supporting a school other than Ohio State. "Now that I've been in the situation for awhile, they'll been fine and supportive of whatever school I choose."
As mentioned, Honigford has visited Columbus multiple times these past few months. In that time, he has had to transition from discussions with Ed Warinner to conversation with Greg Studrawa, who will head up Ohio State's "Slobs" moving forward. He says the pair aren't that different.
"Actually (Ed) Warinner and (Greg) Studrawa are very similar," Honigord said. "They both like to joke around and have fun and they give it to me how it is."
Part of "how it is" with Honigford is familiar if you're intimate with Buckeye recruiting. Especially familiar when it comes to linemen from small schools in Ohio. Since Urban Meyer's arrival, there are few instances where a big man was offered early and coming to camp with the Buckeyes before your senior year is a good way to prove your place. Honigford has been on the fence about camping with the Buckeyes and says he's still not sure what comes next.
These upcoming visits mean a chance to familiarize himself with the coaches and schools he's considering, to learn what makes each place special. It could mean a commitment elsewhere, or he could wait for summer. He knows what he's looking for, but you never know when it will find you. It's all about–surprise!–comfort.
"I just want to be developed to my full potential. I want to have a coach that will push me, but one that I'll want to be around at the end of the day," Honigford added. "I am going to commit when I feel most comfortable with everything and if that means waiting to camp in the summer to get some more offers if that's what it takes then that's fine. I'm not really in a hurry to commit at all. Just waiting until I feel most comfortable with everything and ready."