So, you think you’re faster than an Ohio State football player? Well, Malcolm Branson doesn’t think he’s faster than just any Buckeye – he believes he can beat Dontre Wilson in a foot race.
Branson, a senior criminology major, blew away the field at Ohio State’s third annual student appreciation day on Saturday. It’s almost as if he heeded Urban Meyer’s message to Tom Herman: find someone faster than Dontre.
“It’s possible,” Wilson said. “But I’m not going to let that happen.”
In front of a boisterous crowd of approximately 2,500 peers, Branson ran by far the fastest 40, according to the naked eye, putting Wilson on notice.
“I ran track [in high school]. I could have played football, but I didn't. That was a mistake,” Branson said. “It was awesome to get in front of the students and the fans, just to show my speed. It felt pretty good. I knew I had tough competition, so I knew I had to try hard.”
Sunshine and blue skies are forecasted for Saturday’s Scarlet and Gray game, which could lead to a surge in attendance. Ohio State drew its record crowd of 95,722 in 2009 thanks in large part to postcard weather. But this time, the revelry won’t end with the glorified practice.
In an attempt to better connect relations with everyday students, Meyer made a full-court press this spring. Past student appreciation days allowed the student body to view practice and then mingle with players and coaches at the conclusion of a scrimmage. This year’s event included a flag football game, students participating in team drills and the semifinals of the fastest student contest.
“The one group of people that I think often get overlooked are the students,” Meyer said. “That’s why we always do something for them. We want students to take ownership of this team. That’s real important.”
“Will you believe me if I tell you? 4.28.”– Malcolm Branson
At approximately 4 p.m. Saturday, Branson and a handful of other students will race their famous classmates, Wilson and Devin Smith, a Big Ten track and field champion. Also in the field will be a Spider-Man dressing student who beat Johnnie Dixon, though it looked like the freshman receiver wasn’t running his hardest.
But it was Branson who stole the show. His blazing 40-yard dash left some players wide-eyed while director of football operations Fernando Lovo let out a “Wow.”
“Believe it or not, some of the times that we have here are even faster than we had when we did this at Florida. It’s pretty impressive,” Lovo said after preliminaries. “These kids were unbelievable. It was really impressive.”
Branson graduated from Massillon Perry, where he competed on the track team and is among the fastest runners in school history.
“Will you believe me if I tell you?” Branson said, smiling. “4.28.”
He won’t be running a sub-4.3 40 come Saturday. But Branson displayed elite speed and proved he’s capable of competing with Wilson, who’s been clocked at 4.33. Confidence and belief can carry people, and Branson isn’t lacking in either department.
His appearance on such a big stage is its own upset story in a way. During his sophomore year at Perry, Branson wasn’t even running 12-second 100-meter dashes. Hours in the weight room and training on the track enhanced Branson’s speed, trimming a couple seconds off his time.
“I was actually slow,” he said, with a sense of disbelief.
Branson said Saturday will be hectic, but he’s excited about the opportunity. His family and friends will be in attendance due to Meyer’s long held conviction that students should be the owners of their college football teams. It’s a belief that took shape at Bowling Green and has been part of Meyer’s pitch ever since.
In an era of declining student attendance, access to the program has never been more important.
“Let’s have some fun in front of these students,” Meyer told his players. “This doesn’t happen anywhere else, and I want you to let them know how much you appreciate them.”