Hello, incoming freshmen football players at Ohio State.
Wow, look at you. You're college men. It's finally happening.
It's quite possible that as a child you grew up always dreaming of playing for the Buckeyes and 2014 is that dream becoming your reality. Perhaps you didn't start dreaming until Ohio State began recruiting you a couple of years ago. Either way, you have now entered the dream.
Dreams are funny. They never stop playing tricks on you, bending time and causing the best ones to end abruptly while the worst ones seem to last forever. The truth about dreams is they're all about the same length: Short. Every night you sleep for hours but only dream for minutes.
That's exactly how college will feel but you won't realize how cruel this is until you wake up someday soon and you're no longer college men. Granted, a few of you may be jarred awake by multi-million dollar signing bonuses - but you'll still be closing the chapter of your life when your body was at its most forgiving, your mind was never as curious and everybody knew your name without you having to tell them first.
You'll only be reminded of your STAR ranking when your position coach rubs it in your face after a teammate with fewer stars kicks your ass in practice.
You're all famous teenagers. You're child stars. That's both exciting and terrifying because even naive, teenage you already knows how this football dream will end: Some of you will flame out. Some of you will soar. Some of you will disappear. And it will all happen very quickly, because that's how dreams work.
Speaking of stars, that precious recruit ranking that identified you over the past two years is now a liability. You will never love those stars as much as you did when you were in high school because if you're as good as you're supposed to be you'll never hear about them again. You'll only be reminded of your star ranking when your position coach rubs it in your face after a teammate with fewer stars kicks your ass in practice.
You may not realize it yet, but you're among some guys who will be in your wedding, your kid's birthday, your second wedding, your vacations and your funeral. You'll be present at a lot of that stuff for them as well. Childhood friends are a function of geography; college friends are a matter of choice. Some of these guys will be your best friends for life. You'll be old men together. You'll laugh decades from now while reliving what's about to happen to you.
Maybe you're the first in your family to go to college. Maybe you're the 17th. That doesn't matter, because older and possibly wiser people are going to give you advice on seizing this opportunity, taking nothing for granted and a whole bunch of other platitudes.
So you'll get plenty of that elsewhere. Over here you're only going to get a short list of practical tips for college life:
1. You're an Ohio State football player. Everyone in Columbus already knows who you are, especially at places that require identification to enter.
2. You're going to screw something up. It's inevitable. Make it small and correctable. Take ownership of what you screwed up, correct it and don't do it again.
3. You can still have a lot of fun after 10pm, but try to be indoors, far from heavy machinery and with far more people you trust than people you don't know. That ratio will never stop being important.
4. At some point you'll meet Eddie George. He rushed for 314 yards against Illinois his senior year, but ask him about the Illinois game his freshman year instead. He'll tell you. Ask him about Michigan. Despite owning a Heisman Trophy and having his name permanently on display in your stadium, he has college regrets. You'll have regrets too. Just don't let them eat you. He became who he is because he didn't.
6. Study whatever you like, but embrace it. Most students pay tens of thousands of dollars every year for what you're getting from Ohio State in exchange for your football potential. These students walk among you. They're in your classes. They're have huge debts. They admire you. They resent you. If you squander this academic gift, you'll eventually resent you too.
7. It will end up on the Internet, and it will never go away no matter how many great things you do. Ask Peyton Manning.
8. None of you will have had Kenny Guiton as a teammate, but he's one of the most beloved Buckeyes this century. He was a career backup. Everyone loves him because of how he carried himself. Hopefully you'll see the field more than he did, but regardless - be that kind of teammate.
There's a lot more, but some lessons are better learned on your own. Hopefully when this dream ends, the number you were wearing in it will be a bigger deal for the next kid who enters.
Good luck, college men. Keep your eyes open. Here's hoping you shed your black stripes with great haste, and may you always wake up smiling.
...in the end zone. With the ball. We'll all be there too, screaming.