Doran Grant checked into Ohio State’s team hotel Thursday morning wearing a Nike tank top that read “Summit County” and a Script Ohio flat bill hat.
He’s proud of his hometown of Akron and proud fellow St. Vincent-St. Mary High School alum LeBron James is returning to Northeast Ohio to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s proud of the love letter the NBA megastar penned to the region.
“I felt exactly what he was talking about,” he said. “That’s where you’re from. That’s just where you live and grew up so you’re gonna love it.”
Grant, a senior cornerback, is also proud of Ohio State, a place where he’s the new face of a secondary that doomed its championship hopes last season.
He’ll be asked to shut down the Big Ten’s best wide receivers and help turn around a unit that finished 112th in pass defense. He’ll also be asked to step into a leadership role on a team looking for more new faces to guide it.
It’s why Grant sauntered into the Hyatt Place – the quarters where the Buckeyes will spend the remainder of fall camp – carrying a handmade poster from his internship with the Boys & Girls Club of Columbus in his left hand.
“That was a goodbye poster they made me for me on my last day so I brought it for motivation,” he said. “I miss those dudes.”
On a day where players bring only the bare necessities to get them through the hardest two weeks of the summer, Grant couldn’t go without this.
“Working with them all summer, they look up to you and you wanna do good,” he said. The poster is a reminder of that. It offers perspective.
“It basically puts you in a leadership role where you have to do good, you have to do right because you have others watching,” he said. “That’s part of being a Buckeye period. I’m used to it."
What Grant’s less familiar with, however, is assuming the role of a veteran who will have to do so much for coach Urban Meyer and Ohio State next season. He’s the oldest and most experienced member of a secondary that unraveled at the seams last season.
“His improvement this year has been dramatic,” cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said in April. “He is a young man with incredible athletic ability. His combine-type numbers are going to match those of many of the great corners in the country today and those that have played here.”
Grant’s athleticism, of course, has never been in doubt. But if the going gets tough again this fall, he’ll need to be a rock for a relatively inexperienced back end.
“We were 24-0, then we lost two games and I feel like we have something to prove. That’s what we did this spring. And that’s what we’re going to do this fall,” he said in April.
“I have high confidence in my room. I love what we’re doing. As a group, we’re getting tighter and tighter. That’s what I’m enjoying the most, especially seeing the guys getting better.”
Other members of the secondary like cornerbacks Armani Reeves, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore and Damon Webb and safeties Tyvis Powell, Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows are looking up to him on the field.
So are the Boys & Girls Club of Columbus off of it. Grant's aware of this.
“You wanna be a positive role model,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
For a guy with who wants to make them, Akron and Ohio State proud, that's a pretty good way to do so.