Elite and Enrolled: Ohio State's Four January Enrollees Adjust to Life as Buckeyes

By Jeremy Birmingham on January 15, 2015 at 2:15 pm
Jashon Cornell is enrolled early for Ohio State.

Even for a kid from Minnesota, the winds of an arctic blast whipping through Columbus can be chilling. Especially as you're trying to find your way through one of the country's largest college campuses.

"The wind makes it chilly," Jashon Cornell told Eleven Warriors. "Everything is a far walk away."

The adjustment to college life has begun for Ohio State's four early enrollees from the 2015 class. Nick Conner, Cornell, Jamel Dean and Grant Schmidt, four very different people, from four very different places, all now together in a shared purpose. That purpose? To get a head start on their college careers and to try seamlessly integrate themselves in a football program that just won a national championship. It's not a simple tasking, trying to earn the respect of 100 guys in a locker room where your high school accolades and stars mean nothing. It's not easy to stand up against and with those who will be more brother than peer for the next four years, you have to earn it.

This morning, they had their first team meeting with the Buckeyes, the first of what is sure to be an innumerable amount of those over the next three-to-five years. It was nothing special; just rudimentary things that needed to take place. Get a physical, get measured and poked and prodded and to be told exactly how Mick Marotti and Ohio State's strength and conditioning program plans to change everything you know about your physical self by the time spring football starts in some forty odd days. Until then, the changes are almost all in your head or — and more specifically — on your wrist.

"Time management," Schmidt said of his toughest early adjustment. "Just being completely responsible for yourself, with no guidance from parents. But, I literally love it here."

Although he's from South Dakota, Columbus, Schmidt says, is a similar place to Sioux Falls. The adjustment to a new city isn't as big a deal as one would think. For Nick Conner, there's no adjustment at all. The Dublin, Ohio native has a bit easier transition than most in that regard. He can go home for dinner if he wants.

"It's not too bad," Conner said of his personal adjustment. "My family is still bringing me stuff and I have a car."

That car will make him a popular man around his future teammates, but it won't help much in class. While the newest Buckeyes are not being slammed with the most difficult classes the university has to offer right away, there's no doubt they're getting a full load of new responsibility.

"I'm taking Earth Sciences, pre-calculus, anthropology, English and business administration," Cornell said. "Right now, they're not that challenging, but I prepared myself mentally."

Right now, but Cornell's high school — Cretin-Derham Hall in Minneapolis — prepared him better than most. Still the challenges for most young men in this unique situation isn't related to school, it's about fitting in with a new team. It's about finding your niche, your role and making sure you don't leave any doubt that you're "one of the guys". Ohio State's national championship team arrived back in Columbus Tuesday evening and the newbies were there to greet them.

"I hung out with them all night," Cornell said. "Everyone's cool. They welcomed me to the family. Then they made me take out the trash."

Ironically, the four football players who enrolled over the weekend aren't able to live with other football players right now. On Monday night, Grant Schmidt was working on adjusting to college life and watching a football game with his roommate, just like any other college kid. 

"Sioux Falls and Columbus aren't that different, but the girls are awesome here (laughs) – there's some tall women. It's kind of weird living with random people," the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Schmidt said. "But they both absolutely love football, one of them had a ticket to the game, I kind of watched the game with them and with football guys. I got tear-gassed on Monday night, just walking back to my dorm, I wasn't doing anything bad (laughs)."

On Tuesday, he was spending his time with future teammates and trying to let his fatigued brothers rest.Then the next night we're hanging out with the guys. They were really tired so we tried to give them a lot of space."

Jamel Dean doesn't talk much. He's always been quiet, and likely always will be. He's confident, he's calm and he's incredibly self-aware. He was the second commitment in Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class, issuing a verbal pledge to Urban Meyer almost 13 months ago. He knew from the moment he stepped on campus on his first visit from Florida's Cocoa High School, that Columbus is where he wanted to be. Now, even as a Buckeye, Dean doesn't need words. He's ready to work and to fight for playing time as a freshman. Until then, you might not hear much from the 6-foot-2, 195-pound cornerback. One sentence is all he needs.

"Things are good," Dean said. "They're good."

Urban Meyer is fond of saying the future is bright at Ohio State, and the future is now.

View 45 Comments