Inked: Four-Star Linebacker Nick Conner of Dublin, Ohio is Officially a Buckeye

By Jeremy Birmingham on January 27, 2015 at 2:15 pm
Nick Conner has arrived at Ohio State.

The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their Buckeye careers today as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent. Signing Day is here.

Eleven Warriors would like to officially welcome Nick Conner to the Ohio State football program. 

There was a time when Nick Conner, who grew up in the shadows of Ohio Stadium in nearby Dublin, Ohio, had given up on the idea of becoming a Buckeye. 

The Conner File

  • Class 2015
  • Position LB
  • Size 6-3/225
  • School Scioto (Dublin, OH)
  • Composite ★★★★
  • Rank 8 (ILB)

The odds of getting an Ohio State offer seemed to be dwindling, especially as the Buckeyes pursuit of highly-ranked in-state linebackers Jerome Baker and Justin Hilliard seemed to be ramping up. Ohio State had signed four linebackers in 2014 and the numbers were not in Conner's favor.

Conner played his hand coolly, but his affinity for the Buckeyes was not a secret. Luke Fickell, like Conner a Columbus native, had visited Conner in mid-May and once more the Buckeyes left a discussion with the 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker open-ended. It was not the first time it had happened; Conner had met with Ohio State coaches on a couple of occasions since his recruiting "star" had risen. Each time the message was the same: 'be patient, come to camp because we need to keep evaluating.' Frustrated as he was, Conner told Eleven Warriors he respected Ohio State's candor.

"Honestly coach (Luke) Fickell said he wanted me at their camp and he wasn't going to offer before that happened, and I respected his honesty with me," Conner said. "He said I needed to show up and prove to coach (Urban) Meyer that I have speed at linebacker he was looking for and that I am the right man for the job. It helped motivate me to go out and do it."

Elsewhere, Conner's star began to rise. He took full advantage of new opportunities to showcase his skills and the clamoring from fans around Ohio for him to get a Buckeye offer got louder and louder. On June 1st, Conner headed to East Lansing and camped for the Spartans of Michigan State. After dominating camp competition in front of Mark D'Antonio, Michigan State extended what turned out to be a game-changing offer. A week later, he was a replacement invite to the prestigious Rivals Five-Star Camp and took home the MVP award at the linebacker position and earned a spot in the combine's Top 10 performers

The Michigan State offer may have been as instrumental in forcing Ohio State's hand as anything Conner himself did. As Crystal Balls rolled in for Conner and the Spartans, the Buckeyes were back on the offensive, asking Conner to head to their camp in mid-June and do what he did in East Lansing: earn an offer.

He did just that, and the timing was important. Conner told Eleven Warriors readers during his 11W Community Interview if the offer didn't come then, he would have ended his personal chase for a Buckeye offer.

"Honestly if I didn't get it there (at camp last week), I probably wouldn't have went back to Ohio State.  I would have had to wait tell after the season and I would have felt like I was a second or third choice," Conner said. "To be honest, my thoughts were 'It's about damn time.' When I was waiting for it, it was a constant struggle because I knew it was the one I wanted but for some reason I wasn't getting it and I couldn't understand why. I will just say it was worth the wait."

The wait for an offer took a long time. The wait to act on it did not. Conner committed to Ohio State before he left campus on June 17. 

The talented linebacker had always been confident that the Buckeyes would come through when they saw his game up close.

"I know once they get to know me and who I am and how I do things it will work out," Conner told 11W. "I know they've been wanting me to continue working on my speed and I have been."

Conner became a vital piece of Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class, living so close to Ohio State meant an opportunity to be on campus frequently. Because of that, the Scioto High School star wanted to make improving the Buckeye recruiting class a priority.

"I want us to have the best class as possible. After going to the Rivals Camp Series in Baltimore, there were a couple kids on my team who I'd love to bring with me to Columbus," Conner shared. "The one player I'd want the most though is Christian Kirk; nobody could guard that kid - nobody. I'll talk to anyone anywhere to try and help get our class right."

As his senior season approached, Conner prepared for a breakout year. He had gotten bigger, he'd gotten stronger and he'd become a centerpiece of the "Elite '15." An early season leg injury slowed down his season, but not the intrigue around his recruitment.

At the end of September, the rumors began to rumble: Conner had a planned official visit to Kentucky, one of the schools he was closely tied with prior to his Buckeye commitment. Some even speculated that Conner was being "pushed" by Ohio State to visit Kentucky, a sign the Buckeyes were hoping to lose him in their class.

That could not have been further from the truth. In fact, the night before Conner's scheduled visit to Kentucky, Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni took to Twitter to put a Buckeye stamp on Conner, who had already signed his midyear financial agreement with Ohio State.

Conner never visited Kentucky, and from that point on he shut down all other rumors and innuendo about his recruitment. Although his leg injury kept him sidelined for much of the season, Conner was still honored as a Semper-Fidelis All-American and traveled west to California for their All-American Bowl. One of four Buckeye commitments on hand, Conner did not participate in the game but was eager to represent Ohio State whatever way he was able. 

The trip to California was the last he'd make as a high school athlete. A week later he would enroll at Ohio State and begin his collegiate career. 

"I can't be more excited than I am," Conner told 11W about getting to Ohio State. "I can't wait to get there, be 100 percent and be able to do everything I need to do with the Buckeyes." 

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