The anecdotes from Ohio State’s biggest recruiting weekend last fall is pretty much an endless list.
There’s Mike Hall, who visited for the Buckeyes’ game against Penn State and when he came through the tunnel, the pounding screams of the 100,000-plus fans in Ohio Stadium vortexed off the walls and into his skin as he saw Justin Fields, Chase Young and Ryan Day just a few feet away.
“It gave me chills, not gonna lie,” said Hall, who soon began thinking to himself, “‘dang, this could be me in not too long.’”
“I act like I’m getting ready for a game, really, (when I come down the tunnel),” he said. “It’s a long tunnel so you’re just getting your mind ready. And whatever problems you have just go away. Everything just goes away, and you think about what’s going on right then. And then you get out of the tunnel and see all those lights, and it’s like, ‘dang, I’m not actually playing right now.’ But it feels like you’re about to when you go down that tunnel, and then you have to come back to reality.”
There’s Tegra Tshabola, who was likewise impressed with the atmosphere that day but was even more dazzled by the fact that Day went against his word. All week, Day said the coaching staff wouldn’t have much, if any, time to glad-hand recruits or give them much attention. But he gave Tshabola about 90 seconds of face time, and that was all that was necessary.
“It was really impactful because at all the other big schools that I’ve visited, you cannot talk to the head coach before the game,” Tshabola said. “The head coach is the busiest one on the entire staff, so the fact that he came up to me and talked to me with all that going on just really showed me how much I really meant to him and how interested he was in getting me on campus.”
There’s Donovan Jackson, who traveled all the way up to Columbus that weekend from Houston for a game day visit and who left the school as a Buckeye. He and his father, Todd Jackson, told Eleven Warriors about the mark the visit left, and he told Buckeye Grove that the visit “sealed the deal for me.”
“There was a lot building up to that, but I feel like that game did it for me,” Donovan said. “I was there the next two days so I just sat down with coach Day, and I told him then.”
There’s Jantzen Dunn, who made his first trek to Ohio Stadium that day and left knowing that, if he ever had the chance to play there, it was a done deal.
“When J went there for that football game, the Penn State game, it was a wrap,” says Jantzen’s father, Mitchell Dunn. “I knew it. I had never seen my son that excited about a school. There were some games we went to, and we left. We’d listen to it on the radio in the car. But that game? There was no way. He was like, ‘I don’t wanna go anywhere. I wanna watch this whole thing. He loved it.’”
There’s Gabe Powers, who couldn’t remember any specific “wow” moments that afternoon because every third down with the Buckeyes on defense, the noise might’ve knocked some of those memories right out of his head.
“I think the Penn State atmosphere was the best atmosphere,” said Powers, who had also visited for the game against Wisconsin. “But being in that was just crazy – seeing how crazy and into the game the crowd was and how the players were after the game. You can’t really hear much when you’re out there.”
Later, in the coaches’ offices, is where Powers and his family began really forming a bond with Al Washington and his family while basking in the aftermath of the season’s biggest win.
“When (Jantzen) went there for that football game, the Penn State game, it was a wrap,” says Jantzen’s father, Mitchell Dunn. “I knew it. I had never seen my son that excited about a school. – Mitchell Dunn, father of ohio state commit jantzen dunn
There’s Miyan Williams, who saw enough from that game to flip his commitment from Iowa State to Ohio State afterward in damn-near record time (less than four hours after his future teammates were singing Carmen Ohio).
There’s C.J. Hicks, who got hyped up watching a pregame video they played for the team and then saw Day use some choice words to give the players more juice. He was even more impressed once he heard Day say the Buckeyes should’ve won by 40 points.
And then there was Tuf Borland, K.J. Hill and Austin Mack after the game, each glowing about the atmosphere, with Mack – a top-75 recruit and one of the highest-ranked prospects to ever come out of the state of Indiana – telling us, “I knew if I came here, there would be moments and games like there was (Saturday).”
And, of course, Pete Werner, who was sitting in a first-row seat during a recruiting visit when he saw Curtis Samuel’s game-winning touchdown in double-overtime against Michigan in 2016.
“That kind of brought me here. That was crazy,” said Werner, who flipped from Notre Dame to Ohio State. “It was the factor. I saw that, and I was like, ‘Whoa, are you kidding me? I gotta come here.’”
All are unique stories in their own right. None will be happening in 2020.
There is the obvious caveat that the recruiting dead period may have never ended until after the 2020 season and that recruits wouldn’t be allowed to go see Ohio State’s games, anyway. But with the Big Ten (and Pac-12) canceling its season, it cemented the fact that there won't be game day atmospheres to sway recruits to become Buckeyes this fall.