Robert Karovic never needed to think much at all about who he’d build his team around when he walked in the door as Revere’s newly hired head coach earlier this year.
The long-time Ohio high school football coach already had on his roster Ben Christman, a 6-foot-6, 299-pound offensive lineman who’s been committed to Ohio State since June 26, 2019. Before Karovic ever pulled up Christman’s film, he probably already knew he had something special. Still, what he proceeded to watch blew him away.
“He's elite,” Karovic said a couple of months ago. “When I say elite, I mean as far as his tenacity on the football field. He's got something a little special that's built inside of him that a lot of players don't have at the high school level. He has a knack to really turn it up a notch and really go after people physically and competitively, and you don't see that every day from a high school athlete.”
Christman, now two games into his season, has lived up to Karovic’s expectations as a two-way lineman who’s stepped up as a leader for his senior season. He’s helped Revere to a 1-1 record, dropping a tight 12-7 loss in Week 1 before blowing out Cuyahoga Falls, 33-0, on Friday.
After the Minutemen’s first win of the season, Christman spent some time talking with Eleven Warriors about his progression, the Buckeyes’ 2021 class and what else he hopes to achieve this fall.
I remember when I talked to you before the season, you said something about how you wanted to show something this year about how much better you and your team have gotten. To come out here today and do what you did, what do you think that says?
BC: “I try to be one of the best players in America, and I feel like I'm trying to set that tone. I feel like we can be one of the best teams in the state. We've just got to keep going. I just work my tail off every single day, and so do these guys in this locker room. Well, we're not in this locker room with COVID. But it's the greatest game in the world.”
For a moment, you guys didn't know if you were going to get a season. What's it been like to be out here playing games?
BC: “I was just preparing as if we were having a season, still having hope. When the Big Ten canceled, I was getting kind of nervous. But when Coach and OHSAA said we can play and we got our schedules set, we all jumped for joy. It's just a blessing to get a senior year.”
How have you played through two games?
BC: “I think I've done really good (in the) run game and defensively. We're not throwing the ball as much as we used to before, but I still have got to work on everything. There's so much room for improvement and everything. I've got a lot of things to work on.”
You like to go for the kill on a block. In your mindset, at what point in a play do you look for a finish?
BC: “It's just go mode. That's just something my dad and my youth coaches instilled in me. You can be the nicest guy off the field, but when you cross those lines, you've got to attack. Guys talk trash, the big target. You've got to play as advertised. People respect it when you beat them.”
How many times have you had people talk trash since you're the Ohio State commit they're facing?
BC: “Them talk trash? A lot. But at the end of the day, we're all just trying to play the game we love.”
What's different about your game this year than last year?
BC: “I think this year, I'm a much better leader. Thinking more positive because that's all we need. There's so much hardship with this last 2020 year. Just thinking positive and having hope and cheering guys on, I think I'm just a much better leader and I think that translates to us being a better team.”
Is that something you knew you needed to improve or your coaches mentioned?
BC: “Absolutely. It's my senior year. When I first met my coach, it was something he said. He's like, 'I'm going to lean on you. We're going to need you.' He challenges me and I just try to answer every time.”
You have three more games in the regular season, then the playoffs. What do you want to show people in your game?
BC: “I'm just a guy that can dominate every phase of the game. A guy that can put a guy in the ground. A guy that can have a smooth pass set. A guy that can get a tackle for loss, a sack, block a kick. I just try to let my presence be known and try to be one of the best players in America.”
You're playing defense too. Do you enjoy that?
BC: “That's my first love, actually. It was because I always watched Joey Bosa, John Simon and a bunch of other great defensive ends like Jadeveon Clowney. But, no. With my body type, I've got to be an offensive lineman.”
How much do you compare to Clowney?
BC: “Not much.”
Maybe John Simon?
BC: “Yeah.” [Laughing]
What's your communication like with Ohio State?
BC: “We talk often. We talk almost every day still. Just a lot of check-ups. They're not playing, so they're more asking you what's going on here. Sometimes I ask what's going on. Just a genuine relationship. We've got to keep building it because it's right around the corner.”
What has Greg Studrawa's feedback been on seeing you play? Has he sat down with you to watch it?
BC: “We watched film of other games, like the Super Bowl and NFL games and stuff like that. I'm sure he's watching film and they're watching it too. Got to get ready for college and give everything I have.”
How does this 2021 class you have at Ohio State stacks up, and what can you accomplish once you arrive?
BC: “We're just a tight group. I think we're the best class in America. We're just a tight group that's going to give everything that we have. We love the game. We love being a part of the Buckeye tradition – we will eventually; we're not fully. We're excited. It's going to be a show.”
Who are the targets you want to commit to Ohio State?
BC: “Emeka (Egbuka) to Columbus. Come on, man. I know Emeka wants to come. It's Wide Receiver U, man. Any other OL, come to the show. This is the best team in America. Who's next? That's all I've got to say.”
What's your Eguka pitch?
BC: “Come play with the best offensive class in America and let's be great. Let's be great.”
What was your reaction to Wyatt Davis opting out?
BC: “I've never really had like a genuine conversation with him, but we follow each other and reply to each other on social media before. An All-American player. All-Decade as an active player. I think he's like the only one. I want to try and be like him.”
What's it been like to follow the situation of what Ohio State's going to do this season?
BC: “I'm going to be honest: I'm really just focused on my team right now. It's like one of the things. Kids in my school are going to talk crap about them not playing in the Big Ten – well, they're playing in the Big Ten but not playing. I just try to be great now and we'll see what happens.”