The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their Buckeye careers as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Tuf Borland has never really been the average high school superstar. His mentality, and his personality, they're as unique as his name: Tuf. He's quiet, he's intellectual and reserved off-the-field, and on it, he's a tackling machine. As a junior, Borland recorded 152 tackles, an impressive total that opened the eyes of colleges all over the country, including offers from virtually every team in the Big Ten.
“(Tuf) could have the highest football IQ of any player I’ve been around,” John Ivlow, Borland's coach at Bolingbrook told The Chicago-Tribune. “He understands the game, and he has a sixth sense of where to be on the field.”
His recruitment was not what you'd expect, but nothing about Borland is.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker, named for a former co-worker of his father's (Tuf is his given name), came to Ohio State by way of Bolingbrook, Illinois, but his family has comes through the heart of Madison, Wisconsin. His father, Kyle, played linebacker for the Badgers in the 1980's and if you review Borland's 247Sports.com "crystal ball," locked at the time of his commitment, shows that everyone assumed Tuf would follow those footsteps.
That's not what happened, or this story wouldn't have been written, but it's still worth noting. Borland, the country's 313th-ranked 2016 prospect, committed days after a mid-April visit to Columbus, a week ahead of Ohio State's 2015 spring game.
"I went into my visit Monday (to Ohio State) with a very high interest in Ohio State," Borland told The Tribune in April. "I loved it there. I spent the next couple of nights talking with my parents about it. They felt comfortable and I felt comfortable, so I committed.
Currently the only linebacker in Ohio State's 2016 class, Borland cited his father's support for his decision when he talked to Eleven Warriors about his commitment.
"(My father) understands (that it was in my best interest)," Borland told 11W. "He's supported my decision. I'm extremely blessed to have the parents that I do."
Borland said the decision wasn't as difficult as one might've thought, given the circumstances.
"I loved it (at Ohio State, they loved it," he said. "So I (committed). The Ohio State staff was pretty excited. I just felt like it was the right place for me to be."
Although Borland was recruited by Chris Ash, he's also grown close to Ohio State's Luke Fickell. It was the respect another college coach had for Fickell that actually helped the Buckeyes seal the deal with the four-star prospect. He knew Columbus, and Ohio State, was the right place for him he said, during a college visit...to Purdue.
"I was actually on a recruiting trip to Purdue and I was meeting Coach Marcus Freeman, the linebacker coach, who played at Ohio State under Coach Fickell," Borland told 11W readers. "I really enjoyed my time with Coach Freeman and saw he was someone to look up to. I felt this spoke words about the job that Coach Fickell and the Ohio State staff do with their players."
While most highly-touted high school prospects will deny being impacted by the rumors and conversations strangers and analysts have about them, Borland has used it as fuel to better himself.
"I am definitely the type of person that is motivated by what others say about me," Borland told 11W. "If someone says I can't do something, that only makes me want to do whatever it is that they say I can't."
Never a huge fan of the recruiting "process" and since his commitment in April, he's made no visits to any schools other than Ohio State, he's made no overtures to any schools other than Ohio State and he got himself on track quickly to enroll early at Ohio State.
It's a nice, simple and all-too-unfamiliar story these days: football player commits to a school; the end. At that point, Borland focused on doing what he does best: playing football.
As a senior, Borland had 20-plus tackles in four straight games, dominating the competition he faced from his inside linebacker position. He had a pretty good year at tight end as well, making big catches in key moments throughout the year.
The end of a recruitment is far from the actual end, though, as Borland is getting himself ready for the next level.
"I'm looking forward to just going in and competing, going to work," Borland told Eleven Warriors. "I think just getting used to the changes, that will be the biggest challenge. It's all going to be new for me."
He's begun preparing in earnest for a chance to play as a freshman, and if he can't do that, at least he'll be ready for Mick Marotti's less-than-comfortable workouts.
"I've been waking up everyday at 5:30 a.m. to go run," Borland added "Then I've been lifting later in the day. That will help me adjust early morning workouts."