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.
There's the short story of the Tyler Gerald recruitment, which is easy, quick, and to the point. It's the story of a kid from Ohio who busted his butt to earn a scholarship offer from his favorite school, did so, and promptly committed.
The Gerald File
- Class 2016
- Position OG
- Size 6-5/300
- School East (Portsmouth, OH)
- Composite ★★★★
- Rank 6 (OG)
Then there's the real story.
Tyler Gerald's story isn't one of a kid who has had it easy, and he's not the type of kid who's ever taken a shortcut or sought out personal glory. He's just a kid from Portsmouth who loved Ohio State and found a home in Columbus after searching for one for quite a while.
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Gerald and the Buckeyes began their relationship in earnest at the end of March 2014. He headed north to check out Ohio State with only an offer from Kent State to his name. It turned out to be quite a positive trip.
"I liked the facilities, from the practice fields to the meeting rooms," Gerald told 11W of that first trip. "It was good experience for how the college atmosphere is. They said that they definitely want to see me at camp this summer before any decisions (about an offer) are made. They seemed to be interested and I definitely will camp there."
The Buckeyes were interested and they didn't wait until any summer camp to let Gerald know. They offered the four-star lineman just about a month later, in mid-May 2014 and at the time it seemed like a potential in-state offensive line haul of Gerald, Liam Eichenberg and Tommy Kraemer could highlight the 2016 class.
Gerald, like the Buckeyes, didn't wait long to take the next step. He committed to Ohio State June 19 and became the second member of the 2016 group.
"It's a dream come true," the lineman said of his decision. "Where I was raised, every kid that plays football (dreams) about Ohio State."
At the time of his commitment, Gerald was looking forward to helping build out his class and more than that, he was looking forward to the pressure of being a Buckeye. Coming from small-town Ohio, he knew that his decision had moved him squarely into the spotlight.
"Now the pressure is on for me. Every single rep, every single workout," Gerald said. "This doesn't mean I let off the gas at all. I have to work now to get a starting position. I feel like I can be a difference maker and I am very confident in my abilities."
His high school coach at East, James Gifford, was confident that Gerald would live up to those self-set expectations.
"He's a great all-around athlete," Gifford told Eleven Warriors. "He's got weight-room strength, but he's also got football strength. He's the type of player, at the end of the game, you wish was blocking, running the ball, or throwing the pass. He never takes a play off and ha always finishes a play. He's just an all-around great athlete with great feet, and he proves that on the basketball court as well. He has confidence I've never seen in a player before. He knows what he wants, and he will do whatever it takes to get it done. He's very coachable and eager to get things right. He's got the 'it' factor."
In order to put himself to more of a test, Gerald made a difficult decision prior to the start of his senior season: he was transferring to the IMG Academy for his last year of high school football. The decision was simple: to test himself against the country's best players day in and day out in order to prepare him for his early enrollment with the Buckeyes.
"I want to be be able to be good enough to play early at Ohio State," he said plainly. "I look forward to the high level of competition at IMG and it's an extremely demanding academic school as well."
It didn't take long for Gerald to settle into his new school and he took the chance to emerge as a leader for the Ascenders.
"I try to talk to (the players at IMG) about Ohio State, including Calvin Ashley," he said. "He's a pure Florida boy, though (laughs). They make their own choices of course, I'm just here trying to get better."
Of course, when you're a nationally-ranked prospect it's hard to ever truly be satisfied with how you're playing. You don't get to that level by accepting mediocre and you don't maintain that level by slowing down when people say you're good enough.
"I never get satisfied with the way I play no matter if I make a good play or not; I'm always finding something to work on and do it," Gerald told 11W readers in May. "Whether it's technique, strength, agility, speed, etc. anything I need to do I just work for it. My greatest weakness is probably my pass setting, though I am working very hard on it and it is getting much better."
Gerald's senior season, unfortunately, didn't go as he'd planned. He suffered a shoulder injury early in the year that held him back from going full-bore as IMG trekked through one of the country's most impressive schedules. Still, despite the injury, Gerald was able to impress those who saw him.
After the shoulder issue sidelined him for the rest of the year, Gerald left IMG to come back home to Ohio, where he'd rehab his shoulder and finish school to get ready for Ohio State. It was a turn of events that put the country's sixth-ranked lineman in a bit of a tough spot, personally. He thrives on competition more than most and the loss of football, combined with the back-and-forth between Ohio and Florida, wasn't great for Gerald, but he's bouncing back.
Selected for the Under-Armour All-American game, Gerald didn't go as he recovered from his labrum issue, and that's OK. He's just moving forward, getting ready for the next, more important step.
"He just does his own thing since he's been back," Gifford told 11W. "He's just kinda bummed about how his senior year went. He's excited to be a Buckeye now."