CINCINNATI — Drue Chrisman played quarterback during his freshman season at La Salle High School, but after offseason Tommy John surgery did not allow him to throw for a period of time, Chrisman had to figure something else out to do with a football.
So, he started kicking it.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
“Once you start getting the technique down — and my size helped — but you can see that you can really start exploding with the technique and the ability that I have,” Chrisman said. “I really found a passion for it and I just kind of focused on that aspect.”
The result was Chrisman eventually earning his first full scholarship offer from Florida State to punt in college. Shortly thereafter, he got one from Ohio State and eventually signed to play with the Buckeyes. He will succeed Cameron Johnston as Ohio State’s punter after this upcoming season.
It seems like he made the right choice — punting rather than throwing — even if it was something that needed to be done due to injury.
Chrisman said he had been punting for as long as he can remember, but it always came secondary to other positions on the football field. He never took it seriously until the surgery he had following his freshman year.
“I can still sling it,” he jokes now. “I’m no 12-gauge, but I can throw it around a little bit.”
Rated as the nation’s No. 1 punter in the 2016 class by 247Sports’ composite rankings, Chrisman was an Army All-American at La Salle as a senior as the Lancers won their second-straight Division II state championship.
Having been part of two state title games, Chrisman has already played twice at Ohio Stadium, though the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder — he’s not your average size for a punter — joked about how he has only punted one time despite playing in a pair of games. La Salle won its two state championships by a combined 77 points as the Lancers put up 55 points in the 2014 state title game and 42 in 2015. There wasn’t a whole lot of punting to be had.
“I’m not gonna lie,” Chrisman says with a smile, “I didn’t punt a lot while I was here.”
When he had to, though, it made a difference. And when La Salle’s starting kicker was injured early in the season, Chrisman had to step into field-goal kicking duties, as well. He nailed a game-winning 41-yard field goal to knock off powerhouse Cincinnati Colerain in Week 3.
“For me being here the last 15, 16 months now, what he’s able to do with changing field position has been unbelievable,” La Salle head coach Jim Hilvert said of Chrisman. “Making teams drive the ball 70, 80 yards, offenses do not like to do that. And then he’s able to just completely flip field position.”
Chrisman said he will continue to work on his field-goal kicking when he gets to Ohio State in case the Buckeyes ever need an emergency kicker, and he also said there’s potential he could do some kickoff duties, as well. Hilvert said Chrisman “smacked people” a few times last season on a kickoff return.
“I’m mad [the returner] got that far,” Hilvert said, “and then he brought the wood.”
For now, though, with less than a month until he reports to Ohio State, Chrisman is just working on perfecting his craft, lifting weights and enjoying his last few weeks of high school at La Salle. As of last week, he said the plan is still for him to grayshirt as Johnston will be the Buckeyes’ punter next season, but that it meant a lot to him Ohio State targeted him to be its punter for the next four years.
“That is definitely a blessing,” Chrisman said. “It’s only every four years so you’ve kind of got to find that window. We were able to move around it a little bit with the grayshirt-type deal. It’s very rare for a specialist to get an offer plus to where he wants to go so yeah, I’m definitely trying to take advantage of that opportunity.”
“I’m excited and nervous,” he continued. “It’s a big step, huge step but I’m ready to go. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.”