The Shining

By Ramzy Nasrallah on April 12, 2017 at 1:05 pm
not Raekwon McMillan

This is not a photo of Raekwon McMillan.

It's one of those cheat sheet action shots for copy editors where the player's name conveniently shows up legibly right in the middle of the action. Andrew Lind captured it, albeit unnecessarily since Eleven Warriors has always had a firm grasp on who Marshon Lattimore is.

The rest of the world, not so much. Photos of McMillan have pulled double-duty since 2017 started. Apparently they're hard to tell apart. There are reasons for this.

Raekwon has an inch and almost 50 lbs on Marshon and they're both African-American Ohio State Buckeyes whose faces are obscured in most photos by football helmets. Lattimore wore No.2 in 2016 while McMillan wore the same number two seasons ago (allow this important sentence bounce around in your head - we'll get back to it in a moment).

There have been more absurd Buckeye mixups recently, just not with the same level of volume.

Raekwon-Marshon confusion is about more than just the same jersey number.

It happens routinely in college football where players both change numbers and offensive and defensive players often share them. Beloved on-air Ohio State media guide referencer Paul Keels credited Doug Datish with Vernon Gholston's sacks on more than one occasion during broadcasts a decade ago. The thought that just entered your head is correct - yes, those two were practically separated at birth.

If you examine the other players in that same photo above you'll spot Malik Hooker, No.24 for the Local Team. Even though you don't get the same legible name cheat sheet treatment with him as you do with Lattimore there are three marks that make him easy to identify:

  1. His hair.
  2. He's playing with the defense.
  3. He appears to be both happy and standing in the end zone, which is how and where he spent most of the 2016 season.

You wouldn't mistake Malik for, say, Kierre Hawkins in that shot (you don't know what he looks like - that doesn't matter). Ohio State's other No. 24 doesn't play defense, for one. Also - and this is important - he didn't even lose his black stripe until November 2 last season. That photo of Marshon and Happy Malik is from the late moments of Ohio State's narrow victory over Northwestern, which took place the previous weekend. Kierre wouldn't have been playing in that game.

And that's what makes the serial Raekwon/Marshon mixup a remarkable tribute to Ohio State's Testimony vs. Theory recruiting pitch. Let's revisit that important sentence that you kept bouncing around in your head from above:

Lattimore wore No.2 in 2016 while McMillan wore the same number two seasons ago 

Aside from their obvious size differences, what else do you notice about each of these photos of Marshon Lattimore Raekwon McMillan?

this is not Marshon
nope not Marshon either
clap clap clapclapclap THAT IS RAEKWON clap clap clapclapclap

You still don't see it? Here, focus:

2014 CFP Playoff patch

That patch is in each of those photos above and you are correct, Professor - they were exclusively worn on the CFP special-edition "new" uniforms the Buckeyes wore during their title run. Lattimore was as likely to be playing against Oregon as Hawkins was in last year's Northwestern game: Not at all.

Here are Lattimore's stats from that 2014 season which concluded with that patch being worn twice:

0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

He did not register a single statistic the entire season. Neither did Hooker, who was the only scholarship No.24 on the roster in 2014. One full year later Lattimore and Hooker combined for a single tackle in the 2015 Michigan game, which the Buckeyes won by 29 (Hooker brought down Jourdan Lewis on a kickoff return. Lattimore didn't play).

Raekwon-Marshon confusion may be rooted in a shared jersey number, but that playoff patch showing up in Exhibits A, B and so many others says something about the player who is expected to be a single-digit pick in the upcoming NFL draft: Lattimore's NFL job interview lasted only one full year. It sure seems like he should have at least another on his resumé.

All of these mocks going up mistaking him for McMillan in photos from the 2014 CFP run rely on the (reasonable) assumption that he joined a half-dozen other names atop the NFL's Most Coveted list after multiple seasons playing for one of college football's elite programs.

Lattimore barely saw the field in 2015 and did not play at all in 2014. But he's about to be paid like he did.

But he didn't. He was behind Eli Apple, the 10th pick in last year's draft. A pattern emerges. This is how testimony works.

It bodes well for attracting elite football players who are both unafraid of competition and have understandable concerns about joining a factory filled with other elite football players who are just as unafraid of competition. Hooker will be unavailable for most NFL teams as well, following a single season - 2nd Round pick Vonn Bell played in front of him in 2015. Testimony.

When a crowded roster is used as the case against Ohio State, eh, that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, does it. The Buckeyes' crowded roster is designed and cultivated to graduate into a high tax bracket. Early playing time doesn't always figure into that goal, but sure - if that's negative recruiting then negative-recruit away. NFL dreams and annual collegiate title contention is probably harder to diminish. Get creative, I guess.

So as 11W concludes its civic duty to identify Marshon-Raekwon misidentifications, there's an important message for fans - and recruits - embedded in all the fun we've had with it.

Kids, Marshon did not play at all in 2014. But he's about to be paid like he did. Be unafraid.

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