A dislocated shoulder couldn’t stop Jordan Leasure from continuing to practice during his first season at Ohio State.
Even though Leasure didn’t play in any games for the Buckeyes last season, he still felt it was important to be on the practice field every day despite his injury.
"I was trying to give the best look to my guys," Leasure said. "We were kind of low on scout-team running backs. That’s what I was last year, so I knew I had to get back quick … and then once I was good to go, it was just keep on going."
A walk-on running back from Amanda, Ohio, Leasure knew he wasn’t going to play last year even if he was healthy. He’s not guaranteed to see playing time this year, and even if he does, it will likely only be in a limited capacity. But none of that deterred him from practicing through the pain last year or continuing to work hard this year.
"It’s a lot of hard work. You do exactly what you’re asked, and you try to do above that," Leasure said. "My role here is just like everybody else. You’re making the team better. You do whatever the coaches ask, and then you try to do some more."
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford replied without hesitation – then repeated his answer five times – when asked what Leasure brings to the group of players he coaches.
"Toughness," Alford said. "Toughness, toughness, toughness, toughness, toughness."
Alford says Leasure has "garnered a lot of respect" from his coaches and teammates.
"When he speaks, guys listen," Alford said. "He doesn’t say much. Guys will be bantering back and forth, they’ll say a lot. But then all of a sudden, he speaks and everyone shuts up and listens. Which tells you that’s the mark of a guy that they have respect for."
Amanda-Clearcreek High School's all-time leader in wrestling matches won, Leasure was also a member of the Ohio State wrestling team for part of last season. He practiced with Tom Ryan’s squad for about four or five weeks before ultimately deciding that football, wrestling and school were too much to balance at once.
"My body was wearing down, I felt like I was starting to not be able to perform well in academics, so I decided to step back just into football," Leasure said. "I was so thankful for the wrestling team – loved those guys over there, made some really good friends – but decided to just come back here and focus on football."
“He speaks and everyone shuts up and listens. Which tells you that’s the mark of a guy that they have respect for.”– Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford on Jordan Leasure
Performing well is school is important to Leasure, who already has sights set on a post-collegiate career. While Leasure is a sport industry major at Ohio State, with a vision of potentially becoming a high school athletic director or working with high school athletes in another capacity, his main career goal is to become a firefighter, following in the footsteps of his older brother Josh.
"Growing up, I’ve always kind of wanted to do that," Leasure said. "So once (Josh) got into it, I kind of like stuck my nose into it a little bit more and started researching and I really fell in love with it."
Leasure could have chosen to play football at a smaller school, where he would have been more likely to see regular playing time, but he chose to attend Ohio State because of the value he feels both an Ohio State education and experience playing for the Buckeyes will provide.
"I knew that if I came here and I got a degree and I had on my resume I played for Ohio State, I worked my tail off and I can get some references from the coaches, a call from a coach to a job offer or an interview, especially in Columbus, that has a lot of weight to it," Leasure said. "So I was kind of thinking long-term that this is a step to what I want to do for the rest of my life."
Before he moves on to the rest of his life, Leasure wants to maximize the next three years at Ohio State, both in the classroom and on the football field.
"I’m here for school, so I want to try to get the best education I can, and then when I’m here (on the football field), I want to try to benefit the team the best I can," Leasure said.
Leasure’s best shot at earning regular playing time for the Buckeyes is on special teams. He does not know whether that playing time will come this year, but he says he is competing for spots on multiple special teams units.
Former Ohio State running back and linebacker Zach Boren recently predicted on an episode of the Eleven Warriors Report that Leasure will earn playing time this season.
"Keep the name out," Boren said. "He will play this year."
Alford isn’t sure if Leasure will play this year – he has a talented stable of running backs in front of Leasure, including Mike Weber, J.K. Dobbins and Antonio Williams – but he says Leasure is doing what he needs to do to earn that opportunity.
"He’s not the fastest guy, but he is so tough," Alford said. "We’ve got to find a way, I hope, to get him out on the field someday."
Ohio State recently awarded two of its walk-ons, Elijaah Goins and Zach Turnure, scholarships for their senior seasons. The Buckeyes did the same last year with former walk-on linebackers Joe Burger and Craig Fada. Leasure says that is a "huge" source of motivation for him, as he hopes to achieve the same goal by the end of his Ohio State career.
"That’s kind of the goal for kind of every walk-on to come in, help the team out, work hard and then eventually try to get that scholarship," Leasure said. "Because paying money isn’t fun. Taking out those loans, every time, a piece of you just kind of falls away."
For now, though, Leasure’s focus is on taking advantage of every opportunity he gets.
"When I get in and get the reps, make sure they count," Leasure said. "I get one rep, make sure you win that one rep so you get another one, because you go in and you’re just bad that rep, there’s not a good chance that you’ll get another rep."