Jonathon Cooper will become the first Ohio State player ever to wear No. 0.
In a new Ohio State tradition, Cooper has been presented with the No. 0 jersey, which the Buckeyes are calling the Block 0 jersey and will now be presented to one Ohio State player each year in honor of Buckeye great Bill Willis.
The epitome of #Fight, @JonathonCooper7 was presented the Block 0 jersey to honor the legacy of Bill Willis.— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) October 10, 2020
No one more deserving to begin a new tradition than Coop. #GoBuckeyes pic.twitter.com/B2pEotBZ61
“This honor stands out from the rest,” Cooper said in an Ohio State release. “Being a captain, all the great things that have happened here at Ohio State, this one stands out a lot more to me personally. It doesn’t just represent me, it represents a great man, a great player who played here. I know when I put that jersey on I’m representing him and I have to go out there and be my very best, and I have to do that every single day. This one really means a lot to me.
“I will wear No. 0 because it’s not about me. No one understood why I wore No. 18; it’s because my birthday is January 8. That represents just me. When I wear that Block 0 it’ll be in honor of a great Ohio State Buckeye and it will represent Ohio State University and all my teammates and coaches. I know I have to play at my very best and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Just want to say how much this means to me and what an honor it truly is. I will wear the Block 0 and represent my team, the coaches, the university and everything that the late great Bill Willis stood for. Thank you buckeye nation. https://t.co/uBjUGVt0h6— Jonathon Cooper (@JonathonCooper7) October 10, 2020
Ryan Day described Cooper as “the perfect person to wear the Block ‘0’ for the first time.”
“Jonathon Cooper represents everything that an Ohio State football player should be,” Day said. “He’s tough. He’s accountable. He loves this university and this state. He’s someone who continually embodies our culture of ‘fight.’ And that’s in everything that he does, on and off the field. I’m proud of Coop.”
Cooper, a fifth-year senior captain who returned to Ohio State for one more year after redshirting last season due to an ankle injury, is poised to be the leader of the Buckeyes' defensive line – and one of the top leaders on the entire team – this season.
He will become the first Ohio State player to wear the No. 0 jersey after an NCAA rule change instituted this year allows players to wear the number for the first time.
Willis, who is being honored in the new tradition, played for Ohio State from 1942-44 and was an All-American and national champion for the Buckeyes. The legendary defensive lineman, whose No. 99 that he wore during his playing career is retired by Ohio State, went on to be one of the first Black players in the NFL and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after an eight-year career with the Cleveland Browns.