Even though his Ohio State career is now over, Drue Chrisman has still been training at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this winter.
While many of Ohio State’s other NFL draft prospects have gone to training facilities all over the country to prepare for their pre-draft workouts – namely Ohio State’s March 30 pro day, since there’s no NFL Scouting Combine workouts this year – Chrisman has stayed in Columbus, training with Ohio State assistant strength and conditioning coach Quinn Barham and some of his former Buckeye teammates while continuing to work on his punting ability.
“There’s really no need for me to go travel to California or Florida to one of those EXOS camps, because my big pro day is kicking the ball,” Chrisman told Eleven Warriors earlier this month. “Coach Quinn, he’s got a few of us that are here in Columbus. And just kind of staying here, doing what I know I do well at. And just keep enhancing it.”
As Chrisman prepares for Ohio State’s pro day, he’s specifically working on improving his hang time on his punts. While Chrisman was consistently among college football’s best punters during his four years as Ohio State’s punter, with a career average of 44 yards per punt that ranks fourth in school history – behind only Andy Groom, Cameron Johnston and Tom Tupa – he knows he must continue to perfect his craft to make it as one of the 32 punters in the NFL.
“I was able to get away some of the low liners in college, just because of our coverage team and how elite those guys are,” Chrisman said. “And how we operate the punt system in college, the rules are different. You have less people able to get down the field in the NFL, so hang time is even more important. So that’s the biggest thing I’ve been working on these last couple weeks of training already.”
Even though there won’t be any workouts at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, Chrisman said it was still “a dream come true” to be selected to participate in this year’s event, which will consist of virtual interviews and psychological testing along with some prospects traveling to Indianapolis for an in-person medical examination.
If combine workouts actually were taking place, Chrisman would have planned on running the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. He doesn’t plan to run the 40 or participate in any of the other speed and agility tests at pro day, as he doesn’t want to risk suffering a lower-body injury before his punting workout, but he is planning to do the bench press, where he’s hoping to put up at least 15 reps of 225 pounds – though he acknowledged that his battle with COVID-19 this past season, which kept him out of the Big Ten Championship Game, could impact him in that regard.
“My highest during my career was 15, and that was a year ago, and I don’t know where I’m at really right now. With catching COVID, I definitely lost muscle mass from that. But I think I’ll at least be able to get 15 again, if not 20,” Chrisman said.
While some of his teammates who tested positive for COVID-19 were fortunate to be asymptomatic, Chrisman actually got sick from the virus, and said he was still feeling the impacts of it even a couple weeks later when he returned to action against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.
“First couple days of it, I was sick as a dog, just bedridden. And then didn’t really have much of an appetite all 10 days of my quarantine, and it really took about two weeks for me to feel like back to my normal self after the quarantine,” Chrisman said. “So yeah, even the Sugar Bowl, because that was my first game back after having COVID, I really didn’t feel like myself that game. But by the national championship, I was feeling pretty much 100 percent. But it wasn’t easy. It was not easy. And I feel for the guys who have to go run into somebody after sitting and laying around 10 days in their apartment. That would not have been fun if I had to do that in the Sugar Bowl.”
Despite that setback, Chrisman still performed well against Clemson – he averaged 47.2 yards per punt in a game where Clemson only needed him to punt four times – and handled both kickoff and punting duties for the national championship game against Alabama, which Blake Haubeil missed after his own positive test for COVID-19. And even though the game didn’t go well for the Buckeyes, Chrisman said it was still special to have the opportunity to complete his Ohio State career by playing in the national title game, which is one of the reasons he chose to become a Buckeye.
“It was still an incredible moment, because that’s something I’ve always dreamed about and I remember committing not solely based off of that 2014 run that team had, but that was the big thing that caught my attention at first and wanting to play in that game,” Chrisman said. “So choosing a school that had an opportunity to be in that game and then getting that chance my last year. Kind of doing two roles as well, picking up kickoffs kind of the last second, that was fun to be able to do in the last game.”
Asked about his favorite moment from his Ohio State career, though, Chrisman knew the answer he had to give.
“I know my wife would kick me if I didn’t say the spring game proposal,” said Chrisman.
Now that Chrisman is preparing for a potential opportunity to play in the NFL, he believes the biggest thing he learned at Ohio State that will set him up for success as a pro is the work ethic it takes to compete at an elite level.
“Everybody is super talented at Ohio State when they come in, and a lot of people kind of rode just their natural talents to get to this level, but you can really see the guys that make it to that next level are the ones who work at their craft,” Chrisman said. “So just the work ethic that Coach Mick and everybody instills to be that national championship-caliber team, I think that’s what really makes a difference between the guys that make it to the next level and the ones that just kind of weed out and fall away from the program.”
Because he’s still been around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the start of the Buckeyes’ 2021 offseason, he’s seen that Ohio State’s returning players are working as hard as ever to prepare for next season.
“We’re trying to win a national championship, so there really is no days off,” Chrisman said. “The guys are already back working out for this next upcoming season, this 2021 team, and it feels like the 2020 season is still fresh. So you get a little bit of a fresh breath of air, but then you’re right back to it.”
That’s also given Chrisman the opportunity to spend some mentoring his likely successor, Jesse Mirco, who arrived at Ohio State in January as a midyear enrollee. That, of course, means teaching Mirco the art of bottle-flipping – but more importantly, both Chrisman and his predecessor, Cameron Johnston, have shared advice with Mirco about how to be successful punter for the Buckeyes.
“If he picks up bottle-flipping, I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world, but he’ll come up with his own thing, I’m sure,” Chrisman said. “I’m sure his first thing he wants to establish is just being a good punter. And I’ve kicked with him a few times already, he’s got a good leg on him, I think he’s going to have a really great career at Ohio State. And Cameron’s been in town a few days as well, so we’ve been able to get together and just kind of pass down the knowledge that we’ve learned from our years at Ohio State.”
Johnston has also been a resource for Chrisman as he looks to follow in the footsteps of Johnston, who just completed his third season as the Philadelphia Eagles’ punter, by parlaying his success at Ohio State into an NFL career.
“His agent is the agent I actually signed with for my pro career, and a lot of that had to do with Cameron’s recommendation of him and how much he helped his kind of draft process and his NFL career so far,” Chrisman said. “The combination of those two have been very beneficial for me already. And it’s great, I had Cameron all my years at Ohio State, he was great at giving me any kind of advice I needed, so I’m sure some of that advice he’s already given me is going to continue as I go throughout this draft process.”