If Noah Potter hadn’t gone to see a doctor when he did, he could be blind in one eye right now.
On Oct. 1, Potter went to see an eye doctor after realizing he had no peripheral vision in his right eye. Thirty minutes later, Potter was undergoing emergency eye surgery after doctors discovered Potter had a detached retina.
What a crazy past 24 hours. Went in to get my eye checked because of lost peripheral vision to finding out I needed emergency eye surgery. Thankful for the doctors and everyones prayers. Cant wait to be back soon #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/AMIBR4mZpk— Noah Potter (@noah_potter10) October 2, 2021
Even once the surgery was complete, Potter didn’t know right away whether he would regain full vision in his right eye. If the scar tissue hadn’t gone down within two weeks, Potter would have had to undergo another surgery and could have developed a cataract, and any permanent vision loss would have threatened his ability to return to the football field.
Fortunately for Potter, the scar tissue healed and Potter was able to make a full recovery within six weeks. But the whole ordeal has given him a new appreciation for being able to play football and just to be able to see as he enters his fourth year at Ohio State.
“I could be blind, not playing football right now, just sitting on the sidelines,” Potter said Thursday. “And being able to run again, to be able to see, it's just a blessing that I’m here right now, compared to where I was last year.”
The eye injury – which Potter believes he suffered on the football field, though he doesn’t know exactly how or when it happened, as it could have happened as long as one or two months before he noticed any vision loss – wasn’t the only adversity he faced in 2021.
Even before undergoing the eye surgery, Potter had already been out for the Buckeyes’ first four games of the year after undergoing foot surgery. Potter had been hoping to return to the field for the second half of the season, but the eye surgery sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Having never undergone any surgeries before last year, Potter also struggled with his mental health after those injuries, particularly after the eye surgery, which forced him to stay home for several weeks while he recovered.
“When you're laying by yourself with an eye thing, you can watch shows and stuff but with only one eye, it’s like you're kind of just there with your thoughts,” Potter said. “I kind of got into a dark place with it.”
Much like Harry Miller after his recent medical retirement, Potter credited Ryan Day and the rest of Ohio State’s staff with helping him overcome those mental health issues.
“With my eye surgery, I couldn't go anywhere. I couldn't go on the field. So I would be stuck at home,” Potter said. “And one Saturday when we were playing, it was a College GameDay segment on (Day), and he was talking about his dad's thing and that was just having someone who has gone through mental health things, and him being an advocate for it, I think it just put everyone on the team in a good spot. And I'm really close with Harry, so even in the past years, I've been knowing like what he's been going through, we've been sharing some of the same struggles, and just seeing him in a great place right now is really encouraging.”
Now that he is healthy and back on the field for spring practice, Potter is hoping to earn a role in Ohio State’s defensive line rotation this season. He felt he was trending toward earning more playing time last season before his injuries, and he doesn’t expect to suffer any ill effects from those injuries – other than having to wear a visor on his helmet, which he isn’t fond of – though he acknowledges he’s had to shake off some rust this spring after missing all of last fall.
“Just trying to get back to football shape, you can only do so much in the training room,” Potter said. “So just trying to get back to football shape was probably the biggest transition.”
Potter, who was recruited as a defensive end out of Mentor High School but was expected to play inside last season as a 3-technique defensive tackle, believes he is capable of making an impact either inside or outside for the Buckeyes. Now listed at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, Potter says he’s willing to take on any role in which defensive line coach Larry Johnson and the rest of Ohio State’s coaching staff believe he can help the team.
“I think I'm confident wherever I am,” Potter said. “I think I bring a different flavor to the D-line when I’m on the inside, but on the outside, I knew what I did pre-COVID. In the COVID year (in 2020), I was really starting to play well on the outside. So I think wherever Coach J sees fit, I think I'm ready to go.”
Regardless of where he ultimately lines up, Potter faces plenty of competition to move up the depth chart. Taron Vincent and Tyleik Williams are projected to lead the depth chart at 3-technique while Zach Harrison, J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Tyler Friday are all in the mix at defensive end.
Potter says Johnson has told him that the Buckeyes will find a role for him this year, though. And considering his football career and even his ability to see out of his right eye were in jeopardy less than six months ago, Potter is grateful just to have the opportunity to compete for a role right now.
“I'm just excited to get back to playing what I love,” Potter said. “I'm gaining confidence every day. I kind of lost that drive after two really serious things happened. I kind of lost that drive, I'm like, ‘Man, I'm just trying to get healthy.’ But now that I'm healthy, I’m really starting to get that drive back to want to be the best player I can. So I'm really excited about that.”
His fellow Ohio State defensive linemen are also happy to see him back on the field.
“I definitely hated to see Noah go through what he did, because I feel like he put in so much work for the season last year,” Sawyer said. “And to see him come back how he's been, it's been great to see him back running and back working out, and I'm excited for Noah as well. So hopefully he has a great year.”