Sporting a sizable brace on his left knee, Kamryn Babb walked slowly as he entered the Woody Hayes Athletic Center following Ohio State’s practice on Wednesday evening.
That’s a sight that’s been all too familiar for Babb throughout his Ohio State career. He’s been sidelined for the entirety of three of his first four seasons as a Buckeye due to torn ACLs in his knees, and he’s now sidelined yet again after suffering another knee injury during preseason camp.
Fortunately for Babb, his most recent injury isn’t nearly as serious as the injuries he’s suffered in the past. While it is likely to sideline him for at least the start of the upcoming season, he remains optimistic that he will be able to make an impact on the field for the Buckeyes this fall.
“Just a little nick, nothing crazy,” Babb said Wednesday when asked about his injury. “Just kind of nicked it up a little bit a few days ago. So just taking precautions and just kind of trying to take it slow, day by day, make sure I'm full go when I'm able to get out there.”
Babb, who recently received Ohio State’s Block 0 jersey for the 2022 season and was named a captain for the second straight year, acknowledges it is frustrating to be sidelined yet again. But just as he has with all of his previous injuries, Babb is continuing to rely on his faith as he goes through the rehabilitation process yet again.
“I would be lying to you if I said it wasn't frustrating,” Babb said. “But I know it's a part of the process. It’s the game of football. It's 100%, you're guaranteed to get injured. But like I've kind of said in the past, just trusting in Jesus and my God, and kind of just going day by day, that's all I can really do. So just kind of trusting the process.”
Ohio State coaches and players have been saying all offseason they believe Babb can be a weapon in the Buckeyes’ offense this season if he is healthy enough to play, and fellow Buckeye wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba is among those who still believe that to be the case even after Babb’s latest setback.
“Kam is a playmaker. Every time they throw him the ball, I have confidence he's gonna make the play,” Smith-Njigba said Wednesday. “I feel like the whole team has confidence he's gonna make the play, and he's proven that against our good DBs, our ones. And when he's back out there, I'm sure it's gonna be the same.”
Babb feels as though he was performing “really, really well” in practice until he suffered the injury.
“I was very confident in my skills, making a lot of plays. I made a few plays that I think really kind of, in my mind, kind of put it, ‘OK, I can really play.’ So just making those plays and just looking back on them now, I'm kind of really confident that I belong here and I'm here for a reason,” Babb said. “I'm just trying to kind of elevate that every day, even when I'm not out there, just seeing what I can do mentally. And hopefully, man, whenever that day is, get to show everybody what I've been putting in in the dark and bring it to light.”
Babb’s latest injury did not require surgery, and he said his timeline to return to the field is “just based off how I feel.” He hasn’t even ruled out the possibility that he could be back on the field for Ohio State’s season opener against Notre Dame next week.
“We’ll see,” Babb said. “I would definitely love to, but we'll see how I'm feeling going into it.”
Actually playing against the Fighting Irish might be a long shot, but Babb – who still has not caught a pass as a Buckeye due to his repeated injuries – is confident he will be able to show what he can do this season. While some have questioned whether Babb should move on from football after suffering yet another injury, he says that thought hasn’t even crossed his mind.
“I'm very confident,” Babb said. “I'm going to be confident until whatever day that is where I say I'm done. I'm going to be confident until that day comes. I'm gonna go until I can't go no more.”
That perseverance is why Babb was awarded the Block 0 jersey for this season, and he’s continued to impress his teammates with the strength he’s shown in the face of even more adversity.
“Kam is probably one of, the most mentally tough person I've ever encountered,” said fellow Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. “So I know he's going to battle through any injuries, any setbacks as he continues to do throughout his career. He comes in with a smile on his face every day, always uplifting his teammates. He's a captain for a reason.”
Babb says knowing he can uplift and motivate others with his perseverance is one of the biggest reasons why he keeps going.
“This game is hard and we love it, but at the same time, I know so many people are going through so many different things. And if my story can touch somebody else, that's more than I could ever ask,” Babb said.
Where exactly Babb will factor into the receiver rotation when he is able to return is uncertain. Brian Hartline said Wednesday that he has six receivers he feels are ready to play entering the season: Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, Harrison, Emeka Egbuka, Xavier Johnson and Jayden Ballard. But he said Babb will be in that group as well once he is fully healthy.
“Just with Kam having a little hiccup, that's the only reason why he wouldn't be a name I’d name, but he'd be in that same group, absolutely, so that would turn into seven,” Hartline said.