Three days until Thanksgiving and five days before The Game, some of Ohio State’s biggest stars spent time giving back to the community on Monday.
Ohio State left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. and quarterback C.J. Stroud hosted the “Feed the Need” event at TownHall in the Short North on Monday. Meals were served to more than 1,000 members of the community as TownHall closed for business for the day to host its second annual Columbus edition of the event.
Johnson and Stroud were joined by a group of their Ohio State teammates, including running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams, right tackle Dawand Jones, defensive tackles Mike Hall Jr. and Tyleik Williams, cornerback Denzel Burke and safeties Ronnie Hickman and Lathan Ransom. All of them also helped serve meals and spent time mingling with and taking pictures with attendees. Several of Ohio State’s Olympic sports athletes also spent time at the event.
Stroud said he wanted to help give back to the Columbus community ahead of the holidays because of how much the city has come to mean to him in his three years at Ohio State.
“It's something that I hold near and dear to my heart. This time I feel it is about community, about family, about friendships. So if I can give back and help people, then I would love to,” Stroud said. “I definitely consider (Columbus) my second home.”
For Johnson, who recently won the Armed Forces Merit Award in recognition of his charitable work through the Paris Johnson Jr. Foundation, Monday’s event was just his latest example of giving back. Johnson also partnered with the Springdale Police Department to host an event over the weekend that provided Thanksgiving meals to people in need in his hometown. He wants to continue using his platform to help others as much as possible.
Since receiving that award earlier this month, Johnson said his foundation has received support from all over the country and even internationally, with donations coming from Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida and Brazil.
“Ohio State is obviously a big brand, so to be able to combine that brand and be able to give back to other people is incredible,” Johnson said. “Us preparing for each week is very important. But at the same time, when you take football out of the equation, these are the things in life that actually matter. Because it impacts somebody's life, their whole day. So I think just being able to take care of even if one person just walks away from this and their day’s been changed, their week’s been changed, it's a great tone of their week with this Monday, I think that's what matters most.”
While the Buckeyes are preparing for their most important game of the season against Michigan on Saturday, Monday was the players’ NCAA-mandated day off. Stroud said it helps him keep things in perspective to spend some time giving back before turning his full attention to The Game.
“I remember doing it last year, and it helped me just to realize like I'm still a normal person and I can still go in the community and do things like that,” Stroud said. “So yeah, it's been amazing.”
Johnson said the Buckeyes are hungry to attack their preparation for the team up north this week, though.
“I feel like just going into this week, it’s the same mindset in terms of the preparation that we've had thus far. The difference is that it is that team up north, of course, so obviously it's gonna be taken the extra mile, but you know, it's one of those things where it's like, it's The Game,” Johnson said. “This is the most important week of the year.”
Several of the Buckeyes who joined Stroud and Johnson at the event did so even though they are currently dealing with injuries. Henderson was wearing a walking boot on his injured foot, as he was after he exited Saturday’s game against Maryland, while Ransom still had a cast on his hand after breaking his thumb against the Terrapins. Williams, however, was walking normally and did not have anything extra on his ankle or foot despite missing the Maryland game with the injury he suffered against Indiana.