NFL Draft Hopefuls Who Transferred from Ohio State Grateful OSU Was Part of Their Journeys

By Dan Hope on April 22, 2024 at 10:10 am
Sam Wiglusz

“Buckeye for Life” proved to be more than just a slogan at last month’s Ohio State pro day.

Amir Riep, Jahsen Wint, Marcus Hooker, Sam Wiglusz, Ryan Batsch and Darryl Sinclair didn’t finish their college football careers at Ohio State, but all of them were back at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on March 20 to work out for the contingent of NFL scouts who came to Columbus for Ohio State’s annual draft prospect showcase.

Even though each of them transferred to other schools, Ohio State welcomed all of them back to help them try to achieve their dreams of playing in the NFL. Some of them, like Wiglusz, Batsch and Sinclair, have been training in Columbus with Ohio State’s strength and conditioning coaches all spring.

From the moment he left Ohio State to transfer to Ohio, where Wiglusz went from a seldom-used walk-on with the Buckeyes to a two-time All-MAC receiver, Wiglusz was told he could return to Ohio State for pro day if he wanted to. He was grateful knowing that OSU would continue to support his professional football goals even though he felt he needed to go elsewhere for a chance to play more.

“When I first decided to leave, that was kind of a thing, like, ‘You can come back and do your pro day whenever you're ready.’ And that was something I knew I had the opportunity to do, which I don't take for granted,” Wiglusz said. “I mean, that's an amazing opportunity. A lot of people would kill for that opportunity. But keeping connections with the people here, I was in touch with people (at Ohio State) throughout my time at OU, so to be able to just reach back out and have them allow me the opportunity to come back is amazing.”

While Wiglusz knew he would be welcomed back at Ohio State, the same was not true for Riep and Wint when their OSU careers ended. Both of them were dismissed from the Ohio State football program on Feb. 12, 2020, one day after they were arrested on rape charges.

Both of their college football careers were put on hold for three years until they were found not guilty of those charges on Feb. 9, 2023. That made it all the more meaningful for them to be welcomed back inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to participate in Ohio State’s pro day after resuming their college football careers for one final season – Wint at Marshall, Riep at Lincoln University.

“I can't even put words with it. It's very special,” Riep said of returning to Ohio State for pro day. “It feels like home, still. You got some strength coaches that are still here. They’ve still got the same love, same care. Coach Day here, still same love, same care. … They understood the type of man and person I was.”

Hooker was another pro day participant whose Ohio State career didn’t go as planned. While Hooker was a starting safety for the Buckeyes in 2020, he played only sparingly in his final season as a Buckeye in 2021 following an offseason OVI arrest. That prompted a transfer to Youngstown State, where Hooker played out his final two years of eligibility.

Despite the early end to his Ohio State career, though, Hooker continued to hold Ohio State in high regard, saying it “always felt like home.” He says he’s learned from the mistakes he made while he was at Ohio State and feels as though his time as a Buckeye prepared him to take his shot at playing in the NFL, where he hopes to join his older brother and fellow former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker.

No matter what happens next, Hooker will always consider his former Buckeye teammates to be his family.

“They’re exactly family,” Hooker said. “Xavier Johnson's an uncle to my youngest son. A lot of guys that are here (at Ohio State’s pro day) are either an uncle or godfather to my son. … The brotherhood is a long-lasting friendship, and it gets you places that you never thought you would go.”

Ohio State’s open-door policy for its former players at pro day allowed even its former walk-ons to make an impression on NFL scouts. Sinclair might be a long shot to play in the NFL after appearing in just five games at OSU and finishing his college career at Ohio Dominican, but the former Buckeye defensive back surely turned some heads at pro day as he was clocked running the 40-yard dash in under 4.4 seconds.

“It means a lot to me, just because the journey that I had, along with the other guys that I was competing with, coming back, being at home, graduating here and being able to come back and work out here felt amazing,” Sinclair said of returning to OSU for pro day. “All my best friends, my closest friends are from Ohio State. … It feels good to know that like, even once you leave, you still have that brotherhood. I mean, we always preach brotherhood, and so to see that it's true, just feels really good.”

Batsch, who put up good testing numbers of his own including a 10-foot broad jump and a 4.67-second 40-yard dash, said being back at Ohio State for pro day and pre-draft training “was a blast.”

“I’m sure grateful that they allowed me to do that,” Batsch said. “Being able to train at a place that I’m familiar with around people I have great relationships with made the whole experience super memorable.”

Those six players who came back to Ohio State for pro day are among 11 former Buckeyes who transferred to other schools now hoping to hear their names called in the 2024 NFL draft this week.

The two Ohio State transfers who likely have the best chance of being drafted this week are edge rusher Javontae Jean-Baptiste, who went to Notre Dame for one year after five years at Ohio State, and cornerback Ryan Watts, who spent two years at Texas after two seasons as a Buckeye. Both of them were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and are widely projected to be late-round draft picks.

Neither of them needed to return to Ohio State for pro day as the schools they finished their careers with drew plenty of attention of their own from NFL scouts, but both of them also had good things to say about their time at OSU at the combine.

“Those are my brothers forever and they’re still my brothers forever,” Watts said of his former Ohio State teammates. “That locker room is great. Great locker room over there. The coaches are great over there. And it's a great program … I always kept in tune with their games, too. So I still got all love and respect for everybody at Ohio State, man, I never had no bad blood with nobody over there.”

Jean-Baptiste said he “learned how to be a pro” at Ohio State and specifically credited Ohio State director of sports performance Mickey Marotti with helping him transform from a 194-pound high schooler into a 239-pound NFL prospect.

“Being around guys like Chase (Young), Jonathon Cooper and Nick Bosa, seeing all the best in the building, it just allowed me to see what they do right in their game from being in the film room, how some people take nutrition seriously and just being able to be around Coach Mick, I mean, he showed me how to really lift weights and change my body and I feel like he changed my life,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Other Ohio State transfers with hopes of being drafted as potential late-round picks include linebacker Dallas Gant, who like Wiglusz became a two-time All-MAC player after transferring to Toledo; linebacker Craig Young, who totaled 101 tackles in two seasons at Kansas after three years at OSU; and wide receiver Jaelen Gill, who finished his college career with a 516-yard, six-touchdown season at Fresno State in 2023 after two years at OSU and three years at Boston College.

Ohio State Transfers in 2024 NFL Draft
Pos Player Yrs at OSU Where They Transferred NFL Draft Projection*
CB RYAN WATTS 2020-21 TEXAS (2022-23) #20 CB (6th-7th round pick)
LB DALLAS GANT 2018-21 TOLEDO (2022-23) #28 LB (PFA)
LB CRAIG YOUNG 2019-21 KANSAS (2022-23) #41 LB (FA)
WR SAM WIGLUSZ 2018-21 OHIO (2022-23) #77 WR (FA)
S AMIR RIEP 2017-19 LINCOLN (2023) #48 S (FA)
WR JAELEN GILL 2018-19 BOSTON COLLEGE (2020-22), FRESNO STATE (2023) #132 WR (FA)
S JAHSEN WINT 2016-19 MARSHALL (2023) #199 S (FA)
LB RYAN BATSCH 2018-21 MURRAY STATE (2022-23) #169 LB (FA)
*Projections via Dane Brugler’s 2024 NFL Draft Guide

They join nine members of this year’s draft class who played their entire college careers at Ohio State: Marvin Harrison Jr., Mike Hall, Cade Stover, Tommy Eichenberg, Josh Proctor, Steele Chambers, Matt Jones, Miyan Williams and Xavier Johnson.

While the players who transferred away from Ohio State won’t have Ohio State listed next to their names on the roster if they make NFL teams, Ohio State played a part in all of their journeys to get to where they are now. And all of them who spoke with Eleven Warriors in the months leading up to the draft said they’re carrying the lessons they learned from their time at Ohio State with them as they hope to keep their football careers going.

“I think a lot of the people that I was surrounded with (at Ohio State), players and coaches-wise, were just pros before they were pros. When I was a freshman, it was Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell. So I was an 18-year-old kid learning how to be a pro by those guys,” Wiglusz said. “And then as you go down the line from the guys I've played with, obviously there's a lot of great ones. So I think learning how to handle my business, how to be a pro, I think that'll serve me well at the next level, for sure.”

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