Playing for Ohio State “A Dream Come True” for Former Ohio Tight End Will Kacmarek, Who Always Believed He Could Play at Highest Level

By Dan Hope on February 1, 2024 at 12:05 pm
Will Kacmarek

Will Kacmarek always believed he could play at the highest level of college football.

Ohio University gave Kacmarek his only scholarship offer out of high school. Kacmarek thinks the COVID-19 pandemic had a lot to do with that, as it disrupted the recruiting process during his senior year at Mary Institute and Country Day School in St. Louis.

Kacmarek accepted that lone offer and spent three years at Ohio, emerging as the Bobcats’ top tight end over the past two seasons. While sharing snaps with co-starter Tyler Foster, Kacmarek caught 42 passes for 507 yards and two touchdowns over the past two years. He also played a key role as a blocker for the Bobcats.

Kacmarek has nothing but good things to say about his time in Athens. But he chose to enter the transfer portal after his redshirt sophomore season because he believed he could play in a major conference.

“I'm trying to play the best football as possible. I'm trying to be the best player as possible. So I think that was just in the back of my head, knowing that I believe that I can be at this level,” Kacmarek said.

That belief was quickly validated when Kacmarek received a call from Keenan Bailey and Ohio State.

Kacmarek said he also heard from several other Big Ten and SEC schools who were interested in adding him to their teams. But it didn’t take long for Kacmarek to decide he wanted to be a Buckeye. Just two days after entering the portal, Kacmarek announced his commitment to Ohio State.

“It's a dream come true,” Kacmarek said this week in his first interview session as a Buckeye. “Ever since I've been young, it's been a dream to play at the highest level. And now that I'm here now, it's real exciting. I'm pumped for this opportunity.”

Although he believed in himself, Kacmarek acknowledges he never would have guessed he’d end up playing at Ohio State when he started his career as a Bobcat three years ago. But he was surrounded by plenty of Ohio State fans for the past three years in Athens, which made it all the more exciting to get the chance to be a Buckeye.

“All the fans (at Ohio) were Ohio State fans,” Kacmarek said. “So it's just pretty cool being here now and being around that fan base.”

Kacmarek has another Ohio State connection, too. He played high school football with OSU walk-on linebacker Jalen Pace, which means he’s known Jalen’s father Orlando Pace – the greatest offensive tackle in OSU history – since he was a kid.

“Seeing his face on the walls and stuff like that, it was awesome,” Kacmarek said when asked about Orlando Pace. “Just to say that I'm in the same building is an honor.”

Of the six players Ohio State has added via the transfer portal this offseason, Kacmarek is the only one to come from a non-Power 4 school. But Kacmarek says the jump hasn’t felt too big for him yet.

“Honestly, it's not quite too different,” Kacmarek said. “I mean, obviously, there's the facilities and stuff like that. But just player-wise, like all the players down there got along with each other, all of them get along up here. So it was a pretty easy transition just through the nature of the locker room. I would just say like the resource-wise is a little bit of a jump.”

“Ever since I've been young, it's been a dream to play at the highest level.”– New Ohio State tight End Will Kacmarek

Kacmarek knows that facing Big Ten defenses on a weekly basis will be a different challenge than playing in the MAC. But he expects to be well-prepared for that with all the time he’ll spend practicing against Ohio State’s defense.

“It's one of the best defenses in the country,” Kacmarek said. “I think that will be awesome for my development … going against some of the best D-ends who I’m going to be blocking a bunch.”

What Kacmarek’s exact role will look like this season is still to be determined. He’s come to Ohio State with the understanding that playing time will be earned, not given. With Cade Stover now preparing for an NFL career, though, the door is wide open for Kacmarek to compete for a starting job, and he is confident in his ability to make an immediate impact.

“Nothing's given to me. I gotta work for every every minute of playing time. But that's my ultimate goal, and I hope I can make that happen,” Kacmarek said.

Gee Scott Jr. and Jelani Thurman are among the other tight ends who will be competing to play substantial roles for Ohio State in 2024. Kacmarek’s experience and proven blocking ability could give him the inside track to topping the depth chart, though, as the Buckeyes are high on the 6-foot-6, 256-pound redshirt junior’s potential to be a difference-maker on both passing and running plays.

“I love blocking. I feel like that's one thing that I could separate myself from others,” Kacmarek said. “And I love how (Ohio State uses the tight ends) in blocking and in passing, so I could utilize both of those skill sets here.”

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