Skull Session: How 11W Readers Became Ohio State Fans, Cody Simon is “Basically Another Tommy” Eichenberg and It's the End of an Era in Dallas

By Chase Brown on March 16, 2023 at 5:00 am

Welcome to the Skull Session.

You better strap in. Some Ohio State football fans share their favorite memories in today's Skully. But that's not all. There are also stories of Cody Simon being “basically another Tommy” Eichenberg, the end of an era in Dallas and E.J. Liddell receiving a diamond NBA 2K card.

It'll be good stuff. I promise.

Let's have a good Thursday, shall we?

 HOW DID YOU BECOME A BUCKEYE FAN? At the start of February, we asked readers of Eleven Warriors a poll question, "How did you become an Ohio State fan?" There were three possible answers to the poll: "My parents/siblings passed on the fandom," "My friends passed on the fandom," or "I discovered the fandom myself."

Not only did 4,400 people answer the poll, with 48% of respondents choosing parents/siblings, 40% that they discovered the Buckeyes themselves and the remainder that they picked it up from friends, but 76 readers also commented on the post to share their stories of how they became an Ohio State fan.

I decided to look back through some of those comments on Wednesday. Here are some that stood out to me as ones deserving of some extra attention:

“I Was Completely on Board as a Buckeye for Life”

In 1965, my family moved from Ohio to Tucson, Arizona, for health reasons. I was 6 years old, and I didn't know football from a game of tag. My first memory of football was the 1969 Rose Bowl. Dad asked me to watch the game with him. I remember him being annoyed as he said, "Damn, there he goes..." That was the long OJ Simpson touchdown run. I only remember seeing the band at halftime. The Buckeyes pulled out the win that day. Dad seemed pretty happy. The next season, still in Arizona, Dad would tell me the scores each week as the Buckeyes rolled over everyone. I was starting to become a fan. As the warm, dry climate of Tucson had markedly improved my little brother's asthma, we moved back to Ohio the third week in November 1969. Still unpacking moving boxes in Ohio on gameday, dad found the console TV to have an unwatchable vertical roll.  He called a friend, and we headed out across town to watch the game together. Ohio State lost that day to That Team Up North.  It was heartbreaking for my 10-year-old self, but that's when I knew I was completely on board as a Buckeye for life.  Thanks, Dad. 

- Archerm

“Go Bucks!“

About 58 years ago, my father took me to my first game. He loved the Buckeyes and shared that love with me. After leaving home in 1977, we talked after almost every Buckeye game until he passed away in October 2018, shortly after we pummeled Indiana. After each game, when he picked up the phone, he would simply say “Go Bucks!” And then, we would analyze the game. One of my favorite years was 2002 with so many close games. Game after game, he would say “I can’t take much more of this!” Tresselball was highly effective and sometimes excruciating. The season was capped with one of the greatest games ever, the win over Miami for the national championship. We watched it together. The game was played three weeks after Mom died and helped our healing, albeit briefly. That championship was a gift to us. Thanks, Dad, and Go Bucks!

- JHicks74

“It's Been a Long and Passionate Trip”

I'm not from Ohio, but I arrived for school in 1987 in time to watch Bruce's last season along with Spielman, the best college player I've watched in person. I bought the $43 student season ticket plan and was on my way. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be going to games in Ohio Stadium. It's been a long and passionate trip. Rooting for the Buckeyes has allowed me to be a permanent kid at heart and helped me balance adult responsibilities as a father, husband and professional. My family understands and supports my addiction.

- SalemBuckeye

“It Was Everything”

It was a mix of things. I've had family members who are alums of our great institution. Some were Dean's Listers with Summa Awards. Others lettered. So, there is a legacy involved for part of my reason.

I also had the rare opportunity to make multiple campuses part of my childhood. I was regularly on campus more than some students. This affected my influence greatly, as I saw higher academia from a wandering child's eyes. Sure, the young adults saw it as a partial doldrum and quick release of stress on North High Street (especially in the pre-Jennings eras), but I remembered "Cow Town" with Ohio State being "THE thing" and "THE place to be"! The campus food back then was unapologetically great and simple, the arcades were amazing and the party atmosphere of the time had me wanting to be a student of Ohio State as young as 4 years old.

More than that, there was getting to see what folks were like. From regular students to student-athletes, the faculty and staff (and even a few reporters who regularly covered all things Ohio State, from Gibb Shanley to Jimmy Crum), coach-to-professor Woody Hayes doing his thing off the field (which, for years, he would walk the campus, until he could no longer do so from his frailty), to even seeing people like coach Earle Bruce talking with a graduate assistant or two while ordering Rax Roast Beef Sandwiches during lunch...  It was everything... Even the humor of knowing that Bo Schembechler owned the Domino's Pizza joint on North High Street (which I reckon, even he was a quiet fan of his rivals, after all those years -- Right "Shemmy"?) led to me either being born into being a Buckeye (fan), being raised into a Buckeye (legacy), or arriving to the conclusion that I am indeed a Buckeye (for life).

And it's also why I am the way I am, here and elsewhere. From taking in the lessons of others as a kid to matriculating and taking on the lessons from others, from the lectures and labs, right on down to the clinicals (and maybe a coveted class from Jim Tressel at the butt-crack of dawn), this all led to me being a Buckeye. And some icing on the cake: In my last year in the Army, I met a girl who was, at the time, an active Ohio State cheerleader on the 2002 "Scarlet Squad." As if I needed more reason to stay Scarlet and Gray forever, right?

- The Second Coming of Earle Bruce

And keep in mind, these were four of 76 comments on the poll. There were plenty of other stories I could have added in addition to these select few, but for the sake of brevity, I needed to restrain myself from adding the entire list.

Thank you to all who shared that day. If you didn't and want to, please feel free to do so below in the comments.

Being an Ohio State fan is personal to every individual, but it is also collective, shared by many far and wide. That's what makes Buckeye Nation a nation, something everyone would do well to remember when commenting on articles, making forum posts and all the other activities here or on the many other Ohio State websites.

So remember: Each person you talk to has a fandom they hold dear. It's what makes Ohio State the best fandom on earth.

 CODY SIMON “BASICALLY ANOTHER TOMMY.” When Steele Chambers met with the media after Ohio State's second spring practice last week, he was asked about teammate and fellow linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, who will miss the entire spring as he recovers from an undisclosed but non-serious ailment.

Chambers said he initially believed Eichenberg's absence would be detrimental, especially as Ohio State's defense reloads for what the Buckeyes hope will be another championship. However, as he watched his teammates in the room flourish with the All-American footballer and grunter watching from the sidelines, he immediately felt better about the situation.

"Everyone in that room is athletic, strong and smart," Chambers said. "They're students of the game, and now they have more reps. They have more opportunities to go out there and show coach what they've got."

Chambers said Cody Simon is a player that stood out to him in winter workouts and the initial spring practices and claimed Simon has allowed Ohio State's defense to function as if Eichenberg were out there with the Buckeyes.

"Tommy is my guy, but we got Cody out there," Chambers said. "He's doing a hell of a job. He probably had one of the better winters that anyone has had here. He's smart as hell. He's a great dude. He's basically another Tommy."

It's unknown whether Jim Knowles would agree with Chambers' assessment that Simon is "another Tommy," but I feel as if he would push back on that claim, mainly because Eichenberg grunts and Simon doesn't, but also that Eichenberg is an All-American linebacker and Simon is not. They don't hand out that award to anybody. A player has to earn that honor. Eichenberg has; Simon hasn't (yet).

Regardless, Knowles, like Chambers, has recognized how well Simon has performed this offseason. It's been so well that Knowles admits he may have no choice but to find ways to put Simon on the field, either as a temporary replacement for Eichenberg or Chambers or as part of a three-linebacker package.

"He's going to put himself in a position to play regularly," Knowles said, "That's my vision."

I like that vision.

Simon said Thursday he will do whatever the coaching staff asks of him to see the field. He did exactly that last season when he, as Day loves to say, "cut his teeth" on special teams and won multiple Special Teams Player of the Week honors from the Buckeyes' coaching staff following Ohio State wins last fall.

“I try to play my role as best I can," Simon said. "Wherever they think is best for me, I try to play it to the best of my abilities. I don’t really worry about where or what the scheme is. Wherever they put me at is where I play my hardest.”

Eichenberg. Chambers. Simon. That's a three-headed monster in the linebacker room. Throw in a player like C.J. Hicks – who former Buckeye Teradja Mitchell once called "the whole package," and Chambers said "could be something special" and "already is something special" at Ohio State – and that monster could grow another head.

Add Reid Carrico, Gabe Powers and some of those other dudes. We could be talking about Ohio State's linebacker depth in the same way LeBron prophesized (albeit incorrectly) about championships with the Miami Heat: "not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven..." and as LeBron added after that historic claim, "When I say that, I really believe it."

  THE END OF AN ERA. The Dallas Cowboys released Ezekiel Elliott on Wednesday, making the former Ohio State running back a free agent for the first time in his NFL career after seven seasons with "America's Team."

Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner who is also the team's president and general manager because why not make all the decisions that affect the future of your billion-dollar enterprise, released this statement about Dallas' move:

"Zeke's impact and influence is seared into the Cowboys franchise in a very special and indelible way. He has been a consummate professional and leader that set a tone in our locker room, on the practice field and in the huddle. Zeke defined what a great teammate should be, and anyone that has ever played a team sport would be lucky to have a teammate like Zeke and be much better for it. His commitment and passion for winning is selfless, and the accountability he brings everyday earned the respect of our coaches, his teammates and our entire organization. He wore the Cowboys Star with pride and purpose every single time he put it on, and we're a better franchise because of the example he set for veterans and rookies alike. That carried over into our community as well, with Zeke's generosity and spirit about giving and caring for others.

We have mutually agreed with Zeke that the best decision for everyone is that he will be able to experience free agency, and we can increase our flexibility and options as well. This is one of the toughest parts of operating a team. Moments like this come, and extremely difficult decisions and choices are made. For the franchise. For me personally. For players too. We will always have a special place and love for Zeke and what he means to our Cowboys family, both as a person and a player. That will never change."

I'm no Cowboys fan. They may be my least favorite team in the NFL other than the Pittsburgh Steelers (Browns fans fully understand the hatred for the second team). However, it will be flat-out weird to see Zeke in a uniform that isn't blue, silver and white and dons that ever-recognizable star as his professional career continues in the coming years.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network called the Cowboys' decision to release Elliott "the end of an era," which admittedly made me laugh as my brain drifted to the episode of "Friends" where Chandler moves in with Monica while Joey and Rachel realize they may never live in the same place as their best friends again.

In his seven seasons with the Cowboys, Elliott racked up 8,262 rushing yards, 68 rushing touchdowns and 80 total touchdowns – numbers that rank third in franchise history behind only Hall of Fame running backs Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.

I think that's pretty good.

And at 27 years old, he has time to make those numbers even more impressive. It just won't happen while wearing the same uniform as he always did in the NFL, and that's okay. It's yet another reminder that all good things must come to an end.

 "HOLY E.J. LIDDELL W." Look at this tweet.

As pointed out by The Ohio State University men's basketball team's Twitter account, this is a massive E.J. Liddell "W."

The Belleville, Illinois, native appeared in 92 games for the Buckeyes across three seasons and averaged 14.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in those contests. He capped off his career with an All-American season in which he contributed 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game for an Ohio State team that reached the Round of 32 at the NCAA Tournament.

After he was drafted by the Pelicans, Liddell unfortunately tore his ACL in NBA Summer League action. He has not yet played for New Orleans or their G-League affiliate, the Birmingham Squadron. However, he appears to have made great progress in his rehabilitation process and was seen doing on-court shooting at a practice in January.

That's a good sign for a good dude. Hopefully, his recovery continues to trend in the right direction, and we see him return to the court in no time.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "See the World" by Caamp.

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