Column: Toughness defines Ohio State

By Teddy Greenstein - Chicago Tribune

Billy Price might be the perfect guy for Ohio State to have host its football recruits. Or the worst guy.

On top of being an All-Big Ten offensive lineman, Price is an All-America talker with a future in broadcasting.

But here’s the rub: He won’t tell typical recruits what they want to hear.

“With the younger generation, recruiting is lot about publicity — flashy IG (Instagram) pictures, Snapchat, 10,000 followers, 25,000 retweets, Bleacher Report videos,” Price said. “I keep it real with them.

“The guys I came up with — Corey Linsley, Taylor Decker, Jack Mewhort, Jacoby Boren, Pat Elflein — it was real. It was: This has to be done in order to win a championship. I remember Taylor Decker calling me on a Saturday and I was home. He said: ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you here working out with us?’

“That’s what kept it real with me so I would develop myself. I would not be opposed to hosting recruits in the fall, but I will keep it real. Don’t wear your high heels here.”

Don’t wear your high heels here.

“Don’t wear your Louies here … your Louis Vuittons,” Price said.

The Buckeyes are the Big Ten’s glamour program, a victory machine fueled by elite athletes who go on to make millions in the pros. But the underlying ingredient is toughness.

Price called Boren, who played center for the Buckeyes from 2012-15, “the epitome. He’s a tough, rugged dude. The guy would walk into the Woody (Hayes Athletic Center) with landscaping boots and cargoes on, ready to go to work.”

It’s true. Boren would work an overnight shift for the family landscaping and snow-removal business, and then report to “The Woody” for a predawn workout.

“Who enjoys going in at 5:45 and their getting ass beat?” Boren said by telephone. “From the first day, Coach Mick will train you mentally and physically to your breaking point.”

Coach Mick is Mickey Marotti, who carries the title of assistant athletic director, football sports performance. Ohio State pays him handsomely (north of $500,000) to motivate and transform young Buckeyes into valuable players for coach Urban Meyer.

“The workouts are harder than the games, I can truly say that,” Boren said. “The games are kind of a break, when you get to have fun.”

Ohio State has had a blast under Meyer, who is 61-6 since taking over in 2012.

The glaring exception is what transpired on New Year’s Eve in Arizona. Ohio State was actually favored to beat Clemson and advance to the College Football Playoff title game.

Instead Clemson whipped the Buckeyes 31-0. The performance was jarring enough for Meyer to shuffle his offensive staff, bringing in former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson.

Last month at Big Ten media days in Chicago, Meyer said “the ship has sailed” on that loss. But it still haunts some players.

Price said reminders of Ohio State’s first shutout loss in 23 seasons give him “that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach.”

Meyer is raving about the leadership on this 2017 team. He is counting on fifth-year seniors such as Price, defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis and quarterback J.T. Barrett to make sure the Clemson debacle is not repeated.

Though Barrett plays a glitzy position, Price and Lewis say he has the required toughness.

“If it’s for the team, he will do whatever it takes,” Price said. “I remember at Penn State in 2014, he looked two linebackers in the face and threw it in there.”

Said Lewis: “Have you seen that guy run the ball? C’mon, man. J.T. is a different type of guy. He’s a winner. He will do whatever.”

Lewis agreed with Price that Ohio State’s core is about toughness, saying the program has “a lot of blue-collar guys.”

But no high heels? No Louis Vuittons?

“If I could afford them, I’d wear them, definitely,” Lewis said with a chuckle. “Doesn’t take away from my toughness.”


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By Teddy Greenstein

Chicago Tribune