You might not know it (yeah, you wouldn’t) to look at me now, but I was once part of the proud group of young men who toiled in the trenches under the Friday night lights in Ohio.
I’ll spare you my current measurements, but back then I went 6-foot, 210.
At least that’s what the program said.
The program, of course, was lying.
I was not that big, but that didn’t matter when the games began.
I had to get the job done one way or another or my buddies in the backfield wouldn’t have anywhere to go with the ball, we wouldn’t score any points and we wouldn’t get to sing our victory song with the band and the cheerleaders when the game was over.
What choice did we really have but to make some holes in that line then?
Angles became my friend (along with my 240-pound right tackle — even though he was a Michigan fan).
Taking the field
Deception was helpful, too, but more than anything I often got by on determination, pride and a little gall.
Of course, those things alone aren’t going to lead to a college scholarship, so it became clear to me fairly early I wouldn’t be an offensive lineman anymore when my last high school game was over (that came against Marion Local in a playoff game at Troy’s venerable old concrete stadium).
Maybe a Division III linebacker or defensive end then?
Like nine other guys my senior year, I was a two-way starter. We ran Woody Hayes’ offense and Bud Wilkinson’s defense.
(Yes, color photography had been invented.)
Cedarville vs. Southeastern, 1999
Credit: Marcus Hartman
Credit: Marcus Hartman
Well, that wasn’t in the cards, either, but that’s beside the point because this story is supposed to be about the offensive line.
Well, that’s not really true, either.
Truth is I told you that story so I could tell you another:
Even with the threat of Y2K looming, I thought it wiser to start progress toward a writing career than to extend my football journey, and that’s what I ended up doing.
I have no regrets. I made a lot of great memories, friends and connections in four years at Ohio State majoring in journalism. Those experiences are essential to who I have become, as were my years wearing a Cedarville football uniform.
I’m happy with what I’ve done so far in my career, and I’m blessed to have the jobs I’ve had, especially this one covering the teams and the area I know best.
But I still miss getting my hands dirty and the feeling of doing rather than just watching.
I mean, Teddy Roosevelt wasn't completely full of it.
So I’m hoping a trip to Urbana to learn first-hand what it takes to be a college offensive lineman is the first of many new experiences that go beyond words on a page or a screen.
While I’ve written about many sports through the years, football remains my first and greatest sports passion, so I thought that was a natural place to start my quest for experiences.
It’s not quite picking up where I left off, but it’ll do.
(You’ll have to wait for the results of that trip, but it was a great time learning from Jim Cordle, who went from big-time recruit at Lancaster to multi-year starter at Ohio State and a spot with the New York Giants to line coach at UU.)
And this is where you come in.
What sports do you want to see me try (and probably fail)? Better yet -- what can you teach me about, well, pretty much anything?
From learning to throw a spiral, to trying to make 25 free throws in a row, serve a volleyball or hit a baseball thrown at a high speed by another human being, I am open to lots of things.
I know we've got some great outdoors activities (hiking? canoeing?) in the Miami Valley, and I could stand to improve my putting and add some yards to my driver, too, but those are just a few ideas.
In an area with so many great institutions and facilities — both natural and man-made — it feels like the possibilities are endless.