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Ohio State lineman inspired by Hall of Fame grandpa

Ohio State players, including Wyatt Davis (52), celebrate a victory over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. David Jablonski/Staff David Jablonski/Staff
Ohio State players, including Wyatt Davis (52), celebrate a victory over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. David Jablonski/Staff David Jablonski/Staff

Wyatt Davis pays tribute to the late Willie Davis

Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Wyatt Davis appreciated every second he spent with his grandfather.

“He was just amazing,” Davis said.

Willie Davis overcame being drafted in the 15th round by the Cleveland Browns in 1956 to play 12 seasons as an offensive tackle in the NFL, 10 of them with the Green Bay Packers, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

Davis died April 15 at 85 but lived long enough to see his grandson follow him into football and excel as a redshirt sophomore last season. Wyatt started all 14 games and earned first-team All-American honors.

“Every time I came back home, I’d go to see him,” Wyatt said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. “He was like a second father to me. He held me and my brother to very high standards because he knew what we were capable of. I knew he could never actually physically go to one of my games, but I knew he was always watching.”

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Wyatt said his grandpa’s wife Carol would film Willie after Ohio State games congratulating Wyatt on his performance. Willie had struggled with health problems for years. Wyatt knew his death was coming, but it was still tough, especially because it happened during the coronavirus pandemic.

“For the most part, me and my family handled it well,” Wyatt said. “We focused on the positives of his life.”

Davis said his grandpa was a successful businessman who made more money after football than he did during his playing career. He inspired his grandkids with his work ethic.

“He didn’t let people put him in a box with just being an athlete,” Wyatt said. “He broke outside the box and was extremely successful.”

Willie also played a part in molding Wyatt into the type of fiery player he was. Wyatt has seen some film from his granddad’s playing days and is thankful he hasn’t had to play against someone like that, someone who once continued playing after having his front teeth knocked out, someone who rarely missed a game.

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Willie’s message to Wyatt was always: “Don’t be complacent. Don’t just be OK with getting the job done. If you’re just barely doing what you need to to do get by, then that’s how successful you’re going to be. Go 100 percent. Go above and beyond.”

That’s what Wyatt is trying to do, though the COVID-19 crisis has thrown him and the rest of the Buckeyes a curve. He’s from Bellflower, Calif., just southeast of downtown Los Angeles, and has access to weights but has struggled to find outdoor areas where he can train.

“The only thing that’s been tough is finding open fields and not getting kicked off of them,” Davis said. “I was able to find one in the last couple of days. Hopefully, it will stay consistent, and we’ll still be able to be on there.”

Davis said he’s just trying to keep busy, but “This truly is a weird time right now.”

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Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Will there even be a football seasons in the fall?” Davis said he would do anything to have the season even if it meant playing in an empty Ohio Stadium.

“Would it suck not having fans there? Yes,” he said. “But would that affect me not playing the season? No. I just love the game of football. I miss being in that competitive-type atmosphere. Fans or no fans, I would want to play.”