The Ohio State Buckeyes brought an army of players to the Camelback Inn for Fiesta Bowl Media Day on Thursday. They filled a giant ballroom and spent an hour playing on their phones, talking to reporters or sitting on couches in front of the two TVs that had PlayStations hooked up to them — this is the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, after all.
Among the players who did not attend was Chaminade Julienne graduate Cin’Quan Haney. He arrived in Phoenix Thursday morning and was still at the team hotel, though he planned to suit up for practice at Notre Dame Prep High School in the afternoon.
Haney is a senior cornerback with one year of eligibility remaining after this one. He’s also a physics major, the only one on the roster, who wants to develop new technologies for the government after college.
Haney is one of four walk-ons from the Dayton area on the roster — Meadowdale’s Ke’Von Huguely, Thurgood Marshall’s Derrick Malone and Alter’s Alex Craft are the others — and they all have stories as interesting as anyone on the roster. Here’s an update on each, starting with the story of Haney, who was inspired to try out for the Buckeyes by Alter grad and former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.
“It was winter break of my second year of college in 2014 going into 2015,” Haney said on a phone call from the team hotel during media day. “It was the national championship year. I wasn’t on the team yet, but during winter break, I was hanging out with one of my best friends, Malik Zaire. We were sitting in the living room playing a video game. We were talking about football, and he was telling me how good I could have been if I had stuck with it, and he was encouraging me to try out with the Buckeyes when I got back to school after winter break.”
A year earlier, Haney met Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, and he offered the same advice. This time, Haney decided to give it a go. He went through a 30-minute tryout where coaches measured his speed and agility. They picked Haney and two other players out of a group of 30.
Haney learned he had made the team when he opened an email one day just before going to an intramural basketball game with Curtis Henry, a friend who also joined the team as a walk-on.
“I yelled, ‘Yes!’” Haney said. “We were hugging and jumping up and down. It just really hit me: ‘Dang, I’m a Buckeye now.”
Haney focused on basketball at Chaminade Julienne and didn’t play football as a senior, even though his coaches told him he had the talent to play. Malone, a sophomore tight end, told a similar story at Media Day.
“It’s truly a blessing how I came about (playing for Ohio State),” Malone said. “I started playing football my senior of high school. I was kind of inspired by (fellow Thurgood Marshall grad) Landon Brazile. He played and got offered by Cincinnati. I figured I would do the same and give it a shot. Coach Earl White was in my ear, telling me, ‘With your size, you can definitely play football at a high level.’ I took that shot and took the time out to get in touch with some coaches, not just Ohio State but all kinds of coaches. I got an email from Ohio State. They wanted me to come up for spring practice and check it out. It definitely seemed like a great place. I took that chance, and now I’m here today. This is my second year in the program. It has been a great experience so far.”
Huguely, a sophomore running back, joined the program in the fall of 2015. He remembers watching the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2014 playoffs when he was a senior and admitted Thursday he didn’t think they would win it all.
“I didn’t think they were going to go that far,” Huguely said. “I’m glad I’m a part of it now. Being a part of it is special.”
Scout team players have worn Clemson orange all week in practice at Notre Dame Prep High School in preparation for Saturday’s game. Huguely has played slot wide receiver, doing his best impression of Clemson’s No. 13 Hunter Renfrow.
Hugely said the game plan has been in place before the Christmas break, and it’s just a matter of perfecting it this week. He was here with the Buckeyes a year ago at the Fiesta Bowl, but this time the bowl is a semifinal game in the College Football Playoffs, so it feels different.
“Practice has been different,” Huguely said. “The whole mentality has been different. We’re really locked in.”
Craft did not attend media day, but kicker Sean Nuernberger said he thought Craft was arriving later Thursday or Friday. Craft joined the team in January 2016.
“He’s done well,” Nuernberger said. “We have a lot of the specialists that aren’t the starter and help out a lot on the scout team. He’s doing well helping out with kickoffs on the scout team. He’s a a really good guy.”