Jaelen Gill kept a very important promise when he became a Buckeye.
Photo by Tony Gerdeman
"I'm going to be a Buckeye."
Those were some of the last words that Jaelen Gill spoke to his grandfather Eddie Bennett before Bennett passed away April 16 of last year.
At just 68 years old, Bennett was gone, and it left Gill reeling.
On Wednesday, Gill -- who could have gone anywhere in the country to play football -- committed to Ohio State in a ceremony at Westerville South High School. Nearly a year in the making, he was true to his word, and for good reason.
"That was his school and I had always talked with him growing up, 'I’m going to be a Buckeye,'" Gill said. "And he’d say, 'Prove it. Show me you’re going to be a Buckeye.' And so I did."
Imagine both the pride and emotion involved in fulfilling such a promise. Something that had been talked about for years between two Buckeye fans -- and best friends -- was now a reality.
"It means a lot because I kept my word and I kept my promise with him," Gill said. "He was a really big part of my life, so I’m just excited that I was able to do that."
Prior to his announcement, Gill spoke to an auditorium packed with classmates, family, parents, coaches, and media. He thanked those who had helped him along the way, and who are still helping him today. He also spent a good amount of time talking about his grandfather and what he meant to him.
"I would like to thank my grandfather," he said. "He meant the world to me, and if you know how close I was with him, when he passed it hurt me. I was down for a really long time. I feel like God took him from us too soon, but it’s obviously what He needed. Given it all, I’ll see him again one day. I wish we had more time to go fishing and all of the stuff that we used to do. But I considered him one of my best friends and I don’t think he missed any of my football games since I was in middle school. He was always there and I’ll forever appreciate and cherish the moments that I got to spend with him. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. My last moment with my grandfather I told him where I was going to school. He’s known longer than anyone else and I kept my word. I love you Grandpa."
While he told his grandfather nearly a year ago that he was going to be a Buckeye, Gill himself didn't really know until the last couple of months. UCLA came in second, and offers from the likes of Notre Dame, USC, and Oklahoma made his decision a tough one. However, any time he would start to lean away from Ohio State, he would think back to that promise he made and hear his grandfather's voice in the back of his mind.
"Definitely," he said. "Every time I walk down the tunnel, whether it’s going to a game or just hanging out, I can see myself walking right next to him because there’s nothing more that he would have wanted than to see me at Ohio State."