Beanie: "I Think He Did a Great Thing"
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The names Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor have been linked by common off-the-field controversy, but they were also three of the biggest names ever signed by former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
leaps over a would-be tackler in the 2008 Minnesota game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
During his high school career, Chris “Beanie” Wells was one of the most highly-sought after prospects in the country. His status as an Army All-American rivaled that of even Pryor, though his recruitment lacked the national attention and drama.
In three seasons at Ohio State, Wells became one of the most productive running backs in school history. He led the Buckeyes in rushing from 2007-08, amassing 3,382 yards and 30 touchdowns while wearing No. 28 in scarlet and gray.
If anyone knows what it’s like to be a star athlete in Columbus, Ohio, it’s Beanie, who understands why Tressel did what he did.
“It was a tough decision, I think he did what was best for those kids,” Wells said during an interview on ESPN.
“Tressel is a father figure to a lot of players. I knew he was facing a tough decision when he had to decide whether to protect his guys or tell what they received and what happened.”
He received an email last April from former Ohio State walk-on Chris Cicero alerting him to the fact Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey and possibly other current players were trading and selling memorabilia with the owner of a local tattoo parlor.
Instead of coming forward with the information, or at least alerting his superiors, Tressel kept the information quiet. He forwarded the emails to Pryor’s mentor, Ted Sarniak, but chose not to report his players to the NCAA or the school’s compliance department.
“I look at it like this, he was being a father,” said Wells, who himself came from a disadvantaged background in Akron.
“He wasn’t thinking about his legacy or how much money he would make or winning games. He was protecting those kids and their future. I personally think he did a great thing.”
As a 6-1, 235-pound running back, Wells was one of the most powerful ball carriers in all of college football. Despite a history of injury problems, his combination of size, speed and production made him a first-round pick in the 2009 draft, but not everyone who plays at Ohio State is so fortunate.
“I don’t think he was thinking as a coach, he was thinking as a parent and thinking about protecting those kids’ future,” Wells said of Tressel.
“Football is a lot of their future for the five guys that were involved. One day they probably will play in the NFL, and Tressel was probably thinking that if he turned them in and they missed games, were they going to have the opportunity to make it to the next level?”
Beanie will be entering his third season in the NFL this fall, assuming there is an NFL season to enter. He ran for 793 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2009, but his numbers dropped off last season.
He has struggled to stay healthy at the next level, but at least he made it there, taken with the 31st pick in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals.
“You’ve got star football players who go out and blow out a knee and never play again and never see a dime,” said Wells, who has battled foot and ankle injuries since his sophomore season at Ohio State.
“I don’t think the problem lies with kids receiving things. The problem lies with the NCAA because the NCAA makes so much money off of college football kids. When they’re done, they don’t get anything.”
The debate over paying college players it one that is unlikely reach resolution in the near future, but Wells certainly seems to feel like he was taken advantage of during his playing days at Ohio State.
“There are 105,000 people in that stadium and when I was playing, there were at least 50,000 wearing a 28 jersey,” he said.
“And guys all across the country receive that (kind of) support.”
Three years ago it was No. 28, but for the last two seasons it has undoubtedly been No. 2 that can be seen throughout the stands at Ohio Stadium on any given Saturday in the fall. With Beanie’s decision to turn pro following his junior season, Pryor quickly became the most popular star in a state starving for a hero.
They anointed LeBron James as the self-proclaimed king, and when he took his talents to South Beach, DeVier Posey texted Pryor that was now the most famous athlete in the Buckeye State. With that kind of fame comes responsibility, but not every 20-year old kid handles it the right way.
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