Freshman Stripes

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Last updated: 08/15/2012 11:36 AM
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Buckeye Freshmen Earning (the Removal of) Their Stripes
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Urban Meyer came to Ohio State he was expected to bring a lot of his own personal touches with him, most notably a fistful of championship rings and his spread offense.

One of the touches that wasn't talked about is now gaining steam and becoming one of the top storylines of camp—the black helmet stripes for freshmen.

Every true freshman started fall camp with a black stripe on their helmet, the removal of which signifies that the freshman has become a full-fledged member of the Ohio State football team.

Getting the black stripe removed, however, is no easy feat, and that's the way Meyer intended it.

Bri'onte Dunn is still wearing his black stripe.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Brionte Dunn

"We started that back at Bowling Green," Meyer said.

"You start things and some things take off and some don’t. This one exploded. Our coaches love it, our staff loves it, and most importantly the players love it. It is a rite of passage for a player to become an Ohio State Buckeye. You have to earn it."

To this point, four freshmen have made their way through that rite of passage. In order, they are safety Devan Bogard, defensive end Noah Spence, defensive tackle Tommy Schutt and offensive tackle Taylor Decker.

Spence earned the removal of his stripe following a stellar performance in a Saturday scrimmage. In fact, his performance was so outstanding that the coaches removed his stripe right out on the field. Sort of a battlefield promotion, if you will.

Noah Spence
Photo by Jim Davidson
Noah Spence

"It felt like almost a relief, I can be a part of the team now," Spence said. "When you have the black stripe off you look a lot different than everybody else, so you’re a part of the team.

"When Devan got his off, we were all motivated to work even harder. I thought I was working my hardest, but apparently we have to keep working and pushing. It makes me more hungry to get on the field."

Meyer said that things can get pretty emotional for the team when a stripe gets removed. Everybody is aware of the work put in, so it's always a good thing to see the ranks grow with similarly-minded players.

It can get even more emotional if your father is in attendance at the scrimmage in which you lose your stripe.

"I don't really show a lot of emotion, but I was emotional inside," Spence admitted.

"I was really happy to have that happen. My dad was at the scrimmage. He was happy. He was proud of me and said that he loved me and stuff like that."

The upperclassmen can get choked up as well, especially if they have worked on their own time with that freshman, like defensive end John Simon has done with Spence.

John Simon
Photo by Jim Davidson
John Simon

Simon, who is famous for his unfailing early-morning offseason workouts, found a willing tag-along in Spence. The two spent hours together in the offseason and now find themselves roommates during camp.

For Simon, seeing Spence and others lose their stripes means that the future of Ohio State football is in good hands.

"It means a lot," he said.

"To see a guy get called out at the end of the scrimmage when all the pressure is on, and be able to have his stripe taken off on that day, you get chills as an older guy. Those are the guys who are going to be taking over the program."

Those players who are going to be taking over the program may not feel the pressure of such a responsibility yet, but it's only because they are more focused on the task at hand.

Before they can take over the program, they actually have to become members of it first.

David Perkins
Photo by Jim Davidson
David Perkins

"That's the first step," linebacker David Perkins said.

"You're not officially a Buckeye until that stripe's gone, so you've got to get that gone before you can move past anything else. Right now, that's what I'm shooting for. I can't sleep without thinking about getting that black stripe off because you're not officially a Buckeye until you get that black stripe off."

"It's huge," agreed fellow linebacker Camren Williams.

"People always talk about how I want to play, or I want to do this, but right now, that's the focus, just to get the black stripe off. That's the first step."

"I've got to get that black stripe off," echoed defensive tackle Adolphus Washington. "Getting that black stripe off, it's a big thing to the freshmen. They said the stripe symbolizes that 'You don't know that you don't know.' So I want to know."

The coaches stress to the freshmen that they can't possibly understand what it is to be an Ohio State Buckeye without first putting in the work that is required of a Buckeye.

Once that work is put in and the stripe is removed, they are embraced and pulled into the circle just like everyone else, and membership has its privileges.

"It means that you're part of the team," Spence said.

"That's the biggest thing to be, to be a part of the team now. When we win, we win together. So once you become part of the team, you're a part of the team forever."

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