Participants Really Know The Rivalry

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Last updated: 11/26/2013 10:25 PM
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Football
Participants Have a Special Appreciation of The Rivalry
By Patrick Murphy

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan is considered the best rivalry in college sports, but to really know how big it is, you have to be a part of it.

Urban Meyer exhorts the Buckeyes durning last year's OSU vs. Michigan game.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Urban Meyer

"I didn't realize it because I was just like most that from the outside looking in, ‘hey, it's a really great game,’” Urban Meyer said.

“But, no, you never really appreciate it until you're behind the walls here and find out how serious it is.”

Meyer learned as a graduate assistant and when he returned to Columbus as the Buckeyes’ head coach, he brought in coaches who understood the rivalry hiring all but one coach from Ohio.

“That is the good thing about hiring guy that's lived the rivalry, they know it, and the coaches and players appreciate it too,” he said.

Players have a similar experience. Often they don't really get it until they actually live it on the field.

“Last year… I kind of got into the game thinking with the mindset that I had to play hard but this wasn’t going to be overly difficult,” Corey Linsley said about his first Michigan game.

Corey Linsley paves the way for Braxton Miller last year against Michigan
Photo by Jim Davidson
Corey Linsley, Braxton Miller

“But they came off the ball the first couple of plays and I was like ‘This is what everybody was talking about. This is what they mean when they say this week is different.’”

Linsley, from Youngstown, grew up watching The Game and spent two years at Ohio State before he made his first appearance and developed true understanding.

Some players – like Michael Bennett – learned quicker.

Michael Bennett
Photo by Dan Harker
Michael Bennett

“When we were walking out of the tunnel, guys were waving dollar bills and stuff at us,” said of his freshman year in Ann Arbor.

“I didn’t have any feelings toward that team up north and I didn’t understand it until we got there.”

Even for those who grew up around it, it is difficult to comprehend how intense the game is until he lives it.

“Growing up in Ohio, I always understood [the rivalry], but there’s nothing like it once you become a part of it,” fifth-year senior C.J. Barnett said.

Freshman year is when players get their first exposure to the rivalry. For at least seven freshmen it will be their first on-field experience of the rivalry.

"I watched the game on TV last year, but to be honest, I don't really know that much about it,” Dontre Wilson said after last week’s win over Indiana.

Not growing up a fan of either team makes it hard to grasp what this rivalry really means. Once a part of it though, it quickly becomes obvious what is at stake on the last weekend over November each year.

For those out-of-state players, such as Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott and Cameron Johnston – who came from another country – this will be a very new experience.

“Guys who grew up in this region and know it and have grown up around it, it's different for us,” Jack Mewhort said.

Jack Mewhort does a little bulldozing to help Carlos Hyde to some yardage against the Wolverines.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jack Mewhort, Carlos Hyde

“Guys like Dontre and Jeff [Heuerman]… it's our job when they're younger to make sure they realize how important it is.”
The other players believe that this week will quickly give them some indication of what this game means.

"You walk in our facility and you see all kinds of banners, music playing, everything reminding us and pumping us up… The environment is completely different,” Linsley said of Michigan week.

Meyer’s emphasis on the rivalry makes it hard to miss the importance of this game.

“I think he flipped a switch right after the game. He told us Sunday this victory has been enjoyed and it's a big week for us and we have to start moving forward,” Mewhort said.

“Everyone realizes the magnitude of this game and rivalry.”

The elder players are responsible for making sure the young players know what they will be getting themselves into on Saturday.

“All you can do is share your experiences with them and try to let them know,” Bennett said.

“I think my experience as a freshman… you don’t understand until you’re there and you’ve played in that game and until you’ve seen it.”

Mewhort and his team have experience in this rivalry and this will help them in The Game.

“This game is huge," he said. "It's the biggest rivalry in all of sports.”

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