Darius Slade to Ohio State Was a Surprise, And a Long Time Coming
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Urban Meyer hired Larry Johnson to coach the Ohio State defensive line, he knew that the former Penn State assistant would make a splash when it came to recruiting. What he may not have known, however, was how quickly that splash would come.
Hired just three weeks before National Signing Day, Johnson was not expected to go out and immediately land a blue-chip defensive lineman. Rather, he was simply expected to supplement the existing work that the Ohio State coaches had already put in.
While he certainly did that, he did the Buckeyes one better by bringing with him a long-standing relationship with three-star defensive end Darius Slade out of Montclair, New Jersey.
Slade, the cousin of former Penn State defensive lineman Jared Odrick, has known Johnson since before he was even in high school.
Johnson maintained a relationship with Slade, and eventually recruited him to play at Penn State. Slade, however, didn't want to follow in his cousin's footsteps, and instead wanted to create some footsteps of his own. But that didn't stop him from being drawn to playing for Johnson.
"When I went to Penn State, I loved him," Slade told the Newark Star-Ledger. "I just wished I could just take him personally and take him to whatever college I wanted to go to."
Slade eventually had to say no to Johnson, and committed to Nebraska. When Urban Meyer hired Johnson, the Buckeyes then offered Slade a scholarship. Slade quickly decommitted from Nebraska and the thought was that he would be headed to Ohio State. Instead, he committed to Michigan State, but that didn't stop Johnson.
"Relationships develop over the years, not just today," Johnson explained of Slade's recruitment.
"He committed to Nebraska or he committed to Michigan State, so there was always an ongoing dialog with him because we're really close with his family. So it was a relationship, it was just a matter of him deciding what he wants to do."
On Signing Day, that decision finally came. He wouldn't be signing with Michigan State, and instead planned a later visit to Ohio State. A few hours later, however, a visit wasn't needed, and he sent his National Letter of Intent to Ohio State and became a Buckeye.
"We talked about that, it was a conversation that we had on the phone," Johnson said of the decision to visit later, or sign immediately.
"We talked about his potential to be here, and the family agreed that this was a good opportunity to pull the trigger today as opposed to waiting. He's got a chance to be a special player. He's 6-4, he's 225, he's an athletic guy who can run and change direction. I think he fits into the scheme we're gonna do defensively. Really, he's a good get for us."
"These have been probably been the craziest moments and days of my life," Slade told the Star-Ledger on Signing Day. "I just kind of wanted to get it over with. I know I'm going to love it. I still love it. And I'm so excited to be a Buckeye."
Slade and Ohio State had never really considered each other before Larry Johnson came aboard, but once he did, it was simply a matter of time.
"When he [Johnson] moved and went to Ohio State, it changed something," Slade told the Star-Ledger. "It changed something in my heart. I knew for a fact I wanted to at least check it out."
Speaking to the media on Signing Day, Urban Meyer admitted that he didn't know much about Darius Slade. The fact that Meyer was okay with taking a player that he knew so little about is a testament to his faith in Johnson.
"I didn't know much about him or who he was," Meyer said of Slade.
"That's Larry Johnson contact from I guess they've known each other for years and years. I watched film on him. 'Do we want to take this kid,' I'm thinking, 'sure,' I really don't know much about him. That's a Larry Johnsonism."
Despite not knowing much about the New Jersey defensive end, Slade is confident that Meyer will get to know him soon. In fact, Slade believes Meyer will recognize a few similarities they have in common.
"What I know about Urban Meyer, is that he loves to win," Slade told the Star-Ledger.
"A lot of people take that the wrong way. I have to say that's one thing that me and Coach Meyer have together, we share that characteristic. We love winning."
If Slade ends up contributing to future Buckeye wins, then Urban Meyer will have Larry Johnson, and his eight or so years of recruiting Darius Slade, to thank for it.
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