Mike Weber’s Ohio State career seemed as good as done at the end of the Cotton Bowl. He teared up while singing “Carmen Ohio” following the 24-7 win over USC, and then got emotional again in the locker room following the game. That led to widespread speculation that Weber knew he was taking off his Buckeye uniform for the last time.
Just over a week later, and nine days before the deadline to make his decision, Weber announced that he would be coming back for one more season at OSU. It was a surprising, but welcome piece of news for the Ohio State offense.
While many people on the outside seemed sure about his decision following the bowl game, Weber said that he definitely wasn’t.
“I hadn’t decided whether I was going to leave or stay when I was in the locker room,” he said Thursday. “It was kind of 50-50 at that point. I really didn’t know.”
The case to turn pro was simple. NFL running backs average less than three years in the league because of the physical toll on their bodies, so why take an extra year of hits in college?
There were compelling reasons to return to Columbus for one more season, too. Weber suffered a serious hamstring injury during fall camp, then hurt his wrist in the middle of the season. Another year of physical development and a healthy 2018 could boost his draft stock.
Weber said that everyone around him had an opinion, but they were sharply divided.
“It was kind of crazy,” he said. “There were agents telling me to go, family telling me to go, just old friends, stuff like that. Then you’ve got coaches telling you to stay. Both sides have valid points, so you really don’t know what you should do. It’s a really tough decision, but I feel like I made the right decision.”
In the end, Weber opted to play another year in college. He said he entered 2017 fall camp planning to turn pro after the season, but a frustrating and injury-plagued autumn was enough to change his mind.
Weber lost his starting job to freshman J.K. Dobbins, and seemed at times like a forgotten man. He had a combined nine carries for 24 yards in the Buckeyes’ Big Ten Championship Game win over Wisconsin and the Cotton Bowl.
“I had goals that I set. I didn’t want to go out the way I was going to go out. I wanted to accomplish more things and become more of a team leader and graduate,” Weber said.
In the end, head coach Urban Meyer and running backs coach Tony Alford were able to convince Weber that if he returned, he would be a central piece of the Buckeyes’ 2018 offensive attack.
“I got with Coach Meyer and we had a good talk with Coach Alford and my parents,” Weber said, specifically mentioning “things like touches” as key topics.
“Talking to the coaches, asking about the things that I was concerned about. He told me everything I needed to hear.”