Many players deal with injuries during their collegiate career. It’s just part of football. Some players, however, overcome that struggle alongside a close teammate, helping their healing process and easing the pain.
Redshirt junior defensive end Jashon Cornell and redshirt junior linebacker Justin Hilliard have both gone through injuries and setbacks throughout their respective careers at Ohio State.
Now, together, they are healthy and ready for the opportunities to come. And by remaining so close, they helped each other get through the difficult times.
“We came in here together. Committed on the same day,” Hilliard said. “Been really close since sophomore year of high school. We kind of went through the same struggles.”
Hilliard spent three seasons with separate biceps injuries. The second came during the 2016 season after playing in each of the team’s first three games of the season and recording four tackles in his first game as a Buckeye. Because of those injuries, Hilliard spent more time on the sidelines and in rehabilitation than on the field.
Finally healthy, this spring presented new opportunities and a bright future for Hillard. He was praised by head coach Urban Meyer for his success in the offseason and was constantly brought up as one of those guys that Meyer really enjoys being around.
For Cornell, dealing with his injury made for a complicated path. He also has not yet had the collegiate career he hoped to have. A move from defensive tackle to defensive end in the offseason, however, is expected to change that.
“Yeah, it was hard. It was really hard because I had some bumps in the road,” he said. “I had a hernia my sophomore year. I kept getting hurt and that would always set me back.”
After the healing process, Cornell is down in weight and fully healthy, and he feels great where he’s at right now.
Hilliard and Cornell have used the encouragement from each other to help them both persevere and get to where they are now.
“We’ve been roommates since freshman year,” Hilliard said. “Ever since, we’ve been pushing each other to get past injuries and stay positive and things like that. To be on the field with him is such a blessing.”
Recovering from their injuries at a time when they were uncertain if they would ever get to see the field as Buckeyes, neither gave up on their dreams of playing football at Ohio State.
“I think it was just us having that mindset that yeah, you get hurt, but you’ve got to come back stronger each time,” Cornell said.
These last few years with injuries have been hard for both players, having to wait and heal before getting a chance to see the field in the Scarlet and Gray. But the biggest thing for both was staying positive.
“The second you start feeling sorry for yourself is when bad things start happening and you start going downhill,” Hilliard said. “I would definitely say just stay positive and keep going no matter what.”
They both love it at Ohio State and can’t wait to show what they can do this season. They are hoping that this fall is finally their time to shine.
“We’re both healthy and we’re both ready to go,” Cornell said. “It’s us having the opportunity to get back on the field and show what we can really do.”