Isaiah Prince has played in every Ohio State football game these past three seasons, starting the last 27 games at right tackle. Most of it has been very good. For instance, Prince was named a Third-Team All-Big Ten selection last season by both the coaches and media, and it would be a surprise if he isn’t on the first or second team this season.
Of course, no matter how well he plays or how invisible he becomes to the casual Buckeye fan, the memories of his struggles against Penn State in 2016 are never far from recollection. Prince had a horrific night in Happy Valley two years ago, and the next few days after that weren’t too easy either.
Prince bounced back, however, and the Buckeyes even made the playoffs that year.
Now entering his fourth-and-final season at Ohio State, it is easy for Prince to reflect on the past because it provides valuable lessons he has learned along the way.
“I really don’t know how to explain it. My first year starting, obviously I had my ups and downs,” he said. “I learned as best I could — I think that year taught me the most in my career. I went on to the next year, my junior year, which was last season, and just took those things I learned from the season before and just tried not to think as much on game day. Just play as hard as I can.”
It is extremely rare for an offensive lineman to be spectacular out of the gate. There is only one Orlando Pace, after all. To never be overmatched doesn’t really happen. That’s part of the growing process, and Isaiah Prince has done plenty of calcifying over the years.
It’s something that every offensive tackle has to go through.
“Definitely,” Prince said. “I don’t think about it as getting beat. I think when you lose you learn. It’s just an opportunity to get better. You’re not going to go out there and be perfect. Every opportunity is an opportunity to learn.”
And he had a number of those opportunities in Happy Valley as a sophomore.
“Obviously it was tough at the time,” he said. “It’s something that I got over and learned to move past it.”
Asking a true sophomore to start at tackle in major college football can be a risk, but for the good ones it’s eventually worth the reward.
For some offensive tackles, starting later in their career may be more ideal. Take Jamarco Jones for example. He didn’t start at Ohio State until he was a junior, and he was pretty fantastic in his only two years as a starter for the Buckeyes.
Some may say that it would have been better for Prince to have never started as a sophomore. He would disagree with that, however.
“Practice is extremely important, but there is only so much you can learn from practice,” he said. “The game reps teach you the most. I don’t think I would be the player I am today without my sophomore year. If I didn’t play my sophomore season I don’t think I’d be the player that I am today.”
The lessons he learned as a sophomore are still teaching him well as he heads into his senior season. Having gone through so much and come through it still fighting has demonstrated to him that he shouldn’t put any limits on what he can do this season.
“I’m actually really confident,” he said. “I think those lessons have taught me that when things get hard, just keep going and keep fighting. It taught me how to work and how to get through things. It made me who I am.”