Next year, for the first time since 2011, Josh Alabi and Mike Weber won’t be teammates. The lineman and the running back first met as 9th graders at Detroit’s football powerhouse Cass Tech.
“I met Mike my freshman year of high school,” Alabi said. “We were both actually injured so that’s when our connection started.”
Four years later, Alabi was rated as one of the 10 best players in the state of Michigan, and committed to Ohio State.
Weber was ranked even higher, considered the 7th-best running back in the nation, and a top-100 player overall. He committed to Michigan in August 2014, then flipped to Ohio State that December. But his final choice went all the way down to the wire.
There was drama surrounding his destination until the moment he signed his Letter of Intent to be a Buckeye, and throughout that whole process, Alabi played a big role in getting him to Columbus.
“He was committed to Ohio State and I was committed to Michigan at the time. He was always putting the Ohio State bug in my ear and I used to always deny it like, ‘No, I’m not supposed to go there.’ I think it’s worked out,” Weber said at Rose Bowl Media Day on Sunday.
The game on January 1 will be the final act of Weber’s Buckeye career. He has already announced that he’s headed to the NFL after the season.
But while the running back who has starred for three seasons is headed out the door, the lineman may be about to get his first chance to start.
Alabi has been practicing with the first team at left tackle this week. The usual starter there, Thayer Munford is getting treatment for an undisclosed injury and offensive coordinator Ryan Day said he will be a “game-time decision.”
If Munford can’t play, then Alabi and Weber will have one final chance to play together.
“I’ve seen all the work he’s put in, he’s seen all the work I’ve put in from day one. So seeing that pay off in the Rose Bowl in front of millions of people, it would be a good feeling,” Weber said.
This would be the first start of Alabi’s career, and he said he’s ready if his number is called.
“We’ve been having some great practices as a whole unit as an offensive line,” Alabi said. “I just thank God for just giving me the opportunity, and I feel very prepared for the game.”
Alabi credited Munford for helping make sure he was ready to go if needed.
“Me and Thayer have great communication through the whole season. We always push each other,” Alabi said. “I love that guy and I hope that he gets better.”
If Munford can’t go, it could provide a poetic end to Weber’s college career – the chance to potentially run for a touchdown behind a guy he’s spent more than a third of his life playing with.
After the clock hits zero on Tuesday night, Alabi and Weber won’t be teammates any more, but they’ll definitely still be friends.
“A very funny guy, has a lot of personality,” Alabi said. “I’m going to miss him for sure.”
“He’s always been there for me. Not just with football, but with life, life lessons and through obstacles and stuff like that,” Weber said. “He’s one of my great friends out of a few guys, and he will be for a long time.”