When you become a firefighter, you learn how to fight fires. When you become a teacher, you learn how to handle 25 agitated children in a confined space. When you become an astronaut, you learn how to walk slowly on a movie set and keep a secret.
And when you become a Buckeye, you learn how to appreciate a rivalry the way nature intended.
Everybody knows about the Ohio State rivalry with Michigan. Even non sports fans.
Yet, even those who choose Ohio State can still be caught off guard by what the rivalry means in Columbus.
Every Buckeye football practice has a “Team Up North” period, even the bowl practices well after the Michigan game has come and gone.
Winter workouts are no different, which took freshman running back Marcus Crowley by surprise.
“Yeah, the Team Up North workout that we do every week, that definitely shocked me,” he said. “It caught me off guard and it was my welcome to college moment.”
What exactly is the Team Up North workout?
“Well, we’ll be in the weight room before everything and then however many days it is until we play the Team Up North, we’ve got to do that many abs,” he said. “Just a straight ab workout and pushups. It’s definitely a grind.”
Crowley comes from Florida, but understood pretty early what The Game means, and he will no doubt continue to learn.
For freshman defensive end Noah Potter, he grew up in Mentor, Ohio as an OSU fan and already had a pretty good idea of the stakes, but even he learned quickly that he had no idea how serious things were.
“Today during mat drills they were playing the TUN fight song,” he said. “It was like, ‘Dang, they really take it seriously.’ I have always been a Buckeye fan my whole life so I know what it is, but they take it another level here.”
The Team Up North workout has also taken on a little bit more intrigue this year now that head coach Ryan Day has added former Wolverine assistants Greg Mattison and Al Washington.
Having finally gotten off of the road the last few weeks, Mattison and Washington are now getting to experience the workouts first hand.
“They have to be juiced up just like we have to be juiced up,” Crowley explained. “All the coaches are juiced up. You can’t come in there with a low energy. You can’t come in the weight room with a low energy, you aren’t going to survive. They’ll kick you right back out. But definitely the coaches that have transferred here, they’re getting used to it just like I’m getting used to it and everything is going to be great.”
Both Mattison and Washington adjusted in their own ways. Washington’s father is former OSU linebacker Alvin Washington, so he grew up knowing what this game meant. For Mattison, even though he spent 13 years of his coaching career at the University of Michigan, he still had questions.
“He said its going to take some time to get used to,” Potter said of Mattison. “He questioned why they take the rivalry so seriously. And that’s why we’ve been so successful. We base our entire program around the game. That’s why.”
Wait, what? Mattison wondered why the rivalry is so important?
“He questioned it why we took it so seriously,” Potter said. “Then Coach Mick was like, ‘It’s The Game.’ Our whole program revolves around that.”
Mattison will continue to adapt to what the rivalry means on this side of the grass, so Buckeye fans shouldn’t get too worried.
Ohio State’s newest quarterback is also being taught about The Game.
“I definitely knew it was a big rivalry, but coming here and actually seeing all the Ms crossed out, it’s definitely way bigger than I thought it would be,” said sophomore quarterback Justin Fields.
When asked what his teammates have told him about the rivalry, he did not want to reveal what was said, but he certainly appears to be a fast learner.
“That’s kind of private, but just know there’s a lot of hate for the Team Up North,” he said.
“I’ll definitely be excited about that upcoming game.”