Ohio State takes a lot of pride in recruiting Ohio natives, but 63 players from this year’s roster are from beyond Ohio’s borders.
One reason the Buckeyes love to recruit in-state players is because they without-a-doubt understand the magnitude of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. They grow up watching these games. It is imprinted on them at a very early age.
For the others on the team, however, they have to learn about The Game in other ways, and that includes Ohio State head coach Ryan Day.
Growing up in New Hampshire, Day only has a few memories of The Game. Unlike many former Ohio State coaches, growing up in Ohio and watching the Ohio State-Michigan game as a child wasn’t an experience that Day had.
He knew of the rivalry in the past from being a sports fan, but it wasn’t until he arrived in Columbus that he began to truly understand what this game meant to Ohio State.
“For the first, I don’t know, six months my son and I, when we came in the building together, we’d sit there in the front atrium and watch the video of the season before,” Day said. “Just as you get here, you start to live it every day, you understand it.”
Day also had quite the mentor in Urban Meyer to show him the way. Meyer, of course, finished 7-0 against the Wolverines.
“Coach Meyer certainly talked about it all the time, learned that way,” Day said. “Then being in the game twice, the respect that I have for the rivalry is off the charts. It’s one of the reasons it makes it so special to be at Ohio State.”
Sophomore offensive guard Wyatt Davis — a Bellflower, California native — got his first lesson on the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry the hard way as a recruit.
“Before I got here, I never understood the rivalry but I was wearing a blue tank top in the facility and one of the hosts was like, ‘Do you have a jacket or anything? Take that off because you’re not allowed to wear blue.’ And I’m just kind of sitting there like, well, it’s like 100 degrees in the summer and I got a full jacket on but I did,” Davis said smiling.
But the jacket wasn’t quite enough.
“I guess word got to Coach Meyer, and I had the jacket on,” Davis said. “He unzipped it and he was like, ‘Do you have that ugly color on?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ So I was like, ‘Okay, well, yeah, I definitely won’t do that again.’ But no, that made me realize that this is this is real. This is, it’s very historic and we take that very serious around here.”
Most players will tell you that you only come to a full understanding of the rivalry once you play in it.
For junior linebacker and Illinois native Tuf Borland, playing in the game was an eye-opening experience. It was then that he truly grasped the greatest rivalry in sports.
“Coming in here, you have no idea what this means,” Borland said. “Until you actually play in the game and gain some experience, then you kind of gain some insight on what this means.”