The Press Newspaper
Ben St. John just finished his third season as a walk-on offensive lineman for the Ohio State football team.
The 6-foot-3, 285-pound St. John, a 2010 graduate of Woodmore High School who got to dress for all eight OSU home game this season, has lots of interesting stories to tell about the 2012 season.
St. John got to play for first-year coach Urban Meyer and was a member of just the sixth OSU team to go unbeaten and untied in a season in the program’s 123-year history. St. John said the players and coaching staff never spoke of going undefeated this season despite NCAA sanctions that prohibited the Buckeyes from playing in the postseason.
“It was always, ‘we’ve got to win this next game,’ ” said St. John, 20. “The season was almost like a one-game season each week. We had to find a way to get one win, then two, then three. We went out there and worked for a week to find a way to win that (next) game. It was never, ‘we’re going to go undefeated.’ It was, ‘whatever it takes, whatever you have to do on a Tuesday or a Wednesday for that Saturday, you have to do that.’ ”
Meyer, who led Florida to two national championships, came to Columbus and transformed an Ohio State team that was 6-7 in 2011 into the fourth-ranked team in the country by season’s end.
St. John said playing for Meyer is “a great experience.”
“He really, really cares about all his players,” St. John said. “You can see it when he talks to you, how much he cares. He’s like a father when he disciplines his son. He cares so much about us and our success and pushing us and bringing us to our potential. He’s not afraid to call you out if you’re not peforming up to your potential. He’ll say, ‘I know you can do so much better. How can we fix this?’ ”
St. John, who is majoring in nutrition and industry, is in line to become the fourth member of his extended family to graduate from OSU. His mom, Karen, an uncle and a cousin also graduated from Ohio State. Another cousin, John Glesser, currently attends OSU.
St. John and his mother and father, Keith, have been paying for Ben to go to school at Ohio State for three years now. He still hopes to earn a football scholarship before he graduates.
“They reward hard work,” St. John said. “I’m out there working hard every day, giving it my all. That’s all I can do. I just control what I can control. I enjoy football; I enjoy the guys. I have awesome parents. They are so supportive finding the funds and making me feel comfortable (in Columbus) while I can live my dream.”
St. John said he has lost more than 15 pounds since the 2011 season. Meyer and strength coach Mickey Marotti criticized OSU’s offensive linemen for being fat and out of shape when they took over the program last November.
“Going into my second season (last year), I was over 300 pounds,” St. John said. “The new coaches came in and really worked us and I lost a lot of body fat. I’ve done lots of running and lost a lot of muscle, too. Now, I’m just trying to get bigger, leaner and stronger.”
Marotti is known for his intensity and in-your-face demeanor. St. John said Marotti is with the players in the weight room every day for 5:15 a.m. workouts.
“He’s intense, just constant energy.” St. John said. “The 5:15 workouts, you’d better be ready to go. Coach Mick is ready to go in there, and you better be, too. It’s high energy and cool for us. You know driving to the Woody (Woody Hayes Athletic Center) to get your game face on, because it’s time to go this morning.”
Simon said the two toughest teammates to block this season were defensive end John Simon and 325-pound tackle Johnathan Hankins, a projected top-20 NFL draft pick.
“Simon is a mile a minute,” St. John said. “You think you’ve got him and he makes an inside move and you say, ‘what happened?’ Big Hank, it’s like hitting a brick wall. You nail him as hard as you can on a power play and it’s like, ‘wow, that’s like a brick wall!’”
St. John added that the most exciting game this season wasn’t the comeback overtime win against Purdue or the 63-38 rout of Nebraska under the lights.
“Absolutely it was (against) that team up north,” St. John said, referring to OSU’s 26-21 win over Michigan in the Horseshoe. “The atmosphere in there and the mentality we had going into that game, you could see red in everyone’s eyes walking onto that field. Whatever we had to do to win, there was no doubt the guys on the field were going to win that for us. To have the fans on the field at the end of the game after we put the exclamation point on the end of the season, it was just amazing.”
St. John added that he’s going to work hard to try to get some playing time next season. The Buckeyes return four starters on the offensive line in 2013.
“I feel like I’ve been getting progressively better,” St. John said. “I’m getting much better as a football player, and hopefully that continues next season.”