Springs Told Buckeyes to “Start Acting Like Ohio State”
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the bells ringing and the fervor growing inside the Horseshoe, one man stood in the Ohio State locker room.
He was more than familiar with the setting, but not under these conditions. Not with the Buckeyes fighting for their lives, not to mention their season, in a primetime matchup with No. 15-ranked Wisconsin.
This man was not alone—not even close—but for a moment he captured all of the attention just before the Buckeyes ran down the tunnel and out onto the field in front of the seventh-largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Right before the Wisconsin game, we had a guest speaker that talked about us winning that game,” sophomore wide receiver Corey Brown said Tuesday.
“That game being the biggest hump for us to get over and then try to win out and get to the Big Ten championship game.”
That speaker was honorary captain Shawn Springs.
“He was just trying to put in our head what type of attitude we should have,” Brown said.
“He was basically telling us that we’re Ohio State and we should start acting like it. He hasn’t seen the traditional Ohio State the first couple weeks. He just wants us to get that swagger back about us and start acting like Ohio State.”
The Buckeyes looked completely inept offensively in their first two losses to Miami (Fla.) and Michigan State, and then they blew a 21-point lead in the second half at Nebraska. They were just 4-3 heading into the game against Wisconsin, a team that ruined their chances at a national championship a year ago.
“He just wanted to make sure we knew who we were and what we represent,” safety C.J. Barnett said of Springs, who played on the same OSU defenses as Luke Fickell.
“He wanted to make sure we went out and represented it the right way.”
Playing football at Ohio State comes with a certain amount of hubris, and few players better exemplified that than Springs. A two-time all-conference cornerback and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for the Buckeyes in the mid-1990s, Springs was as loud as he was good.
He redshirted as a freshman in 1993, but by the middle of the season everyone could see that Springs was already the best corner on the team. If they didn’t know, Springs wasn’t shy about letting them in on the secret.
The son of former OSU running back Ron Springs was flashy and bold. He wore diamond-studded earrings and he barked at Ohio State receivers in practice, but Springs backed it up every step of the way.
During his four years on campus—which were also Fickell’s four years as a starter—the Buckeyes were 41-8-1 with two Big Ten titles and a victory over Arizona State in the Rose Bowl.
Springs left after his redshirt junior season. He was taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1997 draft by the Seattle Seahawks and would become a Pro Bowl corner at the next level.
“Somebody like Shawn Springs who has done what he’s done,” Barnett said.
“Just to see that passion that he had, how much he cared for us and cared for the program. That was really good.”
It was a message this particular Ohio State team needed to hear after all the turmoil they went through during the off-season. After a few losses, everyone was quick to discount Ohio State, but Springs reminded them that they aren’t just playing for themselves when they take the field.
“I think it helped our confidence a lot just to go out there and make sure we know what we stand for and what we play for,” Barnett said.
“The people before us and the people that are gonna come after us. Just make sure we keep it going.”
Center Michael Brewster has said numerous times that his goal for this season is to leave the program better than he found it. That may not be possible, but he can certainly leave it better than it looked three weeks ago.
After beating Wisconsin 33-29 Saturday following that pre-game speech from Springs, the Buckeyes are right in the thick of the hunt for another Big Ten title. If they can win their last four games—all very winnable games—the Buckeyes would have a tremendous shot of getting to Indianapolis for a potential rematch with either Nebraska or Michigan State.
If they do make it, most will point to the upset over the Badgers as the turning point of the season. For Brown, that happened a week early.
“I felt that after Illinois,” he said.
“I felt the offense starting to click a little more. The defense is looking good. Special teams is coming around. As a team we’re gelling to be pretty good.”
‘Pretty good’ won’t cut it for people like Springs, who expects greatness out of his alma Mater.
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