Every August, the 105 young men who have the privilege of representing the Ohio State University on the football field gather in Columbus. For three weeks, they will be shut out from the rest of the world, pushing their minds and bodies to the limit through a seemingly endless barrage of workouts, practices and meetings. This test is known by only one word to the men on the team: Camp.
I could type for days about what I think about camp, but I thought I would get a wider view on the overall feeling of the team as a whole. To accomplish this, I sent a text to a handful of my old teammates that simply asked, “What were your favorite and least favorite parts of camp?” I got a variety of responses. Most were expected, but there were some surprises. Here are a few of my favorites…
Ryan Pretorius: The conditioning test was my favorite, because I always won!
Jimmy Cordle: Easy. Least favorite was waking up the first day and running 20 half gassers.
Devin Barclay: The gasser test on the first day is the worst. Everyone is already nervous and over-thinking it, and when you pass, all you can think is Holy shit, I have 20 more days of this.
Our conditioning test, which consisted of 20 half gassers (across the field and back in under a certain time with very little rest between reps), came on the first morning of camp. It was universally dreaded, except apparently by 27-year-old South African former rugby players. Also, the test was pass/fail, so I am not sure what Ryan thinks he had won. (Then again, he is still learning the game of football and lamented to me today that he still does not know what a screen pass is.)
The final order of business on the night before the test was Coach Tressel reading us the following quote:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Simply reading that back sends shudders down my spine. I never failed the conditioning test, but it was always a painful struggle to the end. Those who did not pass, along with all injured players, had to go to Aquatics every morning until they passed. Former punter AJ Trapasso listed morning aquatics as his least favorite part of camp. Aquatics were held in the pool at the RPAC, the on-campus student rec center. Although not particularly difficult, aquatics were so dreaded because they were held at 6 AM. As one can imagine, sleep is extremely high on the priority list during this taxing period. The earlier wake-up call for aquatics was all the more incentive to report to camp in shape and ready to go.
Finding Personal Limits
Dimitrios Makridis: I loved pushing the body to the max (physically and mentally), surprising yourself every day with how much your body can handle, and ultimately learning the invaluable lesson of how possible the seemingly impossible really is; how durable the mind and body really are.
I loved this answer. We were pushed so hard by our coaches and teammates to be our best that we were constantly redefining what our best was. Seeing the team improve and come together more and more every day was such an awesome thing to see and feel. We fought tooth and nail together all year, and the way it all came together as the season neared was such a fulfilling feeling. All the blood and sweat would be worth it when we wore that Scarlet and Gray into the stadium in only a few weeks. We always learned so much and progressed so much in only a few short weeks that it almost seemed unfathomable at the beginning. As a quote in the Winners Manual stated, Its kind of fun to do the impossible.
Devin Barclay: I loved entrenching myself in nothing but football for 20 days. You get a taste for what it would be like to be a professional and hone in on your craft.
Every player in camp has one major personal goal in mind. That goal is to be the starter when week one rolls around. Even in college football, the competition is cutthroat. The level of focus it takes to reach ones full potential is incredible. Long snapper Jake McQuaide said that his least favorite part of camp was the positional battles which would change players and drive friends apart. In the end we were all on the same team, but our individual goals were also the same. We wanted to be on the field, and we were fighting our best friends for that opportunity. At a place like Ohio State, every player was the star of their high school team. Every player was good enough to deserve a spot on the field. However, only one guy earned the spot at each position. The finest line decipher whether you were that guy or not, and the tension that this pressure created could be uncomfortable to say the least.
*Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for part two when I reveal the thoughts of opinions from more former Buckeyes, including Beanie Wells, Jake Ballard and more.