Coming from a small town where cows are more populous than people, anyone featured on TV for more than 13 seconds is an instant celebrity.
Here at Ohio State in old Columbus town, we are surrounded with these “hometown heros.” On trek to MarketPlace we collide with athletes featured on ESPN and all over our nation. It’s easy to find our very own “OSU celebs” sitting in the same lecture hall, taking the same midterm.
Most schools do not have these close encounters with “fame,” but on our campus we have our own equivalent to royalty.
When I had the opportunity to interview Aaron Craft, men’s basketball point guard and Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, I’m not going to lie, I was slightly intimidated.
OK, slightly is an understatement.
Four hits of the inhaler later and I was good to go for chatting with one of these “celebrities.”
Craft is a first-year, Ohio native hailing from a small town much like where I am from. I figured the exercise-science major would have countless stories of being starstruck and having ridiculous fan encounters, but I was pleasantly surprised with how humble and easy-to-talk-to Craft was.
“I used to joke with Jared (Sullinger) and the other guys because they always got the spotlight and I just slid by. I enjoyed that,” Craft said. “It wasn’t until we took team pictures in the fall and I got to put on the Ohio State jersey with my name on it for the first time until I realized this was real.”
In my mind, I envisioned screaming girls chasing Craft to the Union and countless demands for photos. However, Craft said he wasn’t recognized until “after the Florida game since it was the first on ESPN, but I think people mostly recognize my red cheeks, not really me.”
The red cheeks have become a trademark of the Findlay, Ohio, native who claims his most awkward fan experience was signing someone’s forehead.
“I didn’t enjoy that because that was skin,” he said.
Besides being recognized for his impeccable defense, Craft, like myself, is an active member of Athletes in Action Sports Ministry and RealLIFE. When asked if he minds the “paparazzi” at these organizations with photo requests, he said he “doesn’t mind at all.”
“I’m just happy to play for a school where students watch the basketball games. I wouldn’t trade the 19,000 fans in the (Schottenstein Center) for anything,” Craft said.
Craft handles his rise to fame with class, thanks to the encouragement of his family and teammates, in particular Jon Diebler.
“It’s just how my parents raised me, to eat humble pie. Jon (Diebler) and Atheletes in Action help to remind me that I’m not here on my own. It never goes back to me. Jon told me once that it doesn’t matter what anyone else is saying; not on TV or on campus. It’s about the team and the coaches and listening to them. That’s what helps the team the most.”
Whether he’s playing Call of Duty with Diebler or participating in a competitive game of pingpong with the rest of the men’s basketball team, Craft thinks highly of his fans.
“I love every single one of them. It’s awesome to hear them cheer for you, it’s awesome when they yell at the other teams, it’s awesome that they know my name. I never take any of them for granted,” Craft said.
With such a drastic change from coming from a high school with 111 graduates to a university of more than 50,000, one would think the goal-oriented Craft would experience a change in the way he handles the game he loves so much.
“It’s a humbling experience. I came from a league where we played on stages,” he said. “It helps me relax and remember where I come from and how I got here in the first place. I really enjoy being here (Ohio State).”
Every situation comes with positives and negatives, and playing for a basketball team that is as popular as Rebecca Black is no exception.
“The positives are the fans and the people you get to meet and talk to,” Craft said. “The negatives are not being able to watch my sister play on her AAU team.”
School and academics are a challenge, but Craft tackles the chaos head-on.
“Sometimes it’s hard to actually want to do the work, but that happens for everyone. You just have to do it,” he said.
As far as talking to people in classes, Craft says, “it’s easier in small classes. Once someone asks about basketball or something it kind of loosens the mood.”
Craft says the strangest part of being recognized on campus is how “one person will tell one person and that person will tell another. They just keep talking, but they won’t say anything to me.”
Craft admits to missing his hometown and family.
“I haven’t been home since Christmas break. I assume it won’t be any different. I miss home-cooked meals though. Those are the best.”
Craft is thankful for the opportunity to wear scarlet and gray.
“Being at OSU is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I don’t foresee any other place being like this. We have the greatest fans, and we appreciate everything that they do.”
He might not be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or attending the Royal Wedding, but he’s an athlete at OSU, and with that comes it’s own fame.