It’s been roughly three months since students have had a chance to see Ohio State football live. On Saturday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, they were afforded another opportunity.
Although nowhere near the magnitude of the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff National Championship game, flocks of students still made the trip across the Olentangy River to take part in the fourth annual Student Appreciation Day.
The event began in 2012 during Urban Meyer’s first spring as coach at OSU. The goal is to connect students with players and allow them to get an up-close look at the upcoming year’s team during the intrasquad practice.
Those in attendance had more to do than watch practice, though.
The National Championship trophy was on display for photographs and there were numerous opportunities to get involved with players — like participating in warmups with the team, as some students were selected to do.
Jennifer Davies, a first-year in health information management and systems, participated in warmups and said she enjoyed the event.
“The players don’t seem real when you’re watching them from the stands and now, I am getting to run alongside them,” she said. “It was all just really fun.”
Student involvement continued during practice when Meyer selected a young woman from the crowd to come onto the field to play quarterback. She took a handful of snaps and handed the ball off to redshirt-junior running back Bri’onte Dunn.
Shortly after, another student was called onto the turf to kick field goals. He nailed a 24-yard attempt — barefoot — prompting thunderous applause from fellow students, but also players and coaches. It also convinced the coaches to let him move back and try a 31-yard kick, which he made on his third attempt.
The semifinals for the fastest student competition were held after practice. The winners of each of the three heats are set to run a 40-yard dash against select players next weekend during OSU’s annual Spring Game at Ohio Stadium.
Nick Bishop, a first-year in biomedical science, said he loved the way the students were included in the practice.
“It was really great to see students intertwined into the drills. The whole day just made me even more excited for next season to start,” Bishop said.
Some of the student-athletes said they also enjoyed the day.
“This is my third year doing this Student Appreciation Day type of thing,” redshirt-sophomore cornerback Eli Apple said. “I think it’s fun to get that great interaction with the students that you don’t really have too much, so it’s great.”