I know that you can look at every single layer of this football program and find examples of just how close this team is. One example of that came after Lathan Ransom’s interception against Michigan State. It was Josh Proctor celebrating with Ransom over on the bench. These are two guys who impact each other’s playing time, and yet it was the two of them on the bench having a good time. They rarely co-exist on the field together, but back on the sideline they’re side by side. They are two players, but it feels like together they’re a singular position.
I think I’ve talked about other examples of the team’s closeness this season as well, like Zach Harrison and JT Tuimoloau voluntarily planted together at an interview table having a grand old time, or Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson celebrating each other’s accomplishments. This happens when people are bought in to the overriding goal. Players without egos can attack any role or job you give them, and if every role is shown to be important, there’s no reason for ego to come into play. But that starts with culture and recruiting the right guys, and then preaching it every day until it becomes part of their genetic code.
I wonder where this team ranks in terms of closeness. Players have told me it’s the closest team they’ve been a part of, but that may just be a two- or three-year measurement. I don’t know what the best metric for closeness is, but like anything else, making declarative statements about a team at the midpoint in a season before they’ve faced any real tests can be a foolhardy thing.
I know the reason I keep bringing this up is because I will never forget the image of Mike Weber ripping off his tape and angrily throwing it into a trash can in the locker room after OSU’s 27-21 in the 2017 Big Ten Championship Game. He had just four carries in that game and was clearly not happy about it. I’m always on the lookout for stuff like that and I haven’t seen it anywhere with this team. This team is enjoying themselves, enjoying each other, and enjoying the grind. They can get punched in the face, lift their head up, show a missing front tooth with a wide grin, and then say, “Good try.”
I think another great example of the closeness of this team is the way Jim Knowles interacts with his linebackers, and the way they all talk about each other. Steele Chambers has talked this season about how Knowles is always “on his ass” about everything. And there’s some poking involved in their relationship. Like Knowles telling him “I see why you moved to defense” after being tackled by the QB on his interception return against Rutgers. But it’s also shown in Knowles’ impression of Tommy Eichenberg, which just featured grunts and quizzical looks. It’s basically family making fun of family, and those are the best families to be a part of.
I wonder if people are still unhappy with Zach Harrison’s production. He has had some dominating games…
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