Will Kacmarek always believed he could play at a place like Ohio State, but like many 2021 high school prospects, the pandemic left him woefully underrecruited.
Listed as a 2-star recruit and ranked the No. 407 defensive lineman in the nation, Kacmarek’s biggest offer eventually came from Ohio University. The St. Louis native took the offer and worked to make the most of it at tight end.
After redshirting as a true freshman in 2021, Kacmarek caught 20 or more passes in each of his next two seasons. Following the 2023 season, Kacmarek made the decision to enter the transfer portal because he believed he could play at a higher level of college ball.
“I knew since high school I had this in me,” Kacmarek said last week.
“I mean, I’m trying to play the best football possible. I’m trying to be the best player possible. So I think that was just in the back of my head, knowing that I can be at this level.”
Kacmarek credits Ohio University for leading him to this opportunity. He put in the work every day and played his hardest in every game. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave, and the stress didn’t end once he entered the portal.
But he credits Ohio State tight ends coach Keenan Bailey for calming his nerves.
“No, that time, it was very stressful,” Kacmarek explained. “As soon as I entered it was just non-stop phone calls. Me and Kee got along really easily and I just loved the coaches here. One thing led to another and I just knew this was home. It’s not too far from Ohio, so it was an easy move. And it’s one of the best programs in the country, so that was a no-brainer.”
Ohio State contacted him “pretty quickly” once he entered the portal, and they weren’t alone. Kacmarek played in OU’s bowl game, which means he entered the portal later than most. But the connection with Ohio State stood out and he knew early on that this was where he wanted to be.
“It’s a dream come true,” he admitted. “Ever since I’ve been young, it’s been a dream to play at the highest level. And now that I’m here, it’s really exciting and I’m pumped for this opportunity.”
The Buckeyes will be searching for a new starting tight end this year. Cade Stover departs for the NFL after finishing with 41 receptions for 576 yards and five touchdowns last year. Stover’s numbers were good for second on the team in each category behind All-American receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr.
Stover’s 77 receptions over the last two seasons were impossible for Will Kacmarek to ignore when exploring his options.
“That was very exciting, they utilize him a lot,” Kacmarek said. “In the run game, and in the pass game he had a bunch of yards. I’m excited to explore the skill set that I have.“
Part of Kacmarek’s skill set is his frame at 6-foot-6 and 255-odd pounds. He is a large target but he also loves the physicality that the position requires. The way Ohio State uses their tight ends in the run game and pass game fits exactly what Kacmarek likes to do.
“I love to block,” he said. “And I love to catch passes and stuff like that, and they use both aspects. I just think it’s a really cool opportunity for me.”
When Kacmarek was at Ohio University, he was surrounded by Buckeye fans. Students were adorned in Scarlet and Gray. Ironically, he had to leave OU to join them. The Scarlet and Gray that he will be wearing, however, will be quite a bit different.
And when the pads go on, don’t underestimate what Will Kacmarek can do and why he’ll do it.
“I believe I’m a selfless player,” he said. “I’ll do anything it takes to get the win or get the first down or a yard. I like to play hard and I like to get my nose dirty. I just love football.”