‘Elevating My Game Every Day’: Hero Kanu Building on Strong Spring

Every football player remembers their first sack.

Defensive tackle Hero Kanu recalls the first of his Buckeyes career well. It came Week 1 at Indiana last season when he toppled Hoosiers quarterback Brendan Sorsby for a loss of five yards.

Kanu made another impact in Week 9 at Wisconsin when defensive line coach Larry Johnson called on him during the fourth quarter in which he got a stop on 2nd and 7 setting up a third down that Ohio State nullified while ahead 17-10.

“Indiana was obviously my first sack. I was like, what? Did it just happen?” Kanu said recently. “So that was awesome. That obviously gave me like a turning point to just show the world that I can play. And then the one play in Wisconsin, he was like, ‘We need Hero, go in.’ I made a play, and that’s all it’s about.”

Development and progress are the names of the game for Kanu entering his third year at Ohio State, and he’s accomplishing both during spring practice.

Kanu said his goal has been maximizing reps this spring.

“I feel I’m just elevating my game every day,” he said. “Coach J is pushing me to just get better every day, to focus on the small things because it’s never the big things. It’s always like your small step, small technique. And he’s trying to fix that. And overall, I feel like I’m improving so well that I’m not worried about anything else right now.”

Kanu first arrived at Ohio State as part of the class of 2022 from California, and a native of Geltendorf, Germany.

Among his first loves was soccer, something he also excelled at. Kanu played at the club level, and he said he was “getting recruited by major teams” as a goalkeeper.

Standing nearly 6-foot-5 and weighing 305 pounds on Ohio State’s official roster, Kanu’s body makes for a unique fit on the pitch, and he said in the years leading up to his move to high school in the United States that he eventually decided soccer wasn’t what he was best suited for.

”You kind of outgrow the sport at 6-4 and 250,” Kanu said. “I didn’t like the whole mentality. So I was like, ‘I need something new.’ And at the same moment, football came into my life.”

Kanu was involved with Premier Players International, an overseas football scouting service designed to expose American football to high schoolers. After finding the game to his liking, Kanu relocated to the U.S., enrolling at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Now, a little over two years later, he’s looking to become Ohio State’s next breakout defensive lineman.

“They’re just playing the game,” Johnson said of young group of defensive linemen. “More knowledge of the game, how to play it, gaining football IQ and just continuing to work on their techniques. And that’s never going to stop and I think that’s what’s happening right now.”

Kanu and Johnson have built their relationship over the years starting in the recruiting process. Johnson is known for forging connections and nurturing a strong bond to elevate a player to the next step in their game.

When Kanu first took the field at the college level, he had to adjust to the level of physicality and just how much is demanded from each player on each play. It’s brought out a more focused, determined, and meaner player on the field, and he attributed that to working with Johnson.

“I feel like I’m naturally a nice guy. And coach J definitely had to push it a little bit, so I think he did a great job of just bringing it out of me,” Kanu said. “He’s had time to work with me now for two years and even through recruiting. So I think he did a great job doing that.”

Ohio State will hold its spring game April 13 which will be televised by FOX, bringing the attention of the college football world to the ‘Shoe in Columbus.

Kanu said he values “more game reps overall” and he’s eager to show the improvements he’s made since the end of his second season last fall. He’s not taken aback by the added media presence that will be on the field at Ohio Stadium, rather, he’s focused on how he can get better before the next play.

“So no disrespect to any TV or something, but honestly, I don’t care,” Kanu said. “It’s another practice we have as a team and I think I’m sure the rest of the team feels the same way. We don’t care about the cameras. That’s all nice and flashy, but we’re about the grind. We’re about the practice, you know? We’re getting ready to win a championship at the end of the season.”

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