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Monday, September 4, 2017

2017 Friday Night Light's From a Fan's Perspective.

Last Friday, I took my annual pilgrimage to the iconic, though currently being renovated, Ohio Stadium. Along with the Spring Game, these are two events I have penciled in on my calendar every year. With escalating ticket prices, these venues are perfect for the rabid Buckeye fan who can’t afford to otherwise go to games. While it’s nowhere near the game day atmosphere, FNL is perfect for if you want to be in Ohio Stadium with some of the atmosphere, but not all the headaches. Parking was free and I sat in the very first row on the 30 yard line. All I needed was for the weather to cooperate (more on that later).

I took my seat with my pristine view of the field, armed only with my decrepit iPad Camera (which I hope to upgrade, Lord willing). Let me give you a rundown of my experience since many of you folks didn’t have a chance to attend.

In the past, Friday Night Lights has served as a recruiting event primarily. It has attracted some of the top high school talent in the nation. With OSU currently engrossed in one of the best recruiting runs in school history, many folks thought there would be multiple booms (AKA commitments). Mark Pantoni coined the term to use for social media when a top prospect commits to OSU.

With OSU’s brand firmly established, FNL’s focus has shifted to be less about hype (booms) and more about relationships and instruction. Prospects come to learn and develop their games from arguably some of the best college staffs in the country and compete against the greatest athletes (iron sharpens iron). To use Gene Smith’s verbiage, we don’t need gimmicks and circus stunts to “jumpstart our program,” like our neighbors to the North. FNL serves not only as a stellar camp, but it affords an opportunity for current, and former Buckeyes to mingle with current commits and develop chemistry amongst Buckeye nation.

Paying it forward:

FNL”s isn’t just about X’s and O’s. Former Buckeye and current Los Angeles Charger, Joshua Perry was given a chance to address the campers. With rapt attention, campers sat at midfield as Perry spoke to them about what it takes to be a Buckeye, both on and off the field. Perry was not only paying it forward but he was paying it back for all that OSU has done for him and the opportunities and doors OSU has opened. Perry walks the walk as a man of faith and conviction using his platform for good and for the benefit of others.

Here is JT Barrett with the Ambassador (Zeke’s father) graciously posing with a fan:

Super fan sighting:

One of Joshua Perry’s favorite super fans and special friend of the program, Jacob Jarvis made an appearance at FNL’s with his father. Jarvis is well known among Buckeye nation as the young man with Duchenne Muscular dystrophy who Urban Meyer and the team has adopted as their own. OSU made him an honorary team member for life during their mythical run to the national championship in 2014. If you remember during the Spring Game there was not a dry eye in the stadium as OSU fed Jacob the ball in the 4th quarter.  Jacob juked and jived his way for a TD much to the delight of the team and the thousands of college football fans watching both in person and on television and social media. Friday Night Lights is for Super Fans like Jacob.

Here is Jacob at FNL’s with his father getting ready to take in the action:

The Price is right:

While many believe J.T is arguably the most important player returning this season, I would argue that fifth year senior and Co-Captain Billy Price might be just as important for OSU’s on field success this season. Urban reiterated the importance of strong leadership at the BIG Ten media Day, “We have three 5th year seniors here with me today representing Ohio State and I don’t know if I’ve ever had that before. Nowadays, 5th year seniors are hard to find.” (BTN)

I sat next to Billy’s father for part of the evening. He is excited to see his son’s switch to Center, much like that of Pat Elflein last year.  Mr. Price has supreme confidence that his son will embrace the mantle of leadership and serve as a key cog in this year’s national championship run.
After seeing him myself up close, I have no doubt that Billy will make the transition smoothly and effectively. He looks the part, on and off the field. It’s clear he hasn’t been spending time at the Golden Corral, but rather in the gym under the watchful eye of Coach Mick.

Here is Billy Price and Demetrius Knox walking over to hear Josh Perry address the campers:

Urban’s greatest hire:

Many believe when Urban Meyer first took the job at OSU, that his two most important hires were Strength and Conditioning Coach Mickey Marotti and Mark Pantoni, Director of Player Personnel. Pantoni is Urban’s right hand man. As I glimpsed across the field looking for Urban Meyer, I noticed one thing; wherever Urban Meyer was, Pantoni was attached at the hip. They were inseparable. Pantoni, who I have been told has a photographic memory, was helping Urban adeptly navigate the hundreds of campers in attendance. FNL’s is now a well-oiled machine and it’s easy to see why that’s the case. It’s because of Mark Pantoni.

Rain or shine:

I was nervous earlier in the day, as I saw it was raining and cloudy in Columbus for much of the day. I thought to myself, “Please don’t let it rain on FNL’s.” The camp will resonate and have a much greater impact if it is held in Ohio Stadium and not in the confines of the WHAC. Much to my delight as FNL’s approached, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. Around 8pm, it started to sprinkle. My nerves returned. The lady next to me with her fancy weather app assured me that it would clear. I joked with her that Pantoni is so good; he even orchestrated the weather and kept it from raining on the campers.

After stowing my backpack with my decrepit iPad away under a bench and praying the weather would clear, something spectacular happened. Slowly but surely the clouds parted and a double rainbow in its entire splendor was revealed from one end of the stadium to the other. I mentioned on twitter that, “The skies opened and the propitious smiles of heaven descended upon Ohio stadium.” While people were intent on watching the action on the field I was preoccupied with capturing this moment of Divine Providence on my substandard iPad camera. I joked to the family next to me that, “Pantoni sure is good, He even orchestrated the rainbow over Ohio Stadium.”  Imagine how memorable that would be for recruits? As if Ohio Stadium isn’t memorable enough.

While I don’t believe that it was Pantoni who brought the rainbow, I do believe that God is active in the affairs of men. Is God an Ohio State fan? Not necessarily.  “The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.” But for this brief moment I though God smiled on Ohio Stadium. As long as we keep paying it forward, stay humble, and do things the right way perhaps we can continue cultivating that favor and blessing.

In conclusion, I want to take the opportunity to commend you for making it to the end of my article. In today’s fast food and microwave society we have lost the ability to maintain attention. Not many people read anymore. It’s much easier to click on a thirty second video or watch a funny gif on social media (not that there is anything wrong with that).

I hope you continue to follow us on this journey together towards the start of the Buckeye season. I plan to ramp up my writing as the season approaches & I hope to provide some good content to keep you engaged and coming back. Thank you for listening and always pay attention. You never know when you might have the chance to pay it forward in someone’s life and you just might notice a rainbow emerging out of the clouds of life.

Until next time, 

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2017 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.
Originally printed in @twssbuckeyeblog
Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

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