COLUMBUS, Ohio - It all started with a simple question posed by Special Olympics coach Steve Weaver to Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer five years go: Would Ohio State be willing to participate in a football training camp for his athletes and bring Buckeye players as guest coaches. The answer was a resounding yes.
Now, in 2017, the event - called The Special Skills Invitational - has grown to include approximately 400 athletes from 14 counties all over Ohio. Although weather forced it inside to the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility on Thursday, the campers spirits were brightened as approximately 30 players put them through a variety of station drills. Meyer also made an appearance, taking his time to walk around to each station while interacting and taking pictures with the campers.
We love having our friends from The Special Skills Invitational at the Woody! 🤝 pic.twitter.com/Wv1lMtScvx
-- Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) July 19, 2017
"The whole goal of this event is to show the community that these kids can do more than anyone thinks they can," said Weaver. "They come here with such great energy. They're engaged, they're excited and the Buckeye players and staff bring that as well."
Weaver said that Meyer agreed to speak to his athletes - the Goodwill Gladiators - at its end end-of-the-year banquet in January of 2015, shortly after the Buckeyes' College Football Playoff National Championship run. At that time, Weaver broached the subject of bringing the camp to Ohio State (it had been held at Hilliard Bradley High School in 2013 and 2014).
"He didn't hesitate for a second - the answer was yes," said Weaver. "His players are tremendous. They get it. Every year, more and more of them have come out. I think they get as much out of it as our athletes do."
Sponsored by Kroger and Goodwill Columbus, The Special Skills Invitational featured over 100 volunteers. Included in the group of players who served as coaches for the day were safeties Jordan Fuller and Damon Webb, linebackers Justin Hilliard, Pete Werner, and Chris Worley and long snapper Liam McCullough. The athletes were put through some of the same drills that the Buckeyes will be perfecting when training camp opens - slamming tackling dummies to the ground, dragging weights and sprinting while strapped to parachutes.
"This is something that these kids will remember forever," said Weaver. "I can't thank Ohio State and the football program enough. Everything they do is first class the entire way."