by Chris Cullum | Athletics Communications Assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio-- Earlier this week, head coach Urban Meyer talked about getting ready for Indiana, with the first game of the season now just a couple weeks away ("it's game-ready week and situation week," were his own words). After a few weeks of camp getting ready for the 2017 season, now the Buckeyes are really getting ready for this upcoming campaign.
But it was something Meyer did on Saturday that might be even more impactful than getting geared up for the Hoosiers. A pair of former walk-ons, Elijaah Goins and Zach Turnure, officially became scholarship players on the Ohio State football team. Goins walked on in the spring of 2015 and Turnure walked on in the fall of 2014. Both players will be seniors in 2017.
"That's one of the great things you get to do as a coach," Meyer said about his two newest scholarship players. "I always tell our team, there's things I have to do that I can't stand, and that's when a guy makes a stupid decision or just deal with nonsense. Then this is my favorite decision, when you see deserving people and the NCAA allows us to do it, and we put two, Elijaah Goins starts on special teams and so does Zach, and it was great, and our players loved it."
These two Buckeyes follow in the footsteps of Joe Burger and Craig Fada, two former players who walked on and received scholarships from Meyer prior to the 2016 season. Burger was even voted a team captain last season.
For Turnure, it's actually not even his first Ohio State athletics scholarship. He originally came to Columbus and played on the lacrosse team as a freshman. He was a U.S. Lacrosse All-American in high school and was All-State in both lacrosse and football, and three years ago this fall he made the decision to return to the gridiron.
"That was huge," Turnure said of his decision to give up his lacrosse scholarship. "It was a personal thing; I love both sports, I've played both sports my whole life, I just missed football so much. I really just wanted to get back on the field and take a shot at it. I felt like I was missing out on it by not doing that, so I just wanted to opportunity to play football again."
So Turnure worked, and worked, and worked, eventually earning a spot on special teams in 2016 and playing in 12 games for the Buckeyes. All that work culminated in a scholarship offer from Meyer on Saturday.
"It's always been a huge goal of mine to play here and earn a scholarship on the team," Turnure said. "I just chipped away at it and it felt so accomplishing to earn that scholarship."
To make the moment even more special, Turnure's parents were there when the announcement was made, and they were just as excited as he was.
"The experience was incredible," he said. "It felt like all the hard work, the decision I made, the whole journey was totally worth it. It was an amazing feeling."
For Goins may not have jumped from one sport to the other, but he had similarly difficult challenges in his way to becoming a scholarship football player.
A two-time OSU Scholar Athlete who is majoring in pharmaceutical sciences, Goins made the decision to walk on in the spring of 2015. He quickly found that juggling a challenging major, football, and a job at CVS was exhausting mentally, physically, and emotionally.
"Initially, when I first walked on, it was overwhelming," Goins said. "I actually wanted to quit my job and try to balance school and football. As the semesters progressed I learned to balance everything."
And he's done a tremendous job of balancing. A valuable special teamer for the Buckeyes, Goins has appeared in 13 games in his career, including 12 in 2016. Last year he recorded seven tackles in addition to earning Academic All-Big Ten honors.
"It completely took my off guard," Goins said of the big moment on Saturday. "I was just as surprised as everyone else on the field. It took a couple seconds for it to click when he read my name."
Helping him along every step of the way was one of his biggest role models, his mother, who Goins talks to on the phone almost every night.
"She's kept me uplifted, she keeps me back home," Goins said. "Talking to her and hearing her voice keeps me within myself."
And the good news doesn't stop with his scholarship offer. Goins, who one day hopes to be a pharmacist, said he'll still be able to work at CVS and gain some valuable experience.
"I won't have to work as much because they're giving me a scholarship right now," Goins said. "But I still want to do everything I can for myself and still work, because I plan on becoming a pharmacist when I leave, so I'm still working to get that hands-on experience."
Walk-ons serve a vital role on a football team, and Goins and Turnure are just a couple examples of the kind of person it takes to walk on as a football player at Ohio State. Jordan Leasure, a sophomore, walked on to the team last fall and is also a member of the wrestling team. Junior Jared Drake is in his third season with the team and, though he's listed as a linebacker, he's can also serve as a long snapper for the Buckeyes. And there's Trevon Forte, a fifth-year senior who has earned fantastic internships with Goldman Sachs in New York City and UBS Financial.
It takes immeasurable hard work and commitment to be a football player at Ohio State and, incredibly, these young men are taking the hardest route to get there.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) August 12, 2017
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) August 12, 2017
Urban Meyer Press Conference 3/6/18