Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, there are three things that you learn at an early age.
First, Ohio State is the only team that matters, and your closet better be stockpiled with an insane amount of scarlet and gray to show where your loyalties lie.
Second, you should have the O-H-I-O chant and the corresponding hand gestures down pat before you claim to rep the Buckeyes.
Finally, you hate everything about Michigan — even if you had a family member who went to Ann Arbor.
Those three lessons have been ingrained in the mind of St. Francis DeSales (Columbus, Ohio) senior Warren Ball throughout his adolescent years. Living less than 10 minutes from campus, the OSU-bound running back got his fill of stories about Buckeye greats Archie Griffin, Eddie George and more recently, Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr.
So when the numerous offers came flying in for this talented back, only one envelope really mattered.
“I’ve always been a Buckeye fan as young as 10 years old,” says Ball, who's rated the nation's No. 26 running back by ESPNU. “I had hats and T-shirts — you name it and I had it. When I first started playing high school football, that’s when I began to imagine playing for the Buckeyes.”
That dream began to materialize last summer when Ball pledged to the perennial Big Ten power prior to his junior year. And despite this year’s NCAA investigation into the program and the subsequent resignation of head coach Jim Tressel, Ball’s loyalty remained steadfast with the home team.
Before making the short trip to “The Horseshoe,” Ball had his sights set on returning to the Division III state title game, something he accomplished as a sophomore. However, his plans were halted this weekend when Elida (Elida, Ohio) edged the Stallions, 24-21, in the Division III regional semifinals.
While Ball didn’t accomplish his goal of winning a state title, he did enjoy a tremendous year after battling through injury-plagued campaigns the previous two seasons. He finished with 1,232 yards and 29 touchdowns on 227 carries and ran for 149 yards and a pair of scores in the loss to Elida.
Now that his senior season is complete, Ball has his sights set on Ohio Stadium. So Get Familiar with this speedy back before he heads off to the Big Ten.
ESPNHS: Why were you so comfortable committing to Ohio State as a junior?
Ball: It was fantastic getting that letter from OSU. It was a dream come true. OSU has been my favorite school, so it was a no-brainer. I wanted to alleviate myself of the stress of phone calls and just focus on football. There’s pressure from opponents, though. Everyone is gunning for you when you’re an OSU commit.
ESPNHS: What was it like the first time you stepped inside of Ohio Stadium?
Ball: It was amazing. You’re used to seeing their games on TV, and when you’re there in person you realize this is the field the Buckeyes play on. Growing up I always thought I’d be playing on that field. It’s a great atmosphere. I look forward to being down there on a regular basis.
ESPNHS: Who are some Buckeye alumni you have looked up to?
Ball: Eddie George, Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. are players I’ve always liked. Smith and Ginn came to one of my little league practices and talked to the entire team, and I met George at the Wisconsin game a few weeks ago. They all told me to continue to work hard and good things will happen.
ESPNHS: Did you ever re-think your commitment amid the NCAA investigation?
Ball: Honestly, I never wavered once during that whole situation. [Jim Tressel was] a great coach and well respected, so I was sad to see him go. I tried to reach out to the guys who de-committed, specifically Kyle Kalis (St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio). But ultimately, he’s doing what is best for him, and I wish him the best of luck. It’s going to be fun facing him at Michigan next year. It will add even more fire to the rivalry.
ESPNHS: How have you overcome injuries to emerge as one of the state’s most dangerous offensive weapons?
Ball: From my view, it was just a little adversity I had to deal with. Things happened that were out of my control. I spent more time working on flexibility and working in the weight room and took more ice baths. I was only about 70 percent healthy as a sophomore. I’m good now.
ESPNHS: What are you hoping to accomplish once you step on the field as a Buckeye?
Ball: I want to make an impact. I want to go out there earn a spot and help the team. I’m not taking this moment for granted.
ESPNHS: What do you want to say to Michigan fans?
Ball: OSU-Michigan is the greatest rivalry in college football, but OSU is the best college that is out there. They can expect great things from me. I’m a kid who’s going to bust his butt every day. I won’t talk that much about it. I’ll save what I got for them for the field.
SCHOOL: St. Francis DeSales (Columbus, Ohio)
POSITION: Running Back
COLLEGE: Ohio State
TV Show: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
Movie: “The Dark Knight”
OSU Alumnus: Eddie George
Athlete: Walter Payton
Musical Artist: Drake
Clothing Line: Sean John
Actor: Will Smith
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