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Fans get unprecedented ‘close’ experience at Ohio State football practice

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

More than 3,000 Ohio State students and faculty came to an open football practice Saturday morning and they appeared to be impressed with what they saw.

Coach Urban Meyer invited OSU students, fans and staff to come to practice and meet the team on the field after. But rain forced the practice to be moved from the Ohio Stadium to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, making the practice with students more intimate.

As practice drew to a close, Meyer and his special teams players lined up for six field goals. Rising junior kicker Drew Basil lined up for the first attempt while defensive players were standing at the feet of the spectators in the front row behind them. After two attempts, Meyer motioned for the field goal unit to move into the crowd, motioning fans to form a circle around the players.

“It was crazy,” said Kaitlin Radford, a fourth-year in social work. “You almost felt like you were actually in on the play. I’ve never been that close.”

The crowd roared as Basil converted four of six, missing wide left on one, while another was blocked by rising junior defensive lineman, Johnathan Hankins.

Once the final whistle blew marking the end of practice, the scene got even crazier as Meyer motioned the crowd over toward the players.

Not surprisingly, fans swarmed to Meyer’s side hoping to snap a picture or even shake his hand.

“I shook his hand!” a student running away from the pile said, “I shook his hand!”

The same was true for rising sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller who spent 30 minutes non-stop signing autographs and posing for pictures.

Those in attendance took the opportunity to pose with their favorite Buckeyes and even stop for casual conversation.

“It was just a really cool atmosphere,” said Kurt Kinney, a third-year in food, agriculture and biological engineering. “You got the sense that these players actually wanted to be here with (the students) and didn’t do it just because they had to.”

Defensive back Travis Howard thought the atmosphere was just as cool for the players.

“(Open practice) was a great idea,” the rising redshirt senior said. “Just getting that chemistry with our student body gives us more motivation to go out there and do what we’re capable of doing.”

And despite the change of venue, students were still given the opportunity to tour the stadium, locker room and press box areas. Nearly 2,000 students took part in the tours, but the open practice and player meet-and-greet proved to be the highlight for most students.

“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” Radford said. “Now I’m ready for football season.”

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