Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
An admittedly shy Garrett Goebel blushed when first-year Ohio State coach Urban Meyer announced him as one of five captains to lead the Buckeyes this fall.
“I walked out there and my face got red,” the fifth-year senior said bashfully.
For Goebel, the attention – the mere notion of interest - is arguably a novelty.
So is dealing with reporters, photographers and the hot lights from camera crews trying to get their scoop.
And to the casual fan, the veteran 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive lineman is, in all likelihood, a new face.
While Goebel has made 44 tackles in 39 games for the Buckeyes, he’s managed to effectively fly under the radar in Columbus since arriving to campus in 2008.
Now, such potential for innocuity seems to have evaporated as his honor as a captain has vaulted the Villa Park, Ill., native into the frenzy surrounding Meyer’s inaugural season at OSU.
The lack of stardom isn’t something that often crosses Goebel’s mind, though.
“I never really thought about it. I know I was never really too concerned. I just wanted to go out there and play good football,” he said. “I really don’t care too much about myself or being recognized or anything like that.”
In fact, the active pursuit of being a captain, he said, wasn’t necessarily his aim.
“I mean, I never really thought about it too much. Like, if it happens, it happens – it’s an honor. If it doesn’t, I’m not gonna get my head down or anything, you know, I’m still gonna go out there, work as hard as I can and lead,” Goebel said. “But it was just cool knowing that my teammates, you know, thought that highly of me.”
In such a leadership role, Goebel automatically becomes an identifiable name for the Buckeyes – regardless of how much he likes the commotion around it all.
And while some might wonder how a player with such a reserved disposition is best fit to lead, Goebel said his leadership is best demonstrated with his play, not his words.
“I certainly say that I lead more by example but, you know, I still say stuff to people and, you know, make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and get everyone lined up,” he said.
His content with being in the background, though, almost made him invisible to Meyer when he took over the OSU job in November.
“I think I made the comment, I didn’t know Garrett. In the first four months I was here, he was just kind of a quiet guy that, you know, doesn’t look real good when we’re running around cones,” Meyer said at a Monday evening press conference.
Meyer told reporters that the big man grew on him over time, though.
Goebel said giving it his all day-in and day-out, especially during winter strength and conditioning drills, drew the attention of the former Florida coach.
“I just worked as hard as I could every day – every day come in no matter what and just give it everything I had and do my best and I think he definitely appreciates guys that go hard all the time,” he said.
Interesting enough, it seems that Goebel’s introverted, modest demeanor is nearly a perfect fit for the position he plays for the Buckeyes.
Listed as the Buckeyes’ starter at nose tackle – arguably one of the most thankless positions in all of sports – Goebel is, and will be, responsible for doing what junior defensive tackle Johnathan “Big Hank” Hankins calls the “dirty work” for OSU’s “Silver Bullet” defense.
“He’s probably one of the biggest pieces on our defense. He does all the dirty work, he takes up all the double teams – even though I take up double teams – but he does more of the dirty work,” Hankins said. “He’s a great leader for us, without him I feel like we would probably be kind of, like, out of shape because he basically knows the defense and he’s smart and he knows the play.”
Similarly, redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino said Goebel’s position is often unfairly unappreciated.
“He’s our nose guard … He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but he’s actually a very, very good player; for anybody who really knows football and watches him play, he’s actually a very, very good player,” he said. “Taking on 600 pounds every play is not an easy task, by no means, and he does a great job at that.”
Despite Goebel’s low-key nature, Hankins said he knew his teammate would be a captain from the get-go, though.
“Oh, I already knew he was going to become a captain. Since this year started, he took a leadership role and he just, you know I’m saying, worked hard, and I always looked up to him, watching film and learning from him,” he said.
Sabino, who was also named a captain for 2012, said neither he nor the team was particularly surprised when Goebel’s name was called.
“I think it’s probably more of a surprise to the media and everybody outside of the team, but Garrett comes to work everyday,” Sabino said. “He’s one of those players you know he’s going to do his assignment, it doesn’t matter whether it’s period one or period 40, he’s going to give it all he has. And you know, you’re going to get that regardless of the circumstances.”
That admiration, however, wasn’t just limited to Goebel’s teammates.
Former OSU head coach and current defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said Goebel is “that unsung hero.”
“I’m just so happy that Coach (Meyer) really points it out. I think (Goebel’s) really grown on him,” Fickell said. “He sees what we try to do as a defense and what we ask that guy sometimes to do and, you know, it doesn’t come up in the stat sheet and you guys might not interview him a whole lot … but he is definitely one of the center points of the defense.”
Fickell, who was a nose tackle for the Buckeyes from 1993-1996, seemed to understand the magnitude of Goebel’s honor.
“To be named captain, I think – what an unbelievable feat,” Fickell said.
For Goebel, it’s still a feat, though, that he didn’t entirely see coming.
“My goal was to do everything I can and really didn’t think about it if everything worked out,” he said.
“I mean, yeah, it would definitely be cool, but I really wasn’t thinking about it – I was thinking about just giving everything I had and just trying to lead the best I can.”