With a Ring Comes Bell
How Ohio State lured Vonn Bell out of the land of sweet tea and tangy barbecue
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 22:02
“I have a new place in Chattanooga, Tenn., to get my haircut. I know where the best barbecue places are in Chattanooga, Tenn. I got around a lot of people,” Withers said.
Withers made the strongest impression during the recruitment, but Meyer made his presence felt, too.
When Ridgeland took on Sandy Creek High School in the Georgia Class AAAA State Championship Game Dec. 15, Meyer was in attendance. He sat next to Bell’s mother in the Georgia Dome stands during the game, and visited with Bell in the locker room after his team suffered a 45-10 loss.
“That was really impressive to me, to stay there and just be in the mix of our community and Vonn’s family meant a lot,” Mariakis said.
The story of Bell’s recruitment hits its climax the night and morning before Bell announced his decision.
Withers said he thought he would be made aware of what school Bell was going to sign with at about 8 p.m. Feb. 5. That didn’t happen.
Withers did receive an encouraging phone call from Bell’s father that evening, though.
“(His) dad told me at the end of the night, he said, ‘Coach, live on your body of work because you’ve done all you can do. Sleep well,’” Withers said.
Withers made a phone call of his own, too, with Mariakis on the receiving end.
“I had talked to coach Mariakis … I said, ‘Coach, if it’s going to be a good phone call, make sure coach Meyer gets it.’ I said, ‘If it’s going to be a bad phone call, just call me,’” Withers said.
The next morning, Meyer, Withers and the rest of the OSU staff were in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, anxiously waiting for what the equivalent of college football’s Christmas would entail for the Buckeyes’ program.
At one point, shortly after the sun had risen, Meyer said he couldn’t contain his nerves, or be around his assistants, any longer. He separated himself from the rest of his staff and went into a private room to work out on a stationary bike.
“I couldn’t take it anymore. Everett Withers was driving me nuts. I had to get away from him,” Meyer said.
At about 9:50 a.m., 10 minutes before Bell was set to make his announcement on ESPN, Withers made his way toward Meyer. He heard a phone ring and Meyer answer.
It was Bell.
“You know I’m in, right?” Bell told Meyer on the phone.
Meyer’s response was simple.
“No, I didn’t know you were in. Congratulations,” Meyer said.
Withers’ yearlong stretch full of time and effort had paid off. Bell, one of the crown jewels of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class that ranks in the top-three nationally, should help the Buckeyes’ defense right away.
Bell’s decision to sign with OSU could also be a sign of more good stories to come for the Scarlet and Gray.
Going into the land of sweet tea and tangy barbecue and prying a recruit away from the strong clasps of the Southeastern Conference — winners of the last seven national championships — is no easy task in college football.
OSU did that with Bell in out-recruiting Alabama and Tennessee, Bell’s other favorites.
The Buckeyes might be one of the few programs north of the Mason-Dixon line that can keep on doing it, too.
“I think it goes back to the relationships that Ohio State staff is building,” Mariakis said. “When you get that combination of good football and the relationships with those kids, you’ve got something special.”