Amanda Pierce / Lantern photographer
What do Archie Griffin, Eddie George, Chris Spielman and Mike Vrabel all have in common? All of them hold places in Buckeye Grove, which commemorates their achievements of being named an All-American while playing Ohio State football.
Buckeye Grove is a shrine to OSU football located in front of Morrill Tower near the southwest corner of Ohio Stadium. A tree has been planted in honor of each OSU player named a first-team All-American, along with a plaque that displays his name and the years he achieved All-American status.
After the Gray team lost in OSU’s Spring Game on April 21, the team members were charged with the task of preserving the Buckeye shrine Friday afternoon, spending almost two hours on a spring cleaning of Buckeye Grove.
Vrabel is OSU’s defensive line coach, but he coached with the Scarlet team in the Spring Game and did not attend the cleaning.
Luke Fickell, OSU’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, played with Vrabel for all four of his playing seasons at OSU from 1993 to 1996. Fickell served as head coach of the Gray team during the Spring Game, and was at Buckeye Grove with the players Friday.
Fickell said he appreciates the history and tradition of Buckeye Grove.
“It’s a great history,” Fickell said. “It’s pretty sweet to walk around here and look at all the different ones, some of the people you forget about at times, and to see a lot of the guys that you played with. It’s a special feeling when you can get a chance to spend a little time in here.”
Senior defensive lineman John Simon, who has been named a team captain for the upcoming season, said working on Buckeye Grove gave him a new appreciation for OSU football history.
“Every All-American gets a tree to plant, and it just speaks volumes for Ohio State how many trees are actually planted here,” Simon said.
Simon, who was a third-team AP All-American last season, said he would love to earn his own place in Buckeye Grove, but that being an All-American is not what is important to him.
“That’d be great, but I’d rather win more games,” Simon said. “Having a tree would be a great honor, but you take it one day at a time.”
Senior running back Jordan Hall also acknowledged what it would mean to earn his own tree.
“You’ll always be remembered at Ohio State, and you can bring people back here (to Buckeye Grove),” Hall said.
Some members of the Scarlet team were on the scene to help as well, including sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier. Fickell explained that he expected all of the linebackers to be there.
“If you’re a part of the linebacker crew and your coach loses, we go power in units, so we’re going to make sure they’re all out here to help out,” Fickell said.
Fickell said he hoped the players understood the meaning of cleaning up Buckeye Grove.
“It’s all part of not only teaching these guys, but making sure they understand the history,” Fickell said. “Of all the traditions of Ohio State, this is one of those ones that is specific to the football program, and something you want them to shoot for.”
Simon said he hopes students will appreciate Buckeye Grove more after seeing the players work hard on restoring the ground.
“Students walk by it every day and see it,” Simon said. “When it’s fixed up, there will be a little more appreciation for it and what others have done before us.”