Every Ohio State football player has a different story about their journey to playing in Ohio Stadium, but few are as distinct as that of walk-on kicker Tyler Durbin. Durbin appeared in his first game for the Buckeyes last Saturday against Bowling Green and impressed OSU coach Urban Meyer.
Listed as a senior, Durbin is in his second year with the team. Last season, the Burke, Virginia, native did not appear in a game, giving way to then-OSU kicker Jack Willoughby and current Buckeye junior Sean Nuernberger. In both 2012 and 2013, he was playing on the James Madison University soccer team.
“I committed there my junior year of high school, not really knowing what I wanted to study,” Durbin said.
Unfortunately for Durbin, who made the decision to study civil engineering after arriving on the Dukes’ campus, the program he seeked was not offered at the college he had signed with in high school.
“They only had general engineering, they didn’t have any of the disciplines,” Durbin said. “After two years there, I decided to transfer.”
During that same time, he also decided to pick up the art of kicking a football. He began practicing with his father at his former high school, trying to perfect the correct angles and motions to land him a chance to play with a top team in the nation.
Durbin’s father recorded him doing kickoffs and field goals. During that time, Durbin said he worked with a man named Paul Woodside, who works for a kicking and punting training company called “Before U Kick.”
Woodside is a former walk-on at West Virginia University, where he earned All-American status twice, as well as being inducted as a member of the West Virginia University Hall of Fame. Durbin learned to accurately and powerfully kick a football during his time with Woodside, and sent his tapes out to four colleges after leaving James Madison.
Of the four universities Durbin sent tapes to — Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Ohio State — only the Buckeyes replied to the former centerback and expressed interest in his abilities.
Kristin, Durbin’s wife, has connections to OSU. Her parents are both alumni of OSU and fans of the Buckeyes. Durbin’s in-laws and his now wife were pulling for the Buckeyes to reach out and extend an offer.
Former OSU Director of High School Relations Greg Gillum did reach out to Durbin, and the wheels were set in motion for the former all-region soccer player to don the Scarlet and Gray.
“(Gillum) emailed me and said he liked what he saw on the tape, so we scheduled a meeting and I came to campus,” Durbin said. “I came to campus and he called me back, I wanna say a month or two after that, and said they had an open spot on the team. They needed a kicker.”
The first day for Durbin at OSU was a memorable day for all Buckeyes fans.
“My first day on campus was the day the team won the national championship,” Durbin said. “I started workouts with the team a week after that.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer spoke about the performance of Durbin during a Monday press conference following the blowout win of Bowling Green. In all, Durbin was able to secure an open field tackle, chase the returner out-of-bounds twice and make 11 extra points.
An ongoing joke with the Buckeyes is Meyer not remembering the name of Durbin, since the first time the OSU coach saw his new kicker, he had no idea who Durbin was. Continuing the long-running joke, Meyer kept up the act on Monday.
“I don’t know where the hell (Durbin) came from,” Meyer said. “He is really good.”
Meyer was disappointed on the kick coverage the Buckeyes showed against the Falcons, but was quick to note the plays of Durbin that stood out. After the returner for Bowling Green had beat the first wave of defenders, Durbin was able to chase the ball carrier to the sideline, preventing a long return.
Although transitioning from a different sport may seem challenging, Durbin said his soccer background propelled him into the OSU starting lineup.
“It’s not too different. There’s little differences in technique,” Durbin said. “But, as I mentioned before, Paul Woodside. I worked with him a lot, and it was a pretty easy transition for me from soccer to football for me. I’ve always had a big leg and it came pretty naturally to me.”
The big leg Durbin claims to have has given him quite a lot to brag about on the team. According to the senior, he made a 70-yard field goal with a little wind support behind him in practice.
With praise from his coaches and his teammates, Durbin is shaping up to handle the kicking duties for the Buckeyes for the foreseeable future. Along his long journey from Burke to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to Columbus, the former soccer defender is still trying to soak in the wild ride he has had in the last few years.
“It’s crazy to me. None of this would have happened if God hadn’t put this opportunity in front of me,” Durbin said. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity I’ve gotten here. It’s been the best experience of my life.”