At the conclusion of the 2015 Ohio State football season, coach Urban Meyer saw a seemingly endless line of players leaving the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility, in effect, ending their Buckeye careers. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, defensive lineman Joey Bosa and linebacker Darron Lee highlighted nine early departures from the program. However, the line ended with Pat Elflein.
The redshirt senior returned for his final season of eligibility and converted to center from his guard position. Redshirt junior OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett said it wasn’t a surprise to him seeing Elflein come back to the Scarlet and Gray when he had the possibility of being a high draft pick.
“One of the biggest things that means the most to me is how much he cared,” Barrett said on Monday before the Michigan game. “Not about me, but the guys. That’s why he came back is to be with us. I think that’s selfless and not a lot of people come around like that.”
Last Saturday against Michigan, in perhaps his biggest game as a Buckeye, Elflein ran out of the tunnel at Ohio Stadium for the last time. He handed his mother, Lisa Elflein, a rose and greeted the rest of his family with tears coming from his eyes.
Elflein predicted on the Monday before the game that it was going to be an emotional day for him, not knowing that his team would pull off a 30-27 double-overtime win over the Wolverines in one of the most memorable games in the history of the program.
“I’ll never forget that, Senior Day,” Elflein said. “That was the craziest this place has been ever since I’ve been here. That was the ultimate … it was an electric atmosphere.”
OSU trailed for much of the game before the offense took control in overtime. After junior H-back Curtis Samuel’s game-winning touchdown that propelled OSU to a dramatic victory, Elflein was one of the first players to hug Samuel in the end zone. The redshirt senior from Pickerington, Ohio, then went over to the section where his family was sitting. He pulled his mother, Lisa; sister, Heather Elflein; brother, Matt Elflein; and grandfather, Rich Elflein, onto the field to celebrate a rare fifth win over Michigan as a member of the Buckeyes.
“That was just amazing,” Pat Elflein said. “My grandpa was here and he hasn’t been here in awhile … it was just very exciting.”
Pat Elflein has been a starter on the OSU offensive line for three seasons. He’s been the vocal leader on the unit all of the 2016 season along with the only other returning starter on the unit known as “The Slobs,” redshirt junior guard Billy Price.
On Saturday, after the game, Price recalled the last touchdown in a way that meant a lot to his teammate. Price ran into the end zone, joined his teammates, hugged Samuel, then embraced his fellow lineman.
“To send Pat out on a senior season like this — he’s got five pairs of gold pants,” Price said. “There are very few people to do that.”
Gold pants are given to every member of an OSU team that beats Michigan.
Pat Elflein’s first time playing in the rivalry was in 2013 when he entered for Marcus Hall, who was ejected from the game. Then, he became another member of the lineage of Pickerington natives to play in “The Game.” One of his best friends from high school, Michigan tight end Jake Butt, ended his career 0-4 versus OSU.
Pat Elflein understood at the time how special it was to win another game against his team’s bitter rival, but the significance of just how great the 2016 edition of “The Game” was for the program’s history and his legacy did not immediately register for the redshirt senior.
“It’s an indescribable feeling to beat that team five teams and do it the we did today,” he said. “I can’t thank my teammates enough for sending the seniors out the right way. Now we get to play for it all.”
Pat Elflein’s confidence in getting another shot at a national championship will be determined on Sunday during the College Football Playoff selection show.