Demetrius Knox said he had the dream of playing football at Ohio State since he was in second grade.
Being a Springfield, Ohio, native, the fifth-year offensive guard made that dream a reality, but with the help of a family member encouraging him to put himself in the middle of what many consider as a recruiting hotbed for high-level talent: Texas.
“It was sixth-grade and my uncle told my mom that I’d have a better shot at being recruited for football if I moved down there,” Knox said.
Since 2012, head coach Urban Meyer has placed a lot of emphasis on recruiting Texas during his tenure, signing 12 players from the state for eight seasons up to the 2019 class, with five-star wide receiver and Austin native Garrett Wilson committing to the Buckeyes in April.
For many high school players, Ohio State has a reputation of being a national brand, as the program that groomed players such as running back Ezekiel Elliott and cornerback Marshon Lattimore into not only successful collegiate players, but successful professionals.
“When you see that, even being in Texas, it kind of is appealing,” sophomore cornerback Jeffrey Okudah said. “Just want to be one of the next guys in line.”
Okudah was one of five players from the 2017 recruiting class from Texas to commit to the Buckeyes, including four-star running back J.K. Dobbins and five-star linebacker Baron Browning, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
For many players from the state of Texas, No. 4 Ohio State’s next opponent, No. 15 TCU, is a big game. Besides the fact that the school is in the state where these players were raised, many were recruited by the Horned Frogs.
This game means more than just heading home for Dobbins. He will be facing a TCU team that was the first college to offer him a scholarship when he was a freshman in high school.
“It was exciting,” Dobbins said. “It was my first one, so I was high on them, you know. I know the coaches well, you know, so it’s going to be fun to play against them.”
Despite schools like Texas trying to take the majority of in-state talent, Knox said TCU is almost always considered by any recruit who lives within the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He said even though the school is private and relatively small, it is considered a state “powerhouse.”
For Okudah, playing TCU at AT&T Stadium means facing players he has faced before.
While a senior cornerback at South Grand Prairie High School in Grand Prairie, Texas, Okudah faced Shawn Robinson, the quarterback at Desoto High School in Desoto, Texas, and now the sophomore starting quarterback at TCU.
Even when facing him in high school, Okudah said he knew Robinson was an offensive weapon.
“I think the offense he played in in high school really compares well to the offense he plays in now as far as going a lot of empties, spreading the ball around, get it out quick, taking shots and a lot of read option,” Okudah said.
Every Friday night, Okudah said players like Robinson were the norm on every Friday night, and he would face talent on that level on a weekly basis, and even a daily basis in practices.
However, Knox said the level of talent, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area especially, matches the spectacle local towns bring to high school football.
“It’s a completely different feel down there,” Knox said. “Football, I mean Ohio State is Ohio State, but even high school football down there is big. The whole city shuts down, everything.”
With the amount of attention recruits get at the high school level, the goal of many players is to get to AT&T Stadium, the home of the state championship games, an atmosphere Knox considers to be “incredible.”
As Ohio State takes the field on Saturday, the same field that many high school players strive to be on in December, hoisting a state title trophy, Knox said watching a team that is known historically as one of the more elite teams in the country gives players the idea that they can be in the same position one day.
“For recruits to be able to go down the street to the Cowboys Stadium to watch Ohio State play there in person, it’s huge,” Knox said.
As for the Texans on Ohio State’s roster returning to their home state, that part of them never leaves, whether the team is playing in Arlington, Texas, or Ohio Stadium.
“You don’t have to worry about getting homesick,” Okudah said. “You kind of feel you have a part of home with you to Ohio.”