Ohio State’s season has been an emotional one for the wide receiver room.
The veteran core, which includes three redshirt seniors — Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon — began the season in controversy after former wide receivers coach Zach Smith was fired for allegations of domestic abuse.
Now, after a season full of ups and downs, Ohio State still remains a Michigan win away from a trip to the Big Ten championship.
“The Game” will be the last one at Ohio Stadium for McLaurin and Campbell, and the pair of two-time captains expect to be emotional in their final chance for a win in front of the home crowd.
“I can’t quite let my emotions get in the way of everything. I’ll see my parents down there and I know that will be a little emotional for me,” McLaurin said.
Campbell said this game is “everything” to him.
“Everything is on the line for us as a team, everything is on the line for me as a senior playing the last game in the Horseshoe,” Campbell said. “I guess I never really thought I would be sitting here saying that. But it’s here, so it’s everything.”
To get here, the pair of veteran receivers had to overcome adversity.
From the offseason controversy to a loss against Purdue, moving forward into Michigan following an overtime win against Maryland, the road to 10-1 has been anything but smooth.
Both McLaurin and Campbell said the expectations, the critics, the adversity, it’s just a part of being in an Ohio State uniform.
“People are always going to write off Ohio State no matter what,” Campbell said. “We could be undefeated right now and people would still write us off. That’s what comes with being a Buckeye.”
But for the pair of veteran receivers, the road to “The Game” doesn’t matter.
Campbell has amassed 1,626 total yards and 14 total touchdowns in his four years at Ohio State. This season, he leads Ohio State with 66 catches and nine receiving touchdowns.
Being an Akron native, Campbell knows the stakes in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry from far before being a part of it.
He said all that matters from here on out is the week ahead.
“Obviously, we’ve had our hurdles. We’ve had ups and downs of adversity hit us left and right. I kind of feel like we’ve been in a title fight this whole season. We were getting uppercutted and hooked all over the place,” Campbell said. “Our mindset now is to worry about the team up north. Everything that we want, everything that we set out for is right there in front of us.”
For McLaurin, his history with the rivalry is a bit different.
Being born in Indianapolis, McLaurin didn’t have the exposure Campbell had until gearing up in a Buckeye uniform.
But that has not stopped McLaurin from playing like he was born with Ohio State in his blood.
McLaurin has 70 career catches for 1,129 yards and 17 touchdowns, and is tied with Campbell for the team-lead with nine touchdowns this season.
Where McLaurin separates himself is on special teams, making the effort plays that have captured the attention of players and coaches alike.
It caught the attention of head coach Urban Meyer so much that Meyer jokingly said he would name his next kid Terry if he had one.
“I have always wanted to be the guy who did the right thing and worked hard,” McLaurin said. “I just wanted to be a guy you could depend on on and off the field, who was going to make your program better. For him to think of me in that aspect is pretty cool.”
McLaurin is aware of the adversity the wide receivers have faced this season. He knows the highs and the lows that have come in his final year, and he said it has made his final season the hardest one.
“This is probably the toughest year that I’ve been apart of just with the ups and downs and the outside noise,” McLaurin said. “We’re trying to control what we can control inside of this building and making sure that I am helping and making all the plays that I can. That’s been my main focus.”
Now, the long road has just one final home game on its path. There is still a chance to make another Big Ten Championship, still a chance to go to another College Football Playoff. But for now, Michigan, with the No. 1 defense in the country, is the focus.
Campbell knows emotions will be high.
“It’s been a long road. You come into that stadium and look up and see 110,000,” Campbell said. “My family will be waiting for me at the end of the line. I’m sure I will be emotional but you know I’m not going to let that get in the way of what’s at stake. Come kickoff there is still a mission ahead. I’m sure it will be an emotional time but I’m not going to let it get in the way.”
The emotions are undeniable, but McLaurin’s focus goes past that.
Regardless of the outcome, regardless of the future matchups that await the Buckeyes, McLaurin just wants to be remembered. He wants his last game at home to show everything he has put into his time as a Buckeye.
“Suiting up for the last time in Ohio Stadium, I just hope people know that I gave it everything I have on offense, special teams, as a leader,” McLaurin said. “I worked hard from when I was a recruit to when I walk out of the door. Going out with a win, that’s what I hope to accomplish this week.”