Former Ohio State basketball walk-on Mark Titus didn’t know he was going to become an icon in the world of bench-riders.
Titus, who published a book about his experience as a Buckeye walk-on, rose to fame in 2008 after he started a blog documenting his life in the role. The blog, called “Club Trillion,” gained popularity quickly, and Titus’ reputation as a goofy backup who found any way to get out of practice expanded to a national audience.
“It’s not very often that you get a freshman walk-on, on a top 5 basketball program, who feels like he has the freedom to do and say whatever he wants,” Titus said. “I had that because I didn’t know any better. I was just ignorant.”
He quickly established himself as the standard for walk-ons nationwide during his four years at Ohio State, though he said he had no intention of becoming a role model for future players.
“I think when I was there, I just wanted to have some fun, and that was really it,” Titus said. “I don’t think this will be a surprise to people that have paid any attention to my work, but I just like to have fun. I’m a fun-loving guy, oftentimes to my detriment, so that was always my attitude.”
The legend of the Ohio State basketball walk-on had begun.
Former Buckeye walk-on Jacob Lorbach, who played from 2012 to ’16, now coaches high school basketball and works with USA men’s basketball. He said Titus started it all by sharing his experience.
“Mark was the one that brought the image of the walk-on to life because before that, there might have been a negative stigma about the walk-on role,” Lorbach said. “Mark was iconic in the sense that he was able to drop the veil that was placed over the walk-on. Him doing Club Trill was an iconic moment.”
Lorbach came after Titus, but the bond of walk-ons both at Ohio State and across the country had strengthened significantly by the time he arrived.
“We all started talking, and we all started sharing our stories and our experiences. That was really fun because there was this whole world that I had no idea about,” Lorbach said. “There were, like, 15 of us who decided to make a group message. Now we’re all best friends.”
Former Buckeye Joey Lane, who graduated in 2019, managed to imprint himself on Ohio State basketball lore during his tenure.
Lane gained a full athletic scholarship after one season and was named a captain during his senior year, both feats that Lorbach said were unheard of for a walk-on at Ohio State.
Lane also expanded the national culture of walk-ons, creating his own brand, “Towel Gang.”
“All walk-ons have this unspoken bond between each other. They know what each other are going through, and they know what every person has to endure, and they know there’s not a ton of love that comes with it,” Lane said. “We chose to sit on the bench instead of going and playing where we could play.”
Titus attributes a lot of his fame to the rise of Twitter and said the connection that walk-ons share today is because of the ability of the modern fan to see inside their lives.
“Every single walk-on has a story to tell,” Titus said. “I was the first to do it, but I don’t have the best story. There are guys who have funnier jokes to tell and better stories. I was just lucky enough to come along at the right time where I was the first to do it.”
Both Titus and Lorbach said walk-ons play more important roles than most people see.
“They are the glue, and they are like the baseline example for everybody else, both on and off the court,” Lorbach said. “You have to be a good student, a great teammate. You have to be great with people.”
Ohio State’s current walk-ons, senior guard Danny Hummer and sophomore forward Harrison Hookfin, have a high standard to live up to, but Lane said they’re already going down the right path.
“They are, first and foremost, great people,” Lane said. “They will be super, super successful in whatever they do beyond basketball. They are a huge, huge part of what the team does week in and week out.”
Ohio State sophomore guard Luther Muhammad agrees.
“[Hummer is] a leader on and off the floor,” Muhammad said. “He’s very encouraging. He’s hard-working. He’s definitely gonna push you on offense and defense.”
As for Titus, he takes no credit for the chain of outstanding Buckeye walk-ons, but he realizes the impact his time at Ohio State had.
“I owe my entire life to Ohio State and my time on the basketball team,” Titus said. “It’s awesome that the only thing people know about me is that I was on the Ohio State basketball team. That’s something I’m fine with because it’s something I’m very proud of.”