A speech made to the Ohio State football team during winter workouts carried a message that now echoes beyond the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Redshirt junior guard Wyatt Davis spoke to the 2020 Buckeyes about personal accountability and the importance training has on success during the season. Without knowing what the future months would hold, Davis talked about the importance of training in the offseason — an offseason that now requires more responsibility and self-monitoring than ever before.
“Essentially what I was just saying during that speech was just, ‘There’s a lot of guys in the world that say they want things and they want all this stuff for them to happen,’” Davis said. “‘There’s not many of them that are willing to put in the work for it.’ And coming off that loss this past season, I don’t ever want to experience that again.”
For Davis and the 2019 Buckeyes, a Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson meant the premature end of a journey that hoped to conclude in New Orleans with a victory. Davis said that the tears in the seniors’ eyes is something he will never forget, and the purpose of his speech was to get his teammates to understand the importance of the offseason to avoid a similar fate in 2020.
The path to the season will take a unique detour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cut spring camp short after just three practices. With the team dispersed all across the country, Davis sees his message of accountability meaning even more now.
“Right now, we’re in a place where you’re on your own,” Davis said. “You have no one holding your hand. Obviously, the coaches are still texting you, but at the end of the day, no one’s really gonna know what you’re doing beside you.”
While the NCAA prohibits mandatory team workouts during the pandemic, Davis said he was confident that his teammates were putting in the work on their own.
For head coach Ryan Day, the trust that his players are putting in the work is born out of the idea that the alternative would speak volumes about a team that was undisciplined.
“If we have to check on you anyways, or if you say you’re doing something and you’re really not, then we’re not much of a team anyways,” Day said March 25 in a media teleconference.
For Davis, the motivation to work not only comes from his drive to make the 2020 season better than the 2019 season, but from a learned dislike for being complacent, Davis said.
“Everything that [my brother and I] do and that we take part of my grandad has always told me to go 100%, go above and beyond,” Davis said.
Willie Davis, Davis’s grandfather and former Green Bay Packers defensive end, played 162 games in the NFL. He would go on to win two Super Bowls in his career before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
Willie Davis, who Wyatt Davis said instilled toughness and accountability in him, rarely missed a game, playing in 138 consecutive regular-season games for the Packers. He passed away April 15.
Just over 125 miles southwest of where his grandfather is enshrined in Canton, Ohio, Wyatt Davis will look to bring a similar work ethic to an Ohio State team that is going through an unusual offseason.
With his speech in the winter, Davis has shown a willingness to take on a leadership role. In a time where in-person interaction is limited, Davis said he shows his leadership through being there for his teammates.
“I try to show them that I care,” Davis said. “You know, reaching out to guys, asking guys how they’re doing. You know, ask them about their family – not because I feel I have to, but just because I genuinely care.”
This onus to care for the younger players on the team is also held by redshirt junior center Josh Myers. While this time of separation could hinder camaraderie and growth, Myers feels that the team will come back stronger.
“It’s hard sometimes. You get so into the routine of things that you can take things for granted,” Myers said. “And then when you don’t have it anymore, you realize, you know, how precious what you had was, and I think that’s definitely going to be the general, overall feel when we get back together.”
The details on the team’s return to the Ohio State facilities and the likelihood of the season happening are still uncertain.
Davis said that this season would be big for both himself and his team, as a lot of hard work has been put in following a motivating end to the 2019 campaign.
“I’m not going to say it would be a waste, but we would hate to be able to not use that for this season,” Davis said.