The “Block O” jersey is a new tradition at Ohio State, which only began last year.
When you say tradition to an Ohio State fan, they might think of Buckeye leaves, dotting the I, or singing Carmen Ohio after every game. Ohio State is a school with many old traditions, but Urban Meyer and Ryan Day have introduced many of their own in recent years.
The newest tradition at Ohio State is the Block O jersey. After the NCAA allowed players to wear the number zero on their jerseys, the Buckeyes decided to honor one of the programs’ most storied players with a new tradition.
Bill Willis, who broke the color barrier in professional football, wore number 99 for the Buckeyes in the early 1940’s. Ohio State retired his number, but decided to honor him further with the new Block O jersey.
“We thought naming the award after Bill Willis would be a great decision because it’s great way we can honor him,” Day said last year.
Given the similarity in appearance between the number zero and Ohio State’s “Block O” logo, the jersey is known as the Block O jersey in Columbus.
Jonathon Cooper was the first Ohio State player to wear the Block O jersey. Now a Denver Bronco, the Buckeyes have to find Cooper’s successor.
Who Will Wear the Block O Jersey at Ohio State in 2021?
Requirements to wear the Block O at Ohio State
First of all, who is even eligible to wear the Block O jersey?
The obvious answer is that the player to wear the jersey honoring Willis has to live up to his legacy of hard work and integrity.
The only criteria that Day mentioned was “It really should come from the off season program and who has put years into the program and who has been through some adversity, who has worked through some things, who has fought through things and really lived our culture.”
Cooper was a great first choice. He was a returning captain, an Academic All-Big Ten selection, and a fifth-year senior. He had his share of adversity, coming into the program as a five-star recruit out of the Columbus area. But injuries derailed his career, and he only logged on full season in four years up to that point. To be frank, he hadn’t produced all that much in his career, with only 33 tackles combined with six -and-a-half sacks in all four years at Ohio State.
But he was the hardest worker in fall camp, so Day honored him with the Block O.
So who will be next?
Due to vague prerequisites, and the fact that all seven of last years’ captains were drafted this off season, it’s hard to judge.
If you distill the qualifications that Day mentioned, along with the characteristics from Willis and Cooper, there is only one, all-encompassing requirement to wear the Block O jersey.
The player who wears it must be one who has faced adversity and overcome it.
Now, let’s get into who that could be.
Olave was only the 54th-ranked wide receiver in the 2018 recruiting class according to 247Sports. However, he will probably be one of, if not the first, receivers selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Olave made his emergence the Buckeye way: playing on special teams his freshman year, then breaking out against Michigan.
In his sophomore year, he made a mistake that cost the Buckeyes an appearance in the National Championship Game. With less than a minute left in the 2020 Fiesta Bowl, behind by six points, Olave abandoned his route to the end zone. That play resulted in an interception, and Clemson went on to play in the title game.
The next year, in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl against Clemson, Olave caught six passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He spent the off season and the following pandemic season working to finally get the Buckeyes past Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
He opted to stay in Columbus for his senior year, despite being a first-round prospect.
Few work as hard as Olave, so that’s why Day will consider him for the Block O honor.
Technically, and offensive lineman wouldn’t be able to wear the Block O jersey, but Day has already said a Block O patch would be the alternative.
Munford, another senior who could have entered the draft, will be a fourth-year starter at left tackle.
Offensive lineman is a physical position that gets little recognition. Munford has protected the blindside of two of Ohio State’s quarterbacks and has been a part of a couple of the best offenses in program history. He deferred his paycheck and decided to return for his fifth year.
While captains won’t be named until the fall, it’s probable that Munford will earn that position. He was already the most experienced offensive linemen on the roster in 2020, playing on the unit’s most valuable spot.
He is also an Ohio product and a favorite of the coaching staff. There’s no doubt he will get consideration.
This one is probably the biggest stretch on the list, but Teague is one of the hardest workers on the team.
Of all the players on this list, Teague’s profile most accurately matches Cooper’s. Teague came into the program with high potential, which he has never quite lived up to. Injuries last year allowed others to pass him on the depth chart, which also hampered his production. This is the year for Teague to finally put it all together.
Teague is also the only OSU Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-Big Ten selection on this list, which are two honors that Cooper also held.
The biggest strike against Teague is that he is only a junior, and has at maximum two years left. He could enter the draft at the conclusion of this season, but it’s not a guarantee. The Block O jersey will probably only go to players in their final years at Ohio State, so if Teague has a poor performance during fall camp, he will probably be out of the running.
Still, an Academic All-Conference selection and probable team captain would probably be in contention.
This is the most obvious pick, so of course the best goes last.
If overcoming adversity is a key component, then look no further than Garrett.
Despite playing for the high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, Garrett played in 13 games in his first three years at Ohio State. He only had 11 tackles, two-and-a-half for a loss, and no sacks.
In the summer of 2020, Garrett attempted to break up a fight and ended up getting shot in the face.
Not only did he recover from his gunshot wound, but he became one of the best defensive linemen in the country. PFF College gave him a 91.4 grade, but Garrett decided to forgo the draft in 2021.
There is no better example on campus of someone who has overcome diversity and overcome it so dramatically.
Most fans would be surprised if Garrett isn’t the pick to wear the Block O.