Jacoby Boren's right leg bent backward grotesquely. Ohio State linemate Pat Elflein inadvertently had driven an Alabama lineman into Boren's legs in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl. With Boren vulnerable, Crimson Tide linebacker Trey DePriest pushed on Boren's chest, contorting the center's legs in ways they're not supposed to move.

Jacoby Boren's right leg bent backward grotesquely.

Ohio State linemate Pat Elflein inadvertently had driven an Alabama lineman into Boren's legs in the second quarter of the Sugar Bowl. With Boren vulnerable, Crimson Tide linebacker Trey DePriest pushed on Boren's chest, contorting the center's legs in ways they're not supposed to move.

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Considering Boren has gutted through a right ankle injury all season, this looked like it might have been the coup de grace.

"It looked like his career should be over, that's what it looked like," Ohio State left tackle Taylor Decker said.

But then the Boren toughness and feistiness kicked in.

"When he got up off the field and he was trash-talking and nobody could get a word in other than him, I knew he was going to be fine," Decker said.

Boren missed the next play - an Ohio State touchdown - and was back for the next series and finished the game.

Boren and DePriest were not strangers.

"We used to get into it back in high school, too," Boren said, referring to his days at Pickerington Central and DePriest's at Springfield. "I wasn't too happy about it, but we ended up winning the game. I guess we got the last laugh."

Boren should be used to getting the last laugh. Continually slighted for being undersized - he's listed at 6 feet 1 and 285 pounds - Boren has fought off all challenges to anchor Ohio State's surprising offensive line.

He is the third Boren brother to play for the Buckeyes. Justin transferred from Michigan, where their father, Mike, played, to play at Ohio State. Zach famously switched from fullback to linebacker in the middle of his senior season to solidify the defense on the undefeated 2012 team.

Jacoby enrolled at Ohio State a month after coach Urban Meyer arrived. Let's just say that Meyer didn't immediately think, "There's my prototypical future starting center."

"He walked through the door and I was like, 'Uh oh, what's this now?' " Meyer acknowledged. "I actually started thinking maybe he could be a blocking fullback."

Boren said questions about his size don't bother him now, but they used to.

"It was frustrating having things like that held against you," he said. "But I just went out and tried to prove myself, that I was good enough to be the center at Ohio State. That's my mindset every day."

After two years as Corey Linsley's backup, Boren won the starting job before this season.

"He does play with a chip on his shoulder because all anybody says about him is that he can't do things," Decker said. "I couldn't imagine what that is like, people constantly doubting you, especially over something that he can't control, which is his size.

"He does more than an adequate job. He has been playing really well. Two times, he has been our offensive player of the game this season. He plays angry, and that is why he is good."

Decker said that Boren's height allows him to get leverage on bigger blockers. He said that Boren had more takedowns against Alabama than any other blocker, even with the ankle issue.

As for the injury, Boren sloughs it off.

"Stuff just keeps tearing," he said. "It's not a big deal."

Stuff that keeps tearing usually is a big deal. Then again, he is a Boren.

"He is a tribute to the family," Meyer said. "Every Boren I've ever met is like that. It's the way they were raised. They're tough. They fight.

"He has turned out to have a heck of a year.He's a very good player, a great leader, great team guy.I love Jacoby."

Now, Jacoby is in position to do something that his dad and brothers didn't have an opportunity to do.

"My dad played major college football, so did Justin and Zach, and they never had a chance to play for a national title," he said. "It's something I'm definitely grateful for."

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