In May, Urban Meyer oversaw a week-long "Patriot Week" to instill in his Ohio State football players an appreciation of the responsibility to be active, engaged citizens. That message hit home after the tragic events of this week - the videotaped shootings by police of African-Americans in Louisiana and Minnesota, followed by the slaying of five Dallas police officers.

In May, Urban Meyer oversaw a week-long "Patriot Week" to instill in his Ohio State football players an appreciation of the responsibility to be active, engaged citizens.

It was part of Meyer's "Real Life" program, which seeks to ensure that players think and plan for life beyond football. That message hit home after the tragic events of this week - the videotaped shootings by police of African-Americans in Louisiana and Minnesota, followed by the slaying of five Dallas police officers.

Several current and former Buckeyes weighed in on Twitter with impassioned messages of fear, anger and even hope.

"I really wish I could say #AllLivesMatter but time after time I'm proven that me as a black man doesn't. How you think I'm suppose to feel?" junior defensive end Jalyn Holmes tweeted on Thursday, before the Dallas shootings.

Freshman offensive lineman Branden Bowen posted "Another senseless killing. #FalconHeights" after Philando Castile was shot on Wednesday in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. "I really don't get how people can be justifying these deaths," he added.

The deaths particularly resonated with some of the players because of their own experiences.

Former Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett, a second-year player for the Jacksonville Jaguars, recalled being 10 years old and going to the library to check out books. A woman gave him a suspicious look in the parking lot when she noticed his stuffed backpack. On his walk home, Bennett said, a policeman stopped him and questioned him.

"Growing up as a black person, you yourself have experienced times when you have done nothing wrong and police targeted you because of your race," Bennett said. "That wears on you."

Bennett used Twitter to comment about this week's events "because you don't know what else to do. You have all this pent-up frustration and anger. You don't know how to direct it. You don't know who to talk to. Twitter gives you a way to put your opinions out there and bounce it off people - or vent frustration."

But he is deeply ambivalent about Twitter as a platform, citing the 140-character limit and the harsh debate that can ensue.

"I think the Dallas shooting almost is a direct response of social media and outrage pushing someone to the boiling point where they think that is somehow justifiable," Bennett said.

Meyer is on vacation and declined to comment for this story. Deputy director of athletics Miechelle Willis said she had no issue with players voicing their opinion, provided they did so "tastefully."

"They have a right to feel how they feel," she said. "We've never tried to handcuff them or put a foot on them to keep them from expressing themselves.

"We talk about being on a campus where we are about educating, and that's part of the educational process. I'd probably be more disappointed if they didn't have an opinion."

Other players posted inspirational quotes. Junior offensive guard Billy Price tweeted, "Pray for Dallas" along with a passage from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. denouncing violence.

Athletes risk criticism by fans when they voice non-sports opinions. When one of offensive tackle Jamarco Jones' followers asked why he spoke out about this week's violence, Jones had a ready reply.

"A man getting killed unlawfully is more important than anything happening in football," he tweeted.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch