Among the 20 or so walk-ons on the Ohio State football team, Joe Burger and Craig Fada, seniors a year ago, enjoyed legendary status. Each came to the Buckeyes in 2012 and redshirted that season, Urban Meyer’s first as OSU coach. Each earned three varsity letters before being put on scholarship in January 2016.
“Joe and Craig are definitely my idols,” Ohio State receiver Elijaah Goins said on Monday. “They set the tone.”
This past weekend, Goins and fellow senior Zach Turnure were rewarded for setting a similar tone for the current crop of Buckeyes. After the team’s scrimmage Saturday, Meyer gathered his players around them to announce that Goins and Turnure had been put on scholarship for this season.
After each announcement, the two former walk-ons were mobbed by their teammates. Two days later, they were still stunned.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, 100,” Goins said Monday. “It was a surprise to me, like it was everyone out there. I didn’t know what to say. I was like, ‘Did he really just say that? Elijaah Goins is on scholarship?’ I’m still in awe.”
For both players, a scholarship is the culmination of a long journey full of twists. Goins, a state champion hurdler as a high schooler in North Carolina, started his OSU tenure as a safety, switched to cornerback and now is at receiver. Turnure, a linebacker, was once a scholarship athlete at Ohio State — in lacrosse.
But after playing for the Buckeyes as a freshman, the St. Louis native decided to put down his lacrosse stick and give up his scholarship to switch sports.
“I love both sports and played both my whole life,” Turnure said. “I just missed football so much. I wanted to get back on the field and give it a shot.”
Saturday’s announcement was proof to Turnure that he’d made the right call.
“It felt like all the hard work, the hard decision I made, the whole journey along the way was just totally worth it,” he said. “It was an amazing feeling.”
Turnure’s parents were in town for the scrimmage.
“My mom was bawling,” he said. “They were just as excited as I was because they were with me all along the journey.”
When Goins called his mom, who now lives in Texas, she screamed in joy.
“Her reaction was priceless,” he said. “It was truly a blessing.”
Goins said he took great pride in following in the footsteps of Burger and Fada, who went from walk-ons to special teams standouts before graduating. Special teams will be the main role for both Goins and Turnure.
“When I first walked on, they were the first walk-ons who everybody knew were scholarship(-caliber) players,” Goins said. “My second year, they gave them scholarships and it was like, ‘OK, it’s definitely a possibility. Someone like me can definitely earn a scholarship if I work my tail off and do everything I can.’ ”
Goins vows that getting a scholarship won’t change that. He even plans to keep his part-time job at CVS pharmacy, though he might reduce his hours.
“I plan to become a pharmacist someday so I still want to work and get that hands-on experience,” said Goins, an OSU scholar-athlete.
Meyer said he was thrilled to award the scholarships to Goins and Turnure. “Our players loved it,” he said.
Yes, they did.
“Nobody deserves it more than those guys,” quarterback Joe Burrow said. “They’re some of the hardest workers on the team. I’m glad they got to experience that and I’m glad we got to experience it with them.”