Tracy Sprinkle, less than a year removed from an injury that put his playing career in jeopardy, was among the record nine Ohio State players named captains of the 2017 team by coach Urban Meyer on Monday.
The honor for Sprinkle came as no surprise, though, not even to Sprinkle. The defensive tackle has battled back from the season-ending knee injury in last year's opener to be considered again one of the stalwarts of the defensive front.
“I didn’t know it, but I kind of felt it, the feeling around the locker room, just helping guys all the time, being a great leader,” Sprinkle said of the captaincy, calling it “a humbling experience.”
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As he said, though, a title won’t change his approach.
“I was already trying to take a leadership role; I’m just that type of guy,” Sprinkle said. “I like to help other people.”
He did throughout last season, even after suffering the tear in his right patellar tendon, and he doesn’t mind taking something of a bow for his personal rally.
“I’d say I’m proud of myself because my whole journey has been, like, against the odds,” Sprinkle said. “That injury, there was a 60 percent chance I wouldn’t come back from it, so I was against the odds again.
“So to be from there to where I am now, I am very blessed and humbled.”
Defensive-line coach Larry Johnson said Sprinkle’s story is special — that his humility has been a constant along with the leadership he exudes.
“You knew that people gravitated to him. When he speaks everybody listens; everybody listens,” Johnson said. “That’s really just the power of Tracy.”
Now he’s a captain.
“I think that really shows how much our players respect him as an individual — not as a football player, as an individual,” Johnson said. “I think that speaks volumes for Tracy. … He’s got a big heart and gives you everything he’s got.”
Johnson said that Sprinkle is “going to be in the mix” headed into the opener Aug. 31 at Indiana, but that nothing has been taken for granted on the road back from the injury.
“He’s done a great job for us so far” this preseason, Johnson said. “But I want to make sure we get through the next week and a half to make sure he plays.”