Being former Ohio State football players, Roy Hall and Antonio Smith pulled some strings to stage a lunch Wednesday on the Woody Hayes Athletic Center indoor field on the week of The Game, and they invited quite a few of their friends.

They hosted what Hall labeled “the first Ohio State football and Driven Foundation Thanksgiving brunch,” the special guest being 75 kids from the inner city of Columbus, the chaperones being the members of the current Ohio State team, including coach Urban Meyer. Also on hand were several Columbus police officers and Columbus firemen, including former OSU receiver Tony Cupe, the idea being to foster interaction between them and the youngsters.

Even if it’s the midst of the buildup toward The Game at Michigan on Saturday, Meyer gave it the green light. He said he was responding to a request from several of his current players, including Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon, on behalf of Hall and Driven Foundation, and he said he honored to give the brunch his blessing.

“It means more to me because it was our players’ idea,” Meyer said. “There’s some difficult times out there right now. I think the common phrase, and our players would be the first ones to tell you, is the ‘R’ word: respect. The other one is grateful; gratitude.”

As the youngsters got in some last-minute sprints and pass routes around him, Hall said the hospitality afforded by the Buckeyes was proof that they get it.

“The word that comes to mind is priority, because this is the week, right, the biggest game of the year, The Game,” Hall said. “And in the middle of the week, it’s more of a priority to make sure these kids have a Thanksgiving meal than to actually prepare for the game.”

Linebacker and co-captain Chris Worley said the players welcomed the event.

“It provides balance … and although it’s a big week, you still need to get away from the game a little bit,” Worley said. “This provides a great chance to get some balance in some of these guys’ lives.”

Growing up in West Palm Beach, Fla., receiver Dixon said he never had a chance to attend a similar function. And along with interacting with the youngsters, he said a major part was the chance to converse with “the police officers, being able to connect and get some of that dialogue was important.”

And vice versa, said police officer David LaRoche. The officers are aware of the various incidents not just locally but throughout the country that have driven wedges at times between them and those they want to serve and protect.

The chance to spend time with the children, LaRoche said, is “a tremendous honor, to let them know we’re not just people in uniform, we’re human beings and we care. We really appreciate OSU for inviting us.”

Cupe was once a youngster growing up in Columbus and he remembered what Ohio State football meant to children in the city, and that was before he became a Buckeye.

“Just to be in a positive environment with positive people, with the entity that most of the city loves – Ohio State football, bringing police, fire and all the entities together on Thanksgiving week, it’s great,” Cupe said.

It could become an annual affair. At the least, Meyer said, the interaction between the team and 9-year-old Driven Foundation will endure.

“We happen to have a star in Roy Hall, I mean a star,” Meyer said. “And my foundation is going to partner with his and hopefully make a difference.”