As focused as coach Urban Meyer wants Ohio State on playing Saturday at Michigan, he called somewhat of a timeout during the noon hour Wednesday.

The Buckeyes, in association with the Driven Foundation, run by former players Roy Hall and Antonio Smith, hosted 75 inner-city children for a Thanksgiving brunch on the indoor field of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. It was a first-time event that Hall hopes becomes an annual affair, and Meyer seemed to echo that sentiment.

“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.”

What swayed Meyer was the purpose of the event: to promote interaction not only between the kids and current Buckeyes, but also with the several Columbus police officers and Columbus firefighters in attendance.

Considering the incidents in recent years locally and across the country that have made some people skeptical of the intentions of law enforcement, Meyer thought it was important when several current players, including Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon, approached him with the idea.

“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 some of the youngsters got in 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.”

Columbus police officer David LaRoche said he and his fellow officers welcomed the chance to be involved, especially with the children because it offered the chance “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.”

 

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports