Hunter Littlejohn will take the field Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Indiana’s crimson and cream, but the center is well-versed in Ohio State tradition.
Littlejohn’s mother, Laurie, is an Ohio State graduate. His father, John, was the captain of the 1975 Ohio State baseball team and tied for the team lead that season with five home runs. He was also an Ohio State football season-ticket holder when Littlejohn was growing up.
“I went to every single game as a kid,” the redshirt junior center said. “I know all the traditions and everything that goes on there.”
That tradition is why, when the Olentangy Liberty graduate narrowed his recruitment to Duke and Indiana, he decided on the Hoosiers.
“Being from Columbus, I wanted to play Big Ten football and so that was kind of my main reason for choosing Indiana,” Littlejohn said. “Plus, I love the school. It’s been awesome.”
Saturday will mark Littlejohn’s first time playing at Ohio Stadium after he dressed for the Hoosiers’ 2016 loss in Columbus but, as he put it, “didn’t come close to actually playing.”
After starting all of Indiana’s 12 games in 2017, Littlejohn has started four of the first five games of this season. He’s one of two Columbus-area players on Indiana’s roster. Sophomore running back Morgan Ellison, a Pickerington Central graduate, is again practicing with the team but has been suspended for undisclosed reasons since Aug. 24.
University of Miami graduate transfer Nick Linder started at center in Indiana’s 24-17 win over Rutgers last week, but regardless of who starts Saturday, the dozens in attendance for Littlejohn should see him play.
What they’ll see is a much more polished, refined version of Littlejohn than what he was in high school.
“I got to college and I wasn’t very good. I think I learned real quick and was humbled real quick that you’ve got to put a lot more work in than you ever would have expected,” he said. “That whole mentality is what’s made a difference from my freshman year to now.”
On the field, Littlejohn's strength and single-leg movements have improved. In the classroom, he has enjoyed sustained success as a health-care management and policy student and hopes to add to his two academic all-Big Ten selections.
"It’s very important because I’m well aware that football won’t last forever," he said. "I’m very determined to make a good living for myself in some other aspect of life."
Liberty coach Steve Hale joked that Littlejohn has changed in the sense that he and Hale’s son, Ohio long snapper Jake Hale, don’t fit as well in the Hale living room when playing Xbox, having gone through years of college strength programs.
Other than that, Littlejohn's the same kid he was at Liberty.
“Just a really nice kid with a lot of upside, whether that’s whatever happens to him after Indiana in the job world or maybe a chance in the NFL, I don’t know. He’ll do well,” Hale said of Littlejohn. “He’s just a solid, solid kid with really strong foundation of being grounded and knowing who he is and what he’s trying to do.”
On Saturday, Littlejohn will get a crack at a highly touted Ohio State defensive line in an environment he knows well.
“I’m really looking forward to actually being a part of it, which is really just a dream come true in a way,” Littlejohn said.