LOS ANGELES — When Nick Bosa started his drive up from Tustin, California, on Friday to watch Ohio State practice for the Rose Bowl, he said he was nervous.
He hadn’t been around his former teammates since October. That’s when he and his father, John, decided to withdraw him from school as he recovered from a core muscle injury that was suffered Sept. 15 in a win over TCU and required surgery.
Just like that, his junior season — and his final season at Ohio State, because he always intended to apply for the 2019 NFL draft — was over.
“I wasn’t going to be able to play again” for Ohio State, Bosa said Friday. “So it was a no-brainer to just focus on getting ready (for the NFL combine in February), because I need all this time to be where I need to be for when the combine comes around.”
>>Video: Nick Bosa has "awesome" reunion with Buckeyes
There was sorrow with the parting. He had been elected one of seven captains for a team that started under the cloud of coach Urban Meyer being suspended through preseason camp and the first three games.
He had been a team leader as the Buckeyes were directed by acting head coach Ryan Day. He also had jumped off to a hot start, with four sacks and a forced fumble that was recovered for a touchdown against TCU.
Then the injury flipped his plans for a spectacular season. So he cut the cord and moved out to California to live with his older brother, Joey, a former OSU All-American and 2016 first-round pick of the Chargers, who now play at the StubHub Center, which has been Ohio State’s home base this week.
“Just being able to focus on one thing, and just not giving people the wrong idea (that he could possibly come back this season) — it was a tough decision and a lot went into it,” Bosa said. “But I think for everybody, it was best if I moved on.”
Still, seeing his former coaches, such as Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson, support personnel such as Ryan Stamper and Mark Pantoni, and former teammates such as Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper, gave him pause. How would they react? His move away had been abrupt.
“It was definitely probably the toughest decision I’ve made so far in my life,” Bosa said. “Just not seeing my D-line room every day was probably the biggest thing. Coach Meyer, coach Mick, Stamp, Pantoni — all these guys, they’re just the best.”
When he walked onto the practice field Friday, it turned out to be hugs all around.
“It was one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in awhile,” Bosa said. “Just to get here and see all the people I haven’t seen in it seems like forever. I literally gave every single person I saw a hug. So it was pretty awesome.”
The feelings appeared to be mutual, such as his embrace with Johnson, who mentored him and his brother.
“He has been such a supportive person away from home that I’ve had for 2½, really important years of my life,” Bosa said. “I think he really took me from the bottom to the top as a man and as a player.”
It was the first time he had seen Meyer, too, since the coach announced early this month he was retiring, and that the Rose Bowl on Tuesday against Washington would be his final game.
“I just want him to get right mentally, because he’s such a great coach, such a great dude,” Bosa said. “But he won’t really get to enjoy life unless he gets everything figured out with his health.”
That was Bosa’s intention when he moved in with his brother. So far, so good, he said.
“He goes to work (with the Chargers) and I train all day,” Nick Bosa said. “Then at night we just hang out. It’s pretty awesome.”