Robert Landers faced tragedy when he was only 10 years old. His father was murdered in Dayton in a crime that remains unsolved.
That forced Landers to grow up quickly, if not always smoothly. Last year, he candidly described the mental-health challenge he still faces.
So after last weekend’s shooting that killed nine and injured 27 in his hometown, Landers felt compelled to do what he could to help. The Ohio State defensive lineman posted a video expressing his condolences and urging those affected or dealing with mental-health issues to seek help.
Walk with your head high and your heart strong... Take it one day at time, one step at a time, one second at a time... #937Strong #MentalHealth pic.twitter.com/hAvVIYhkun
— Robert Landers (@roblanders96) August 6, 2019
Landers didn’t know any of the victims from the shooting. But he went to bed Saturday night knowing that his brother Trey and two cousins were headed to the Oregon District in Dayton to eat.
With training camp just underway, Landers was exhausted and had put his phone on silent. He and Trey, a basketball player for the University of Dayton, have an arrangement in which Trey agrees to text his brother when he returns home from a night out.
Landers wasn’t aware of the shooting until he awoke the next morning and his phone lit up. Though Trey and his cousins at some point were in the Ned Peppers bar, outside of which the shootings occurred, they were unhurt.
Landers made the video because he knows that the trauma doesn’t just affect the physically injured.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to mentally struggle, whether they lost somebody, whether they were injured, or it's one of those things where it could cause PTSD to anybody who was just down there but did not suffer an injury,” he said. “It can affect somebody on many different levels.
“I felt that it was a good moment for me to not only reach out to the people in my community, but people in other communities who have also suffered from similar issues. I feel like it was a good time to kind of use my platform and speak out about it and express how I felt and pay my condolences to those people.”
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Landers said having a mass shooting in his hometown is surreal.
“When it's in your face, and it's like, oh, this can hit home, it's a little different,” he said.
Landers said that Ohio State coach Ryan Day has checked in with him to make sure he’s all right. Day has made mental health a major off-the-field cause.
“One thing with coach Day is that he is a player's coach,” Landers said. “He actually cares about our well-being and cares about our day-to-day mental state, as well as our physical state. So I appreciate it.”
As far as football goes, Landers is back on the field after missing spring practice due to injury.
“Just getting old,” the fifth-year senior said. “I had a little knee ding.”
He is healed now and will form a rotation at nose guard with Davon Hamilton and Tommy Togiai. Hamilton and Togiai, who is regarded as the strongest player on the team, are more prototypes for the position.
Landers is undersized at 6 feet 1 and 285 pounds, but he uses quickness and leverage to disrupt plays. He should benefit from a new defensive scheme that asks players to get upfield rather than occupy blockers.
“Robert brings a different element to our defensive scheme,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “Great guy inside, great leadership skills. He’s a veteran. He understands how to play the game. That’s really good for the younger guys to watch him play.”
They can benefit from watching him off the field, as well.