Bob Vogel has two wishes for Ohio State’s football game against Northwestern on Friday night.
His first wish is for the Buckeyes to win, something he’s wished for on almost every fall weekend since the late 1950s.
His second wish is more personal.
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For the first time in as long as he can remember, Vogel will also be cheering for Ohio State’s opponent — more specifically, his grandson Gunnar Vogel, the Wildcats' starting offensive right tackle.
For Gunnar, who was born in Columbus and played high school football at Westerville South, the game will serve as a callback.
“Ohio State was my favorite football team growing up, whether it be in the NFL or college,” Gunnar said. “I’m sure a lot of people in Columbus will tell you the Buckeyes are like their pro football team. I was a big fan, for sure.”
Part of Gunnar’s fondness for Ohio State stems from his grandfather having played tackle for the Buckeyes from 1960 to 1962, including being a team captain in 1962. Bob was drafted fifth overall by the Baltimore Colts in 1963 and played 10 years in the NFL, where he was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was on the winning team in Super Bowl V. He was inducted in the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.
Bob said his playing weight in the NFL topped out around 240 pounds, a far cry from Gunnar, who is 6 feet 6 and 310 pounds. While his grandfather might have played a different style on the offensive line, that hasn’t stopped Gunnar from coming to him for advice.
“We’re pretty close; we talk pretty much every week,” Gunnar said. “He’s a great role model and a great person who has gone through it all.”
Gunnar will need all that advice and more when he lines up against a stacked Ohio State defensive line.
“Gunnar is going to be going up against some of the best pass rushers in America,” Bob said. “My point to him was very simple: You've worked hard, you've been diligent. Don’t allow for their physical ability to take you away from what you know works for you.”
As the game draws closer, Gunnar's phone has blown up with texts from high school friends and former teachers.
“I haven’t had anyone text me directly and say, ‘I’m rooting against you,’ but I’m sure that a lot of them are,” Vogel said with a laugh. “I’m all right with that. It’s an exciting challenge to be going against your hometown.”
Regardless of how the game goes, Bob knows he’ll be proud of his grandson.
“The experience of seeing the name Vogel on an offensive tackle's jersey is still …” Bob said before pausing to find his thoughts. “I get tears in my eyes because I know how hard Gunnar has worked.”