At 40, Day equal parts football coach and family man

Bill Rabinowitz

On Tuesday, Ryan Day turns 40.

The Ohio State football coach said he hasn’t had much time to reflect on that. Been a little busy.

“Forty years old sounds old to me,” he said, “but I know in this profession it’s not.”

Forty is a milestone birthday, where many take stock of their lives. For Day, life is quite good.

“I think if you’d asked me 20 years ago or 10 years ago, ‘Where do you see yourself at 40?’ ” he said, “this is where I’d see myself. Maybe not at Ohio State, but in this kind of role.”

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This is Day’s first head coaching job, but he believes the breadth of experience at all levels — from FCS to the NFL — has prepared him.

Though he is a New Hampshire native who didn’t live in Ohio until becoming quarterbacks coach/offensive co-coordinator after the 2016 season, Day fully grasps the pressure he faces. Predecessor Urban Meyer didn’t lose more than two games in any of his seven seasons.

Day said he embraces that standard.

“Absolutely,” he said. “You don’t want to be at any place other than Ohio State. It’s the best place in America to come work for a lot of reasons. You can start to get yourself too worried about that or overwhelmed if you start thinking about what-if.”

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He prefers to think about the positive what-ifs, including winning championships. Besides, speculation is irrelevant.

“What matters is how we do today and tomorrow and staying in the moment and maximizing each moment,” he said.

Maximizing each moment has another meaning for Day. As passionate as he is about coaching, his priority remains his family. He and his wife, Nina, have three young children, son R.J. and daughters Grace and Nia.

It has been an adjustment for them as well.

“I knew life was going to change,” Nina Day said. “I just didn’t realize how much it was going to change.”

The Days recently moved from Powell to Delaware, though in the same school district.

“That’s the goal — to buy a home we could grow in and be here for a long time,” Nina said.

Nina is not as comfortable in the public eye as Shelley Meyer is. She is still sorting out the many requests she has gotten for her attention. The demands on a football coach are so great that the Days savor their time together.

They still enjoy going out to dinner as a family, but no longer can do so anonymously. Kids want daddy time, and daddy doesn’t belong to them only anymore.

Nina and Ryan Day don’t complain about this. They said that Buckeyes fans have been overwhelmingly supportive and kind to them. But it is different.

The Days went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a long weekend in December. With Ohio State on spring break this week, they are headed back to New Hampshire. (One big difference between the Meyers and Days: the former love the sun; the latter like the cold.)

Day strives to do regular things: He still goes to the grocery store and attends his kids’ games and events.

“We try to be as normal as we can,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not easy, but we try to do that. I think people for the most part are respectful and understand that’s who I am. I’m still a dad. I’m still a husband.”

Right now, Day is undefeated as Ohio State coach. Scrutiny will come when — yes, it will happen — the Buckeyes lose. But three months into the job, Day seems at ease. Nina said that as all-consuming as it may be, her husband’s identity is greater than his occupation.

“I’ve known him my whole life,” she said. “Ninety percent of his time is in coaching or used to be in playing sports, but it didn’t really truly define who he was. There’s a lot more to him.”

Now as he turns 40 and has taken the helm at Ohio State, he understands the responsibility.

“This is not an achievement for me,” Day said. “This is an opportunity. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and hopefully along the way we’re going to win a bunch of championships here. Then that will be a time to look back and be proud. But right now there’s a lot of work to do, and it’s just an opportunity.”


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