Fatherhood provides Ohio State’s Damon Arnette with extra motivation for NFL career

Bill Rabinowitz
Cornerback Damon Arnette had to play most of the 2019 season wearing a cast for a broken right wrist. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

INDIANAPOLIS Last month, Damon Arnette lost something that was a constant reminder of the adversity he overcame last season: the cast on his broken wrist.

About the same time, the Ohio State cornerback gained something that has given him even more motivation to complete his journey from immature underachiever to respected player and leader a son.

Arnette’s son is named Tyson, but he calls him “Ace” because he’s his first child.

“If y'all have kids, y'all know what it feels like to look at your child for the first time and that instant sacrifice that you'll give for him,” Arnette said Friday at the NFL combine. “I had a natural chip on my shoulder my whole life. My goal of playing football hasn't been to prove people wrong but to prove myself right.

“Now, having a son, things are different now. So that fire in my eye grew, that burn that I have for the game grew some more, because I'm no longer doing it for myself. I'm doing it for my little man.”

Arnette had every intention of being at last year’s combine. He has told the story repeatedly that he had decided to turn pro after the 2018 season but changed his mind after talking with his father, then former Buckeyes star receiver Cris Carter and defensive co-coordinator Jeff Hafley. All three told him he hadn’t done enough to make the jump.

To Arnette’s credit, he listened. He rededicated himself and became a much-improved player and leader.

“If you love a redemption story, you'll respect Damon Arnette a lot,” fellow Buckeyes cornerback Jeff Okudah said Friday. “(He’s) someone that had a lot of doubters his first four years at Ohio State. A lot of guys (would) kind of cower up or blame a lot of people, but he just put his head down and kept working.”

Arnette won’t go as high as Okudah in the NFL draft in two months, but he’ll almost certainly go much earlier than he would have in the 2019 draft. He’s projected as a possible second- or third-round pick.

Arnette isn’t dwelling on those who question whether his transformation in maturity is permanent, the so-called character question.

“I've never gotten arrested,” he said. “I never had an abuse charge or anything like that. So ‘character’ concerns, I feel like that that word is used real loosely when you really think of what character concerns really are.

“I was just a young man that needed to mature a little bit more. And I feel like that growth from 2018 to 2019 is exactly what I did. I grew up.”

Arnette said he is used to overcoming challenges. He was only a 3-star recruit out of high school in Florida. He didn’t quit during his growing pains at Ohio State. He excelled last year despite playing most of the season with the wrist injury.

Through it all, he never lost faith in himself.

“I'll go through my own personal issues, but at the end of the day I always, always rise up on top,” Arnette said.


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