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Jonathon Cooper to wear No. 0 in new Ohio State tradition to honor Bill Willis

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State defensive end Jonathon Cooper will wear No. 0 this year in honor of former Buckeye great Bill Willis. Photo courtesy of Ohio State Department of Athletics

Ohio State defensive end Jonathon Cooper will wear No. 0 this year as part of a new program tradition to honor legendary lineman Bill Willis.

Cooper, who previously wore No. 18, was presented with the "Block O" jersey at practice on Saturday. He is a fifth-year senior who decided to redshirt last year after injuring his ankle during preseason camp. He played in four games, choosing to play against Michigan but not Ohio State's postseason games, to preserve his eligibility for 2020.

Willis was one of Ohio State's first Black stars. He played under Paul Brown in the early 1940s and professionally as a member of the Cleveland Browns.

A Columbus native, Willis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. He died in 2007 at the age of 86.

"Just want to say how much this means to me and what an honor it truly is," Cooper wrote on Twitter. "I will wear the Block 0 and represent my team, the coaches, the university and everything that the late great Bill Willis stood for. Thank you buckeye nation."

Ohio State's belated Big Ten-only regular season begins Oct. 24 against visiting Nebraska. It will be Fox's Big Noon Saturday featured game, with the studio show originating from Columbus.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch