Playing for Big Ten football title in hometown a tradition for Ohio State's Pete Werner
Pete Werner grew up in Carmel, Indiana, 25 minutes from Lucas Oil Stadium.
As a high school star at Cathedral, he never got the chance to play in the Indianapolis Colts’ stadium. At Ohio State, it has become a second home.
Werner will play there for the fourth time when the Buckeyes face Northwestern for the Big Ten title on Saturday.
“It's unbelievable,” the senior linebacker said. “It’s crazy. Honestly, it’s been the fourth time playing for the Big Ten championship, and it almost seems like it's another game on the schedule. I'm not trying to sound cocky, but that's just how it is being at Ohio State and having so much pressure on your back to be the best.
“It’s one of those games where we have to be here. It’s basically what is said by our coaches. It’s another game we have to win to later go on and compete (for a national title).”
Excitement for Big Ten, as a senior
Players are given four tickets for family members to attend. With some players’ unable to use their allotment, Werner is happy to take theirs. As of midweek, he had accumulated about 15.
“I'm super excited, especially since they haven't been able to see the past few,” Werner said. “They're very excited, as well. I've had to try and get as many tickets as possible. I’m very excited, especially because it brings back memories of sitting there in Lucas Oil as a kid being a Colts fan. Now they're sitting there watching me. It’s pretty cool, especially being the fourth year.”
As a senior, Werner has emerged as a full-fledged star. He was named first-team All-Big Ten in coaches voting this week. Werner leads the Buckeyes with 32 tackles as he has made a smooth transition from the strongside to weakside spot this year.
“I think he's playing as good as anybody in the country at linebacker,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Sunday. “He's very versatile with what he can do at Will. He's having a major impact on the game.”
This is Werner’s second Big Ten championship game against Northwestern, but much has changed since then. In 2018, Werner was a first-year starter on a porous defense.
“It was just a tough year because being a Silver Bullet, you're not used to having major setbacks like that year,’ Werner said. “Personally, I didn't think I played badly. I thought a lot of these people that were criticizing me didn't really know what they were talking about just because of the scheme and everything that was involved.”
Werner added at least 10 pounds before his junior year and took major strides. This year, the development has continued as he made the switch in linebacker spots.
“I knew it was one of the tougher positions on the field to know,” Werner said, “but playing it right, you make a lot of plays. You're usually at the ball most of the time so I was very excited for it.”
Werner has also excelled academically. A real estate major, he has been an OSU scholar-athlete (minimum grade-point average of 3.0) and All-Academic Big Ten multiple times, including this fall.
“He's a man,” Day said. “Maybe didn't come in here that way, but he's leaving a man. The way he handles himself, when he speaks, people listen. He's very, very well thought out.
“We had our Senior Tackle last week, and his speech was unbelievable. We’re going to miss his leadership next year. We're going to miss his production. And we’ll miss him as a person. He's a special young man on the field and off.”
Ohio State vs. Northwestern
When: noon Saturday
TV: Ch. 28
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)