Armed with wrestler mentality, cornerback Marcus Williamson wants big finish to OSU career

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

When Marcus Williamson was growing up in Westerville, wrestling was his main sport.

The sport steeled him well for the adversity he has faced at Ohio State. Williamson is penciled in as a returning starter at slot cornerback, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted because of COVID-19.

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It has been a long journey to reach this point. Williamson’s progress early in his career was stunted by nagging injuries. On a roster loaded with elite defensive backs, it looked like Williamson might never emerge as an impact player.

“Two or three years ago, I was typing up my resume, seeing what I wanted to do after football,” Williamson said Thursday on a Zoom call with reporters.

Ohio State cornerback Marcus Williamson, here celebrating a tackle of Northwestern running back Cam Porter in the Big Ten championship on Dec. 19, is penciled in as a returning starter at slot cornerback.

It's not as if Williamson had put all his eggs in the football basket. A three-time OSU Scholar-Athlete, Williamson has earned his degree in history and is now in graduate school.

But his resolve to make an impact as a football player didn't waver. He credited his parents, Tamar and Marlon Williamson.

“I kind of had the crazy sports dad,” Williamson said. “’You’re doing this sport in the spring,’ and always working out in the basement.”

'I've never been a quitter'

Wrestling was Marcus’s first love.

“There’s not a lot of glory in wrestling,” Williamson said. “All my friends played basketball. I went to school with (former Buckeye) Kaleb Wesson, a big hooper. I'm in the back, in the gym, just wrestling, just getting better, just having that fight in me.

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“I've never been a quitter. Just having that mindset of whatever it is now, I'm just gonna fight, there's gonna be better days, this will pass.”

Williamson choked up before continuing.

“I swear I'm not crying,” he said. “Just keep going, man. Just keep fighting. You never know what will happen, what'll happen on the other side. And I think God has just had a plan for me. If he didn't, I wouldn’t still be here.”

Williamson focusing on improvement

Listed at 5 feet 10 and 186 pounds, Williamson is shorter than the prototype cornerback at Ohio State. Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said last year that he believes Williamson is best suited to the nickel spot. There's uncertainty at the outside spots, though. Cameron Brown is still rehabbing from an Achilles injury sustained last year, and Ohio State said Thursday that Sevyn Banks is unavailable this spring because of an undisclosed issue.

Still, Williamson said he has played almost exclusively in the slot this spring.

Ohio State  cornerback Marcus Williamson tackles Rutgers receiver Bo Melton on Nov. 7. Williamson, from Westerville, says he gets his toughness from wrestling.

Though he said he would love the challenge of playing outside corner, Williamson accepts his role. He just wants to be able to play a key part in a Buckeye secondary intent on showing improvement from a bumpy 2020.

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Williamson said he has spent considerable time lately contemplating the source of his motivation. Earlier in his career, it centered around the fear of another injury.

“That was kind of my driving force in the offseason,” Williamson said. “OK, I'm going to put this extra time in the weight room because I can't have another injury, I can't afford to be injured. My clock's ticking.”

Now his focus is strictly on improvement.

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“When you have that mindset of, ‘I've got this goal of X, Y and Z,’ life doesn't work out that way,” he said. “I'm sure every guy that steps in this program wants to be a top-10 draft pick. They want to have all these accolades — Player of the Year or whatever that may be. For me, it's just been waking up every day and getting better.”

Ready for opportunity: 'I'm glad to be back'

Now he wants to go out with a bang on the field with that focus.

“I think I've really just seen myself take off in the last few months since the season ended, just having that mindset and that approach to this year,” Williamson said. “It's been great and I can't wait to see the results of me doing that. I'm glad to be back. I think it's going to be a great year.”

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No matter what, he’s grateful to have a final season as a Buckeye.

“Even if it doesn't go as planned,” Williamson said, “just having this opportunity to continue to do the sport that I love and to continue to have that wrestling and that fighting mindset has just taken me so far in life, and I hope it takes me farther.”

Indiana receiver Ty Fryfogle makes a catch against Ohio State cornerback Marcus Williamson on Nov. 21. Williamson and the other Buckeyes defensive backs are looking to improve the team's pass defense from a bumpy 2020 season.

Babb also out

Banks isn't the only Buckeye who'll miss the rest of the spring. Ohio State announced that wide receiver Kamryn Babb will also be unavailable. No other details were provided.

The junior from St. Louis has battled knee injuries throughout his career.