'I got Minnesota's number.' Catching up with former Ohio State running back Carlos Snow
With a late October birthday and a tendency to play Minnesota around that time of the year, it's no wonder Ohio State running back Carlos Snow started to view them as the same thing.
"I got Minnesota's number," he observed with a laugh.
And what numbers they were.
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In 1987 on his actual birthday of Oct. 24, Snow and his teammates beat Minnesota 42-9, and the freshman was responsible for 24 of the Buckeyes' points.
Then, in 1989, Snow was part of one of the greatest comebacks in college football history. With the Buckeyes down 31-0 to the Golden Gophers, he recorded 278 all-purpose yards, caught two touchdown passes and helped pace a historic rally, with OSU winning 41-37.
Only one other team, Maryland against Miami in 1984, had overcome such a deficit.
"The team all came together and said this cannot be happening to The Ohio State University," Snow said. "That's when we became like a brotherhood, I would say."
But part of the reason Snow came to view game day and his birthday as one and the same is he admittedly did not have much of an identity outside the sport.
He wanted to make it in the NFL but suffered numerous injuries. He had a benign tumor removed from his thigh, which cost him the 1990 season. Eventually, both his knees would have to be replaced, and he says he still needs another surgery on his back.
He spiraled, turning to pain pills and alcohol and ending up homeless.
"I had this pride about myself, like I'll go do it all on my own," said Snow.
He knew people with five- and six-bedroom homes, while he says he would have been happy to stay in the garage.
His mentor, retired doctor Bernard Master, who had met Snow while he was in college, intervened.
"He helped get me off the streets," Snow said. "He's still like the captain of this team right here."
Something else that was transformative for Snow was his job at Directions for Youth. He talked about working with gang members, hoping to help them turn their lives around. "I always stressed education. Education is the key, going to school," he said.
But he realized that made him a bit of a hypocrite, so he signed on to be part of the Ohio State athletic department's Degree Completion Program.
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Now he is three classes away from graduation: social stratification, social theory, (He is taking those this semester) and philosophy — which he should ace considering how philosophical all the adversity he has faced has made him.
"I had to trust people like my psychiatrist," Snow said. "I would tell any athlete, especially athletes with all the stuff that they go through and all the mental health situations that they may endure, it's crucial that you open up and let people help you. That's been the biggest difference with me. I've been putting my pride aside. That's the new Carlos that people are seeing."
The new Carlos says he is five years sober and still meeting with Alcoholics Anonymous. The new Carlos says he is getting straight A's, something he had never done before. The new Carlos also has three sons he is very proud of, and an 11-year-old grandson who aims to be a Buckeye running back himself someday.
"He says he's going to come up here and break Eddie George's record," Snow said with a laugh. "He just thinks he's going to be the next great thing at Ohio State, even though I can't show him little drills and different skills. That was taken away from me."
Even if Snow can't run or demonstrate proper footwork, he still loves "this game called football." He knows it helped pave the way to whatever is next.
He's not sure exactly what that is yet, but points to a youth home in Cincinnati operated by former Bengals linebacker Joe Kelly.
"I want to model what he has going on because I see that it really works," said Snow.
What's worked for Snow is finding an identity outside of being an Ohio State Buckeye, something he can do with the help of ... the Ohio State Buckeyes.
"I want to thank Ohio State and how they were just so kind to have me come back," he said. "That is just amazing. It's amazing. And nothing is going to top that, because all you need is a chance."
Spoken like a man who knows something about great comebacks.