Former OSU linebacker Dallas Gant says he transferred seeking greater opportunities

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch

Dallas Gant grew up in Toledo, where both of his parents attended college — his father, Jim, as a football player for the Rockets from 1990-93 and his mother, Rhonda, as a team cheerleader. Gant attended camps there and was recruited by the Rockets.

“Their brand of football is toughness and playing hard and be able to compete with everybody,” Gant said. 

When it came time for Gant to choose a college the four-star linebacker in the 2018 class out of St. John’s Jesuit High School picked Ohio State.

However, when the Buckeyes host the Rockets Saturday, Gant will be playing for the visitors.

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Why Dallas Gant transferred from OSU

Gant didn’t want to leave Ohio State. 

It’s the program that taught him to be the player and person he is now. Gant remains grateful. 

But he felt he had no other choice. 

“I just kind of saw the direction that it was going in terms of playing time and being appreciated in the program,” Gant said. “I just didn’t enjoy where I was at at the time, and I just wanted to move on.” 

Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Dallas Gant (19) makes a tackle on Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) during the third quarter of their game in Huntington Bank Stadium at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN on September 2, 2021.

Having reached that conclusion, he deleted his social media accounts, knowing there would be blowback for leaving behind his four seasons with the Buckeyes, in which he played in 19 games, recording 54 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, while adding a pass deflection, a fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. 

He entered the transfer portal three games into Ohio State’s 2021 season to keep his redshirt and ensure two more years of eligibility with another program. 

“I knew that I was making a decision that was what was best for me,” Gant said. “It’s not a decision that ... anybody wants to make. I didn’t want to leave the place, but I felt like I had to do what was best for me. Me coming to terms with that and me being OK with that ultimately led to me entering the portal.

“At that point. I kind of knew that it didn’t really matter what anybody else had to say. They don’t know my situation, they don’t know my predicament, they don’t know my mental health. They don’t know anything about that. It only mattered what I thought and what mattered to me.” 

As the Buckeyes’ continued their 2021 season, Gant became a “regular person for a while,” continuing to work on his studies in order to finish his bachelor’s degree in finance at OSU. 

But the former four-star linebacker didn’t know what was coming next. He didn’t know what schools, if any, would reach out and recruit him. 

A return to his hometown emerged as Gant’s best path forward. 

“I kind of shut everybody out, never answered any phone calls or anything like that,” Gant said. “As time went on, I kind of just relied on God and my prayer to kind of guide me where I wanted to go.

“I think coming back home was the best decision for me.” 

Putting Ohio State football behind him

Gant signed with the Rockets in February, and by summer workouts, he had completely moved on.

“That’s one thing I really respect about Dallas: I haven’t heard anything about Ohio State,” coach Jason Candle said. “It’s all been about Toledo and being here and how he can help this program win and how he’s turned the page for a new opportunity for himself individually.” 

For Gant, it was a clean break. Even though he was coming home, the linebacker knew he had to start from scratch and earn the respect and trust of his new coaches and teammates. 

Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Dallas Gant (19) runs with defensive end Tyreke Smith (11) during football training camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021.

It was something he was able to do over the summer.

Candle says he appreciates that Gant is an instinctive and accountable player with great length, size and speed, who knows where he’s supposed to be at all times. 

Through his first two games with the Rockets, that's shown up in Gant's 10 tackles — four solo and 16 assisted — with a pass deflection and a forced fumble.

“He was coming into a situation where we had a good defense returning, and how he could fit into that and how he can help us out, help us become a better defense,” Candle said. “And he’s done a good job of that so far.” 

While leaders were already established from last year’s defense, Gant said people are looking at him just because of his five years of experience in college football. 

“They had a great defense before I came here, so it’s not anything that they’re new to or anything like that,” Gant said. 

Gant 'not looking to prove anything' Saturday

He checks in with his former Ohio State teammates every now and then to make sure they are doing fine. But Gant’s focus has turned to his hometown team. 

“I flipped the page on Ohio State when I came here,” Gant said. “I got my degree, I did my time, I put in my full effort to that program. And I kind of turned the page. 

“So I’m not looking to prove anything to any fans or any coaches over there or anything like that. I’m just trying to do what I can to help this team win and put our best foot forward to compete and help win this game.” 

That’s what Candle expects to see Saturday: a level-headed linebacker who plays within the scheme of Toledo’s defense. 

“That’s just who he is as a human being, you know what I mean?” Candle said. “Great, solid human beings in tough moments don’t step out of character. I’d expect him to prepare and have a great week and then go play well on Saturday night.”

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