Ohio State: One on One with Buckeye Great Joe Staysniak

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Nov 7, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes helmet prior to the game versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

For The Game Especially, What Does It Mean To You?

“Anybody that grows up in Ohio knows the meaning of the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry. So as a player, that meaning is magnified. You feel the responsibility of representing every Buckeye in the state and around the world. Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, sisters, brothers, aunts uncles, and especially those men and women serving in the military…you want to win for them. You want those important people around you to be proud. It’s funny how much the game means even after you’re done.

I’m not far off from my 50th birthday and I’m still being asked what it was like to play in one of these games.  I guess it’s kind of like being in the Hunger Games…without a bunch of people dying.

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It’s one of those deals where you do everything you can in this game and if you’re a star, you can write your own ticket. Just look at Desmond Howard. Some of these guys have made names for themselves just off of how they played in this game. I was fortunate to play in four of them and not only was it the last game of the year, but we always had a lot riding on it. Even though we weren’t a great team back in those days, winning or losing defined our season. We never had a national championship riding on the outcome, but it was still the marquee game of the season.

There’s a lot of pressure in playing because you know friends and family are all excited about watching on TV. The whole campus goes nuts. I remember back in the day when Earle Bruce was the head coach. He took a page out of Woody Hayes’s book and made it personal. I came into the locker room and saw a poster over the top of my locker that said “Staysniak could never play at Michigan”, signed Bo Schembechler.

It was one of those things that got you stirred up.  Guys on the scout team would get into it, too, by taping up their helmets to look like Wolverine helmets.  Everyone had a part and you had to do yours if the team was going to win.

All of the traditions that go along with Michigan week on campus only helped to fuel the fire. Your classmates and all the alumni reminded you of what was at stake. It’s almost like you get so emotionally tied up in everything you’re thankful when the game finally gets here. You never get tired in this game, you never feel pain in this game. You go as hard as you can. It’s a really cool feeling to be a part of the whole thing.”

Next: Favorite Memory Of The Game?