Embargoed until Wednesday, Dec. 26
Vernon Gholston may easily be a first-round NFL draft pick if he chooses to leave Ohio State after this season. Life in the pros is so irrelevant for the Buckeyes defensive end now, though. The BCS National Championship Game against LSU is the only thing on Gholston’s mind.
Embargoed until Wednesday, Dec. 26 Vernon Gholston may easily be a first-round NFL draft pick if he chooses to leave Ohio State after this season. Life in the pros is so irrelevant for the Buckeyes defensive end now, though. The BCS National Championship Game against LSU is the only thing on Gholston’s mind. Success by Ohio State will enhance the expected rewards Gholston receives when he moves on to the pros. Failure, as they say, is not an option. “The national championship ... that’s going to be the biggest thing in my life now,” Gholston said. “People can say what I do in this game will affect my chances of going on to the next level. So my focus now is LSU.” The Buckeyes have a championship-caliber defense this season. Butkus Award winner James Laurinaitis leads the way. Gholston also has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Gholston tied Mike Vrabel’s single-season sack record with 13 and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches. “It’s never about me,” Gholston said. “I go out there and try to play hard within the scheme of the defense. I play with my teammates and win games. That’s most important to me. Whether I have 13 sacks or one sack, if we win every game, I’m happy.” Only a few have risen as fast as Gholston. The 6-foot-4, 264-pound junior was not even a football player his first year at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. The school’s coach saw Gholston in the hallways one day and persuaded him to give football a shot. Gholston quickly became one of the Midwest’s top prospects and was an all-state selection as an offensive guard. Nearby Michigan, however, saw him head south to the Wolverines’ archrival. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel made quite an impact on Gholston. “It was big, probably the biggest influence,” Gholston said. “The character he has and the type of man he is made me want to come and join the program.” Michigan fans likely are looking at Gholston with envious eyes. Three of his sacks came in the Buckeyes’ 14-3 win last month in Ann Arbor. He led a dominant defense that held the Wolverines to just 91 total yards and eight first downs. An even more dominant Gholston appears on the horizon. “I think his best football is ahead of him,” Tressel said. “He just keeps getting better and better all the time.” The Buckeyes desperately want to erase the bitter memories of their championship game appearance last season. Another SEC team, the Florida Gators, had their way in a surprising 41-14 beating of Ohio State. Gholston said the Buckeyes were always eager for a second chance. “That’s what we worked hard for all year,” he said. “We got that second opportunity, and hopefully we can capitalize on it.” Reach Canton Repository sports writer Mike Popovich at (330) 580-8341 or email@example.com.