Just hours before Ohio State met up with Penn State in State College, Pa., last Saturday, Jets assistant defensive backs coach Doug Plank was asked by Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel to address the Buckeyes at their pregame meal.
“If I’m a head coach, I’m cautious who I let talk to my players because you don’t want somebody coming in and giving the wrong message. That is why I appreciate Coach Tressel for allowing me to speak to his team,” Plank told newyorkjets.com this week.
Buddy Ryan’s “46” defense was named after Plank, but the Jets assistant was a Buck prior to transitioning to life as a Bear. During Plank’s three seasons at OSU, the safety played in three Rose Bowls as the Buckeyes amassed a 29-4-1 mark. The tradition of a team walk before the pregame meal has remained part of the school’s fabric for decades even though Plank says it’s a little different because all of the players don matching Ohio State sweatsuits now instead of a kaleidoscope of outfits.
Once Saturday’s walk was complete, the players gathered for an organized breakfast and they heard from Plank.
“It was super quiet. Everyone understood the magnitude of the game," said the honorary captain. "That shows how serious it is at a college level. Jim Tressel introduced me and said, ‘Doug’s going to give us a few words with regard to his experience as a Buckeye.’ ”
Plank delivered a four-point message that covered preparation, moment, purpose and tradition.
He asked the players, who entered the Big Ten contest at 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference, if they were ready for 8-1 Penn State.
“Did I do everything I could have done in terms of watching film, preparing myself and mentally going through the game myself the night before?”
The 56-year-old Plank also looked the Buckeyes in the eyes and told many players that they’ll never return to State College so they’d better make the most of it.
“I reminded all juniors and seniors that this was going to be the last time they’ll play at Penn State. For seniors, this is it,” he said. “While it might just seem like another game, when you’re going through that, you don’t understand it but you’ll live with those memories forever.”
Still to this day, Plank has recollections of his senior year because the 12th-round pick of the Bears in 1975 never thought he’d play football once he left Columbus, Ohio. Now more than 30 years later, he asked players who they were playing for and recalled his own upbringing.
“I didn’t come from a single-parent home, but I’ll say this — what I remember about my dad growing up was he was always working,” said Plank. “He was either going to work or coming home from work. It was my mother who went to all my games. I don’t think she missed one game from 8 years old to growing up through high school.
“Living in Pittsburgh, she would get on a bus and take a three-hour bus ride out to Columbus, watch the game when I was covering kickoffs, get back on the bus and go back home again.”
Lastly, Plank reflected on Buckeye pride. They are all bonded by a common thread and individual statistics aren’t the numbers that matter most at Ohio State.
“You play for your current teammates and all the guys who’ve come before you. Last year, Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells [the OSU back who was selected 31st overall in April by the Cardinals] came through this building on his visits to NFL teams,” said the good-natured Plank. “I took him in my office, sat him right across from my chair and we talked about Ohio State for five minutes.
"I said, ‘You know what, Chris? I want to thank you for everything you did at Ohio State because you wore the same number — No. 28 — that I did at Ohio State. Every time you had a big block, I felt like I had that big block. Every time you made a great run and celebrated in the end zone, I was there with you.’ ”
Literally on the sideline in "Happy Valley," Plank got to enjoy the Jets’ bye week as the Buckeyes smothered the Nittany Lions, 24-7, and kept their Rose Bowl hopes alive.
“All throughout the course of the game, guys I’ve never met before came up and shook my hands on the sideline,” he said. “I know the players will remember that game and everything that was part of it for a long time."
Tags: bye week, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Ohio State, Penn State
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