COLUMBUS – Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee has never had a problem getting his voice heard, except for one time.
Lee, who played quarterback and cornerback at New Albany High School, wanted a scholarship offer to play at Ohio State. He really wanted one.
He kept coming back to the Buckeyes’ camp for high school players, at least three times in all, before he finally got an offer from Urban Meyer.
One time he couldn’t even get Meyer to look at him, much less talk to him, on a day when Ohio State hosted high school juniors. “I was walking right beside him for like a good minute and he didn’t even look at me,” Lee said earlier this week. “I was the guy in the corner.”
Meyer admits there was a long time he was not interested in Lee, a redshirt freshman, who has been one of the big playmakers on Ohio State’s defense this season — 7.5 sacks, two recovered fumbles and two touchdowns.
But Lee did have someone in his corner. Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell kept telling Meyer that Lee, with the speed he had, could play somewhere for Ohio State. Maybe he wasn’t sure what position, but he thought he was a bet worth making in the recruiting casino.
“I credit Coach Fickell with that one,” Meyer said. “He (Lee) came to camp, like five or six times. I rejected him, probably four times. Shows you how good an evaluator I am. Coach Fickell made the right decision.”
Lee’s relentless pursuit of an Ohio State scholarship would come as no surprise to his teammates.
“Darron Lee always has something to say, no matter what it is, and he lets it be known,” OSU linebacker Joshua Perry said, with a laugh.
Lee’s emergence this season was much needed, with linebacker Ryan Shazier passing up his senior season to go into the NFL Draft.
He redshirted as a freshman last year, so not many people knew what to expect. What they got was one of the best first seasons by an OSU linebacker in years. His 7.5 sacks this season are the most by an Ohio State linebacker since 2005, when A.J. Hawk had 8.5.
Ohio State’s defense is more aggressive overall than it was a year ago and a lot of the credit for that goes to Lee.
“I’m energetic. An energy giver. If I can make a play or give the guys energy, that would be huge,” he said. “When I’m on the field with my guys, it’s the greatest feeling and it just gives me a little bit of extra energy.”
One thing he is not, though, is satisfied or complacent. “I’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve arrived in any way, shape or form because I haven’t.,” Lee said.
Lee and running back Ezekiel Elliott were named the defensive and offensive players of the game when OSU beat Alabama 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl last week.
A golf cart took them from the postgame interview room back to Ohio State’s locker room. On the ride to the locker room, Elliott remembered when they came in together in the 2013 recruiting class.
“He’s like, ‘Honestly, I didn’t even know what position you were going to play. I didn’t know if you were going to be a linebacker.’ I was just like, ‘A lot of people didn’t, man. It’s whatever. I don’t really care. It’s cool,” Lee said.