COLUMBUS — In 1998, Jonathan Wells made his way up to Columbus to play running back for the Ohio State football program after winning three straight Louisiana 4A state championships.
He was the first player from the state to play for the Buckeyes, using a four-year career to compile 2,344 yards and 26 touchdowns while earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2001.
His best performance came in a 26–20 win against Michigan in Jim Tressel’s first season as the Buckeyes’ head coach. That day, he ran for 129 yards with three touchdowns while snapping a six-game losing streak to the Wolverines. He spent four years in the NFL with the Houston Texans after being a fourth-round pick In 2002.
Wells was an outlier as the first Louisiana player to commit to Ohio State. Two years after his departure, Nader Abdallah became the second. He’d see action in 30 games, recording 53 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two sacks.
On April 22 of this year, Ohio State would head to Louisiana for its third commitment in what would jumpstart its 2022 recruiting class. Unlike the previous two, Jyaire Brown Warren Easton High School doesn’t plan to come alone.
“That’s a priority,” Brown told cleveland.com. “I’m going to try my best to get some guys down here on board with me.”
Brown is an Ohio native who moved to New Orleans when he was 4 years old. That connection made receiving an OSU offer a dream come true that he wanted to jump at within moments after defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs extended it to him.
“The first time I talked to Coach Coombs, I let him know I wanted to commit on the spot,” Brown said. “But my dad was like ‘wait it out.’”
That “wait it out” period lasted five days. Brown sees the benefit in making a decision early in that it allows him to focus on his development knowing that his future is already decided. It also frees up his time to start to work on the state’s other top players so that he can bring as many of them with him when he arrives in two years. He already knows who his No. 1 target is.
“My best friend Jacoby Mathews (of Ponchatoula High School),” Brown said. “He’s the No. 1 safety in Louisiana, and he’s No. 12 in the nation at his position.”
Brown is four-star recruit rated as the No. 122 overall player and No. 16 cornerback in the class. He holds offers from 19 schools. That includes LSU, which has made a habit out of signing the top players in its backyard. The Tigers have signed Louisiana’s No. 1 player every year since 2013. Being a highly rated defensive back from Louisiana usually means you’re headed to Baton Rouge. Brown can change that, and as an Ohio native who had dreams of playing for OSU, he’s the perfect key to unlocking that door.
As Brown watched Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette become of the sixth and seventh Ohio State cornerbacks to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2014, he felt that the decision he’d made 24 hours earlier was validated. That added to the relationship he’d already built with the man responsible for the Buckeyes’ claim to ” Defensive Back U ” in the first place.
“That made me realize why I chose this place,” Brown said. “That boosted my confidence in seeing those defensive backs get drafted.”
He plans to add his name to the list of first-round picks Coombs has produced. But that list is already growing long with no end in sight as Shaun Wade could be the next to do so in 2021. The list that isn’t long is the number of players from Louisiana who have called Columbus home.
That’s going to change in 2022 if Brown has anything to say about it. He’s the only one with an OSU offer right now — and 1 of 54 sophomores with one — but it’s early, and that will change. He knows what Louisiana’s defensive backs are made of and plans to make sure everyone else knows as well.
“You’ll be able to get a guy with that dog in him,” Brown said. “We try to make every play just like a receiver. If that ball’s in the air, we have that ball hawk mentality.”