December 29, 2016

Fiesta Bowl Quotes – Media Day

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Dec. 29, 2016

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Urban Meyer | Malik Hooker | J.T. Barrett | Raekwon McMillan | Pat Elflein

Urban Meyer
Head Coach

THE MODERATOR: I’d like to welcome Ohio State coach Urban Meyer with some opening comments.

COACH MEYER: Thank you once again. Honored to be here. We’ve made that very clear. And as the game gets closer, we want to thank all the folks involved, Mike Nealy, all the way down to our hosts and people who take care of us.

So this is one of the favorite bowl games I’ve ever been to and always look forward to coming back and very proud of our preparation and look forward to playing the game. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. How much of a challenge is it for you — I know you’ve been in this position many times — when you go more than a month between playing games and keeping your guys locked in?
COACH MEYER: Every team is different. We have a template that I’ve used for many years. But I go all the way back to 2008, that was a very veteran team that we had to basically get them to the final game.

We’ve had young teams like the 2014 team was very young. This team falls more into that mode. So we practiced hard. I’ve tried to put them in as many game situations as possible.

Almost half our roster’s never been to a bowl game. And they’re freshmen that have never played in a bowl game. But it was a little different preparation that we’ve had if you were a veteran team. So that’s the only difference. And now it’s all about getting them off their feet, getting them ready to go and rested so they can play their best.

Q. You don’t really think of Clemson and Ohio State being traditionally recruiting rivals, but Coach Lee said you two have gone after the same players. Has that been your experience and what is it like to recruit against Clemson?
COACH MEYER: It started at Florida. I didn’t know much about Clemson. We lost a player to them. I didn’t understand that.

And I remember Charlie Strong saying that Clemson does a good job. Then I got to visit there at ESPN. It’s a good place.

So we are certainly probably rivals — Clemson, Alabama, those are usually neck to neck with them and fighting for the best players. So you win some, you lose some.

Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Dabo Swinney a little bit? You guys have done things in the offseason together in the past and just talk about the relationship you two have?
COACH MEYER: We were together last night. We were trying to put together when we first met. I was the head coach at Utah, he was an assistant coach at Clemson and Tommy Bowden was the coach. He sent him out to spend three days with us. That was the first time we met. And then Phil Knight at Nike invites, I don’t know, 15 to 20 coaches every year to get away. That’s when our relationship really got strong.

Our wives are very good friends. So it’s just a very good relationship.

Q. Why do you think you’ve had so much success in bowl games? And secondly, do you think that you think about your legacy in the pantheon of college football coaching?
COACH MEYER: Every time you hear the word success I always credit these guys next to me. We have very, very good players that care. I’ve had not many but every once in a while you get a few great players that don’t care, that’s tough. But when you start seeing Raekwon McMillan and Pat Elflein and J.T. Barrett and Malik Hooker, they’re not only great players but they care deeply about their team.

So we push team first. We push brotherhood of trust, other things. So you want to get a group of players that play really hard, get them to care about each other, and that’s why we’ve had success.

Q. At a time when a lot of parents are steering their kids to specialization so that they can maybe be in a program like yours some day, you have a lot of multi-sport athletes. What is your philosophy?
COACH MEYER: Specialization, you have to speak louder, please.

Q. Concentrating on football only in the hopes of some day being in a program like this, you have a lot of multi-sport athletes in your program. You were a multi-sport athlete. What’s your philosophy?
COACH MEYER: I think every parent — I just speak on behalf of my kids. I was very disappointed when my daughters — I don’t know if now is the time to talk about it — but when I was told that she had to play volleyball year-round because I think you should play multiple sports. My son plays baseball, football, and I always like the athletes that play more than one sport.

Q. Does it change at the college level? Do you think that’s when they need to specialize?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, there’s just really no time to — I’ve had some dual multi-sport players, but I think one or two at most. Track and football are fine. But I had a couple of baseball players. You start putting that intense academic workloads, it’s much more difficult in college.

Q. We’re asking guys if Kanye West wrote a song about the team what the title would be. But I understand you’re more of a Sister Hazel fan. If Sister Hazel wrote a song about your team what would you say the title would be?
COACH MEYER: You have to ask one of these younger guys, I don’t know.

Q. (Question off microphone)?
COACH MEYER: I believe you start now. One of the great legacies is a group of coaches that have become head coaches from my staff that in this day and age of different styles, (indiscernible) placed on toughness and how important it is to have a family-type atmosphere within the program.

I got to go visit guys, because you get in a cocoon. And when I was younger I used to love to go out and watch other programs and take nuggets from everybody. And I worked for some of the greatest head coaches, Bob Davie, who doesn’t get enough credit. What a fantastic coach he is.

And then Lou Holtz, Earle Bruce and Sonny Lubick, those are my mentors. I was able to, that year, go off to visit some guys I have great respect for and I learned a lot.

Q. The players said the 26th you came back and had a hard practice?
COACH MEYER: Hard one.

Q. Is that the first time you brought them back and had one on site before you go out?
COACH MEYER: No, we always do that. It’s the first time we’ve had a hard one, because usually we play on January 1st or 2nd or 3rd, and you bring them on the 26th and they’ve been sitting around for four and a half days, but we had that as a Monday practice. So it was a hard one.

Q. Just off the top, Gibson, is there any word, will he be at Ohio State as far as you know or is he —
COACH MEYER: I don’t even — we’ve been so busy we’ll visit that after the game.

Q. When you visited ESPN (indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER: It was an SEC-style atmosphere. There’s that big battle between the SEC and ACC. And the SEC, which I was part of for a long time, no one is as good as the SEC. I walked into that atmosphere and I said, wow, I didn’t know this was here. Small town with a big stadium. Very impressed.

Q. Did it make sense to you?
COACH MEYER: No, I still don’t believe we should ever lose a recruit.

Q. What have you taken from the playoff two years ago in terms of logistics and managing your team?
COACH MEYER: It was unchartered waters. I remember I was very concerned about logistics — my biggest thing is I don’t really care about how the trainers’ children are getting — I’m not being mean, but I just care about our players, I care about our players’ families. And I thought how in the hell are you going to be able to do this, pull this off.

I’m not worried about the television contracts or about the money or about the stadium. I’m worried about our players. And distractions to players cause poor performances.

I think one of the great things that myself and Gene Smith, along with our President Drake pushed that through, is they were going to pay our players’ families to be able to get to the Sugar Bowl or to the National Championship game.

So that’s all. I thought it would be a logistical nightmare and there would be a lot of disgruntled players and families. And I still ask that question today: How do all my children go for free? Mine do. I never ask for that, but they do. Why don’t we get our parents.

And we’re giving them $2,500. I think it’s a step in the right direction. But that maybe pays for one person airfare and a hotel room. So my biggest concern is about players. I don’t care about this other stuff.

Q. What about, I remember last time two years ago in terms of managing their bodies and their health. This year the turnaround to the next game is (indiscernible)?
COACH MEYER: I learned. I remember we played Alabama and we scheduled a padded practice, uppers, and the players, I talked to them, they said I don’t think we can do it, because it was such a physical game with Alabama.

So once again the template. We have a template now. So we’ll worry about that next one if we get there. But at least we went through it.

Q. What was the difference in motivating this young team this year compared to the squad last year?
COACH MEYER: Big difference. Every team is different. I think we’ve created a culture of family, of people who care for each other, and if you don’t fit that culture, we don’t recruit you. If you don’t fit that culture, you don’t stay very long.

And so that’s the good thing, the consistency, culture is the same, but it’s real. Half our team’s never been to a bowl game. Half our team’s never played in a bowl game. So we had to — practice was a little different. And one of the concerns I had last year at the Fiesta Bowl was when we lost that one game and we weren’t playing in the National Championship game, how would they respond.

But I didn’t give them enough credit. They played their best games after that. That was against our rival and against Notre Dame.

Malik Hooker
Safety

Q. I follow you on Instagram and social media. I don’t know if it’s something you’re comfortable talking about, I notice most times when you post a picture you post an RIP message. Is that something you’re comfortable to talk about? What’s the backstory?
MALIK HOOKER: One of my cousins this year, middle this year, May 2nd, was killed. He was shot. And he ended up passing away. I feel like I dedicated the majority of the season to what he has done.

And my other cousin, he was killed January 2nd, it will be eight years coming up next year. So that’s just something I feel like — I dedicate most of the stuff I do, something I just think about. I take into consideration anything I do, whether I’m out and I’m having fun with friends or whatever it may be, I feel like that’s what I’m dedicating everything for.

If it wasn’t for them — it’s always motivating them as they pass away, I wouldn’t be here. They tell me keep working, keep doing what you’re doing.

Q. What’s it been like to grow up with that as you’re going through this transformation?
MALIK HOOKER: It molded me into the person I am today, like I said, because not a lot of people can deal with something like that keep focused. Most of the times people deal with a death, two deaths similar to us, somebody close to me like that, they tend to be able to get off track and feel like they have nothing left to fight for.

But I use that as motivation for myself.

Q. What’s it been like to have the season and to be able to honor them?
MALIK HOOKER: It’s just a humbling thing. Especially for me to be able to do it the way I’m doing. I just give credit to God mostly because I couldn’t I couldn’t do anything without him, because I feel like they’re out there with me, too.

I’ve got my cousin tattooed on my arm and everything. I give credit to them all. I couldn’t be as strong as I am being the person I am.

Q. What was the following on Instagram when you started making plays?
MALIK HOOKER: I think at beginning of the season I had maybe 10,000. Now I got 35,000. (Indiscernible).

Q. How come you score every time you catch–
MALIK HOOKER: I give credit to the line, the “D” line and the linebackers. I feel like they turn (indiscernible).

Q. Clemson and Ohio State have only played two times. What did you know about Clemson — I guess before all this craziness got started?
MALIK HOOKER: Me personally I didn’t know too much. I was still a young guy. I was just focused on what the task was at hand. Really didn’t pay any attention to any other teams outside of the conference. I was worried about just finishing the season strong and trying to getting (indiscernible) ready for the season.

Q. What do you know about them now? Obviously you’ve seen a little bit of Deshaun Watson now?
MALIK HOOKER: I know they’re a very athletic team. They played with each other for a few years. They’ve got a lot of guys that can make a lot of plays and a lot of big-time names. I feel like we have to go out there, stick to what we’re used to and go out there and play as one.

Q. When you watch Watson, I know from what I’ve heard you guys (indiscernible) you played 750 snaps of Clemson offense?
MALIK HOOKER: Yeah.

Q. What was the hardest thing?
MALIK HOOKER: Probably just knowing when he’s going to feel like he has to run the ball and stuff like that. The majority of the time I thought he felt like he’s dedicated to just throwing the ball. But I feel like he’s capable of running and throwing the ball. He’s that gifted. He’s a good quarterback, one of the better players in college football. I definitely give credit to him. He had a great year. Feel like we have to go out there and just be able to do our job.

I feel like our “D” line will play effective because we have one of the better D lines in college football and our linebackers as well.

J.T. Barrett
Quarterback

Q. Your thoughts on what Jadar Johnson said?
J.T. BARRETT: So I really wasn’t — there wasn’t a lot to it, I feel like. He has his own opinion, which I’m not mad at. I’m comfortable in my skills and what I’m able to do. If he feels like I’m not the best quarterback they went against, I mean, that’s just how he feels.

I don’t have a feeling towards that one way or the other. I mean, I’m okay, really. Like, it wasn’t I feel like a lot to talk about. I saw what he said.

There’s probably some people that feel like that in the media, which is cool, too. They have the right to their own opinion. It’s not for me to fight my stance. I know how I feel about myself, comfortable in my skills and the guys we have on our offense and our team.

So that’s how it is.

Q. Some of his teammates were — even his teammates were saying that’s something that made them mad and motivated them. Does that motivate you?
J.T. BARRETT: I mean, that’s like it’s not anything crazy, I feel like. It’s not like we’re going to hang it up on the game-day bulletin board and this is what this guy said — like, we’re okay. We’re good. You know what I’m saying? We’re good.

Somebody in the past says something about our defense, and we saw how that went. That’s how we feel about that. We’re okay. If you want to talk, that’s okay. We still have to go play the game. That’s what I feel like.

Q. Do you prefer a high-scoring or low-scoring game?
J.T. BARRETT: Well, this is what I would prefer. I would prefer us score a lot of points and they score not as many points. But, no, I think for us —

Q. What do you anticipate?
J.T. BARRETT: I anticipate — I mean, honestly, I’m not sure really. I think our defense is going to do a great job. I think we’re going to, on offense, I think we’re going to do our part in order to win a game. So honestly I’m not sure. Like I said, it could be either or honestly it could be a high-scoring game where both offenses are on attack mode, and it also could be one of those low-scoring games where the defense is honing in.

With that being said, really not sure, just try to make sure that, on offense, we do our part and be at our best and not have our defense on the field.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
J.T. BARRETT: I mean, it was one of those things I couldn’t do anything about it, you know what I’m saying? I broke my leg or my ankle and it was, like I said, I couldn’t do anything about it. It wasn’t like one of those things, like, I was skateboarding and I fell off the curb or something. And I was playing in a game trying to help us win a football game. And my ankle broke.

So it was one of those things I really couldn’t do anything about it. I was okay about it. And it wasn’t, like, I was bitter. I was still excited and all those things. That’s how it was.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
J.T. BARRETT: So fortunately, like I said, God has placed us in the position to go fight for it all once again which we’re definitely excited about, just to be able to be at Ohio State, have the guys we have here, everybody that’s part of the Ohio State program and Buckeye Nation and be part of this once again. A lot of people can only say they’ve been part of it twice, that’s one of those things. It’s exciting.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
J.T. BARRETT: Yeah, I think one of those things is like we have an older team like everybody focused in and understands what they need to do, whereas like the young guys, a lot of them just don’t know. And that’s okay.

So you try to do your best to help them get acclimated to our culture, our system, how we do things. And so with that we’re just trying to do that this year with the older guys we have on the team to help them out and make sure that they could still be at their best and make sure that they understand our culture and who we are.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
J.T. BARRETT: So offensively, one of the main things is just make sure we stay true to who we are in the fundamentals. That’s the thing we talk about early on in the bowl season was fundamentals, make sure you hone in on those, get back to those, because they kind of, I don’t want to say they fade away, but when we went like probably a week and a half or the days added up to like a week where we didn’t practice, we don’t want to get away from our fundamentals knowing that you have to get back to that when it comes to bowl season, whether it be defense, tackling, offense, pass setting, run blocking, holding on to the ball, things like that. Pass and catch downfield. So the fundamentals of the game, just getting back to those because as the season goes you don’t have a lot of that individual time.

So getting back to that, and then, like I said, just being true to who we are, getting as far as like our offensive game plan, things like that, seeing throughout the season what we have done well and what we need to improve on, those different things.

And the things we needed to improve on we addressed those things and try to get better at those. And then, too, the things that we’re good at, just try to make sure we enhance them and get better at those things.

Q. Talk about the brotherhood of this team, what makes this team so special?
J.T. BARRETT: I think it’s part of the Ohio State brand. I think somebody put on that scarlet and gray, it’s part of a different fraternity. It’s one of those things you don’t really understand unless you’ve done it type of feel. And that’s just guys that have been here in the past and the guys here also now.

The Buckeyes we have here right now, I think we have a great bond. There’s a lot of love and passion throughout the players that we have and understanding that the guys I feel like will do anything for one another, which is something that you need as the season goes forward in times and games like this where it gets kind of tight.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
J.T. BARRETT: It’s a lot. They like to switch it up. I feel like it’s one of the type of teams or kind of mindsets that they don’t really want to you catch a beat on what they’re trying to do. Their game plans kind of switch each and every game depending on whatever offense they’re going against.

So with that being said, when you watch film, it changes game to game, and what they feel like is the best way to attack a certain offense. Which that does create problems being that you kind of really, you have a feel to a certain extent of what they want to do, but then they also throw something crazy at you that you’ve never seen before.

So I think throughout this bowl practice I think our coaches have been trying to do their best to make sure we get the multiple looks that we can on different plays and situations. So with that being said, I think we’re trying to do our best with that and that’s the best we can do.

Q. (Indiscernible) showing the blitz and not backing off —
J.T. BARRETT: Not really. It could be one of those things where they could not show blitz and then look to a certain line and check into it really fast and get into it.

So it’s one of those things is, I mean, you really don’t know. Like I said it could be showing in the blitz and getting out of it or it could be not showing a blitz, get into a blitz, changing just different coverages, the front. So it just changes as a whole. Not really just going in and out of blitzes.

Q. Anything you dial in specifically (indiscernible)?
J.T. BARRETT: Not really. I feel like there was — I mean, I guess we do look at film where offenses are similar. So we looked at a Virginia Tech. We looked at a Louisville, things like that, where we kind of have seen different formations, not really plays but same formations — how they line up certain formations if you catch a bead on the coverage that they like to play to a formation.

But I mean that’s with any team. So with that, I mean, you’ve still got a variety of things even with that. So no problem.

Raekwon McMillan
Linebacker

Q. What does Ohio State mean to you?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: Last three years, last three, four years of my life it’s been everything. Everything that I give my time to, my effort, my energy to has been Ohio State.

I mean, I’ll always be a Buckeye for the rest of my life. This university has done so much for me, not just on the field but off. Giving me a chance to pledge my fraternity, (indiscernible), and also just being able to express how I feel to the other communities around Ohio State, being able to give back to the communities and also compete with my fellow colleagues.

Q. How excited has this been that you guys are vying for a spot in the National Championship?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: It’s very exciting to have such a young team out here. I understand we have a young team, but I just turned 21 myself. Being out here, man, in this atmosphere in this incredible atmosphere that PlayStation has put on for us, it’s just an awesome feel, awesome environment, awesome everything, man, because with all the blessings and hard work that we’ve been through this season, we wouldn’t be able to be in this situation. And we’re just happy to be here and hopefully we can get the job done Saturday.

Q. You guys were here just a year ago (indiscernible), but how different is it going to be on Saturday when you walk in to the University of Phoenix Stadium knowing this is a playoff not just for the Fiesta Bowl?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: It’s different because you know that at the end of this tunnel there’s another one, to get to the National Championship. So when they raise the white ropes Saturday after the game, either you’re in or you’re out. Either you’re going home and your season is over or you’re going home with a chance to play in the National Championship.

Q. How excited are you to have the chance to be able to go up against Deshaun Watson and that offense?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: That’s something I wanted to do for the last three years, man. When I was getting recruited and I committed to Ohio State, I knew it was a possibility that I was going to have a chance to play him. But after this year, after last year I thought it wasn’t going to happen. But this year I got a chance to. So try to make the most of it.

Q. What’s that challenge going to be like for you on defense?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: They’ve got athletes all across the ball, even on the O line. They’re athletic, big guys, that can make plays.

Mike Williams on the outside, Jordan Leggett, Deshaun Watson and Wayne Gallman, those guys can make plays all over the field. Gotta be prepared for all of them.

Q. Is there one part of their game that you kind of limit or try to take away completely and another is take away their pass game or take away their run game?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: For us, man, it’s disrupt the quarterback. The more hands and the more hits we can get on the quarterback, then the easier the game should be for us.

Q. I was talking to Nick Bosa. He was talking about his first sack, he wasn’t sure whether or not you wanted to throw up a shrug. He said he looked at you and you started shrugging, tagging him on the shrug. What do you recall about that?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: It’s like just another — Bosa came in. As soon as one left, another one came in, making plays. When I seen him make the sack, I just had to do it for him. It was only right.

Because last year I didn’t really get to do it much with Joey. Because Joey hit it real fast before I got there. And I never got to do it. But little Bosa, man, he didn’t know what to do so I did it for him.

Q. What have you seen from him as a player?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: I think he can be just like his brother, man. Even better. Because of the guys we have here at Ohio State that can develop him, Coach Johnson, Coach Meyer and Coach Schiano and Coach Billy Davis next year. But those guys can develop him really well and help him reach all his dreams.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve gotten at Ohio State in terms of handling being the player, being the student, the whole big picture of being the player?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: Some of the best advice I ever got was from James Laurinaitis. He told me that.

Q. From who?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: James Laurinaitis. He told me that there’s always going to be speculations about whether I’m living up to expectations here at Ohio State. And you can’t let the media limit you to what they think that you should be. As long as you’re out there doing what you’re supposed to do and doing the right thing for your university and for your team, you’re always going to be on the good side.

Q. (Indiscernible) Deshaun, you guys knew each other during recruiting and stayed in contact. What’s that like in college? Were you at all close to considering Clemson?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: Yeah, he was recruiting me very hard to go to Clemson. And I was kind of trying to get him to come to Ohio State for a little while. For a little while he was telling me to come to Clemson. But up until the last week I was solidified on Ohio State. And that whole last week, man, I was like trying to get him to come to Ohio State or whatever. But you know we kept in contact.

And I’m not going to say we had the strongest relationship. We’re cool and cordial, but that’s one of my guys.

Q. How much does that — you always hear about guys sort of recruiting for their team, right, like you maybe commit early and say I’ll try to get guys on. Were you able to do that at all when you were committing to Ohio State? Anybody you were able to think that maybe I kind of helped get this guy to come on board?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: It’s kind of weird, because when I wasn’t committed to Ohio State, I was kind of coming to Ohio State visiting. And then Curtis Samuel was there, and I kind of helped recruit him to Ohio State. He committed before me. Jalyn Holmes committed before me. Kind of all those guys committed.

But the only guy that I can really say that committed after me was Johnnie Dixon. So really all those guys were recruiting me to come to Ohio State. I didn’t do much of the work.

Q. You play college football. What was the feeling about Alabama within the Ohio State Buckeyes scene? Because seems like everybody talks Alabama, Alabama. And do you have any thought about how they seem to be such a big presence in college football?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: I mean, they’re definitely one of the most dominant teams in college football. I mean, they’re undefeated, haven’t lost a game in I don’t know how long.

But as Ohio State — and I could just speak for us — like I said yesterday, we don’t roll in any stadium thinking we’re going to lose the game.

That’s the type of confidence you’re going to have when you’re playing a team like that. If you go in there with any doubt that you’re going to lose the game, it’s certain that you’re going to lose.

Because as soon as you go through some adversity, you’re bound to shut down because you have that in the back of your head. But with us, we have so much confidence that we go in there thinking we’re going to win it the whole time.

Q. You’re so rarely the underdog. Is it true being an athlete that when someone says you’re the underdog, does that add motivation? When someone says, before the game happens someone says, oh, they’re better than you, does that motivate you?
RAEKWON MCMILLAN: Yeah, it motivates you because as a player and as a competitor, you never want anybody to say somebody else is better than you. When somebody else says they are, you try to prove them wrong.

So when we roll into games as the underdog, like we were last year — not last year, but my freshman year, we were trying to prove to the world that Ohio State is the best team in the nation. And we were.

Pat Elflein
Center

PAT ELFLEIN: We practice it, but it’s whatever they call, they call.

Q. Both teams have been to Arizona. It’s like it’s not new.
PAT ELFLEIN: I like Arizona, though. I like it.

Q. This is a strange question, but I asked Raekwon this. As a sportswriter covering college football, so much seems to be about Alabama, it’s about Alabama, Alabama. I’m sure you guys probably notice that. And you’re Ohio State. You’ve won national titles in your career. You’ve won Fiesta Bowls. What’s the attitude about Alabama? Do you talk about like a program like Alabama, or do you ever, like, joke about how everybody says Alabama is unbeatable, something like that?
PAT ELFLEIN: Yeah, you talk about it just because right now they’re playing the best football in the country. So you talk about those teams. But it’s different being on the outside of it and being a part of a team who, when you have guys you grind with and bleed and sweat and tears with.

And it’s just a different perspective about the whole college football realm. You know what I’m saying? So, yeah, you hear about it. But when you’re in that brotherhood it’s different, that’s you. And Alabama has their team. You have your team. And it’s just a different feel.

Q. For fans or for media, Alabama is treated differently than it would be (indiscernible). They’re just another opponent, if you have to play them?
PAT ELFLEIN: Right.

Q. In 2014, what was kind of the attitude going into that game? Because it’s very rare for Ohio State — but people say you were an underdog then. Does that play into your mind as a competitor if someone says that other team is better?
PAT ELFLEIN: Yeah, I mean, there’s always an underdog going into every game. So you try not to let that get to your mind. But it’s there and you can’t avoid it. We were just pumped to be in the playoffs that year. And given whatever opportunity we had, we were going at it full force and giving it our all.

Q. Give me the best piece of advice you’ve got as a college football player at Ohio State?
PAT ELFLEIN: Best piece of advice? Whatever you do, do it as hard as you can, because if you’re going to do it, it’s worth doing.

Give it your best and doing your best. And just don’t ask questions and do what you’re told. Do it as hard as you can and it will all work out for you. That’s how it happened for me.

Q. Do you remember who told you that?
PAT ELFLEIN: Probably Coach Meyer. Yeah, Coach Mick, our strength coach.

Q. What do you think was the biggest surprise for you, you’re a young buck coming into Ohio State, you’re looking around, a little wide-eyed. Or maybe you were coming in cocky and feeling like you were ready to play. What was the biggest surprise for you over the course of your career about what you imagined Ohio State would be like in high school and what it actually turned out to be?
PAT ELFLEIN: Yeah, I came in this place, Ohio State, wide-eyed, didn’t really know what was going on, just excited to be here.

And the biggest surprise probably was my redshirt freshman year, I didn’t play all year, I was a backup, getting thrown into the team up north game, after someone got ejected.

And the following week starting the Big Ten Championship and playing at a high level in both games was probably the most surprising thing.

And then the following year, getting All-Big Ten honors my first year starting, never expected really to start, didn’t really know coming in if I was ever going to start or not. And doing that my first couple of years was pretty —

Q. Turned out pretty good for you?
PAT ELFLEIN: Yeah.

Q. I was talking to Tony Alford just in terms of bringing young guys along. Tony said in the spring, you and J.T. kind of took Mike Weber (indiscernible)?
PAT ELFLEIN: That was Coach Mick’s decision, the head strength coach. He oversees that stuff just like anybody does. He just needed — we knew that that guy needed to grow up. So they put him with some veterans to help him do that.

Q. How did you help him grow up?
PAT ELFLEIN: Just teaching him how to act and operate in the weight room, in the classroom, around the facility.

It’s a culture there. And we operate a certain way. So teach him how to do that, how to train and practice. Just using our experience to help him get acclimated to that.

Q. Is it verbal? Nonverbal? Is it sort of both, setting an example, telling him? What’s the balance there?
PAT ELFLEIN: It’s all the above. Everything you can. Verbal. Nonverbal. Body language. The way you talk, everything.

Q. Probably asked this many times, as a veteran, why now is this program so good at getting guys ready?
PAT ELFLEIN: The culture that was established by Coach Meyer and Coach Mick. It’s so strong now that the leaders on the team enforce it just as well as the coaches do.

You just bring young guys in. They get acclimated through the training process and then they turn into good players.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
PAT ELFLEIN: It was tough for me. I’ve never been in something like that. You’re getting ready to go play, have to wait another hour, go through the rain delay. All that stuff. Just gotta come together as a team, listen to the coaches. They did a great job telling us to relax and when to lock in and when to get ready. So just doing that and getting excited to play, I’m sure, helped in all that.

Q. How important is Curtis Samuel to the success of the offense?
PAT ELFLEIN: Very important. He’s a playmaker. That guy can score a touchdown whenever he touches the ball. I feel like having someone like that on your team is very important.

Q. Where would you all be without somebody — where would you be without Curtis (indiscernible)?
PAT ELFLEIN: He plays a huge role on our team. I don’t think we would be here without him, without J.T., without Raekwon, without some of those big-time players on our team, we wouldn’t be here without them.

Q. (Indiscernible) has the four years flown by? What’s it been like?
PAT ELFLEIN: Yeah, it’s gone by so quickly. Faster than high school did. And I thought high school went fast. It’s just a lot going on during the process that you don’t really get to sit back and relax and enjoy it sometimes.

But getting to reflect on it, that’s awesome. It’s gone on by quick. It’s been so much fun.