COLUMBUS – Four years ago, Special Olympics coach Steve Weaver invited Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer to an awards banquet as his featured guest. What was born that night was on full display Thursday afternoon, as approximately 250 campers took over the practice fields at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for The Special Skills Invitational.
Athletes from 14 counties all over the state were put through a variety of station drills by current Buckeye players. Perhaps the highlight of the event was an appearance by the Ohio State University Marching Band, which performed all of its hits – including Across the Field – and an opportunity to perform Quick Cals, which was led by assistant strength and conditioning coach Niko Palazeti.
Among the players in attendance were junior safety Jordan Fuller, sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins, junior linebacker Keandre Jones, senior center Brady Taylor and senior left guard Demetrius Knox. Media members also took notice, as reporters from WBNS-10TV, NBC4 WCMH and print reporters all were in attendance documenting the day.
“I love helping to put a smile on these kids’ faces,” said Fuller. “I think they give us as much energy as we give them. It’s important for us to be a part of these kinds of events. We have a platform as football players and we have to use it for good.”
The idea of bringing the Special Skills Academy to Ohio State was first broached by Weaver to Meyer in January of 2015. Meyer didn’t hesitate, agreeing to allow them to use the Buckeyes’ facilities and have access to its players as volunteers. Since then, the event continues to grow.
“The players are tremendous,” said Weaver. “We had a vision for how all this was going to come together four years ago and I think it’s exceeded expectations.”
Under the watchful eye of their coaches in Scarlet and Gray, athletes were put through some of the same drills that the Buckeyes will be perfecting when training camp opens – slamming tackling dummies to the ground, dragging weights and sprinting while strapped to parachutes.
“The culture of the program that we’re in, we’ve got a lot of really good guys on the team right now,” said Taylor. “We want to help out and do whatever we can for the Columbus community. That’s important to us.”