Sep 7, 2013

Expecting Greatness (J. Hale)

Much has been said of the lofty expectations placed on the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes. From whispers of potential individual accolades to murmurs of rosy postseason destinations, the noise surrounding the program can be heard loud and clear.

To an outsider, the expectancy may seem like a blistering commotion which only the true antidote is avoidance. However, junior defensive lineman Joel Hale believes the anticipation is not something to be viewed in a negative light. Instead, he wants the Buckeyes to embrace the premature praise.

“I feel and I know a lot of guys on the team feel the same way, to whom much is given, much is expected,” Hale said. “You can’t keep taking and taking everything that’s given to you, what we work for, then be surprised when people set high expectations for you. We just have to take it one game at a time and play our hearts out, week by week.”

Maintaining the patience and persistence necessary to reach their goals will be yet another challenge presented to Ohio State throughout the season, particularly the defensive core. For the first time in 28 years, the Buckeyes will not return any starters along the defensive line.

A native of Greenwood, Ind., Hale enters the season as one of the most experienced members of the unit, seeing action in 15 games and recording 10 tackles during the past two seasons. As a result, Hale is expected to take on a stronger leadership role throughout his junior campaign.

“I think most people would be kind of scared, even a little timid on what the next season has to bring after losing so many starters,” Hale said. “We were well developed last season and were waiting for our opportunity. Well, now our opportunity is here.”

Once again, Hale welcomes and embraces the challenges ahead. It is a head-on philosophy he credits to past Buckeye leaders, such as John Simon and Garrett Goebel. Leading by example, the pair each embodied the mindset and work ethic Hale hopes to pass down to others lucky enough to don the Scarlet and Gray.

“Garrett played my position, and I really looked up to him as not only a leader but as a brother,” Hale said. “I learned a lot from how both John and Garrett handled practices – from on the field to their lifting regimens. Being around them I felt like as long as I followed their lead I could eventually follow in their footsteps.”

Much like development on the field, leadership is a trait advanced on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis. It is a skill Hale admits to still consciously working to improve upon.

“You have to develop a way to lead different types of people,” Hale said. “ People will respond differently to different types of approaches. I have to find a way to balance vocalizing and leading by example based on each guy.”

One person in particular who guides Hale in this learning process is defensive line coach Mike Vrabel.

No stranger to the heavy expectations placed on collegiate and even professional players, Vrabel demonstrates his own form of leadership style on a daily basis.

“It’s easy to carry a lot of respect for a guy like him,” Hale said. “He wants us to be great. When you have someone who wants you to be great you are more likely to respond to what they say.”

With Hale in the lead, the Buckeyes will look to offer a response to the preseason chatter. In turn, they may just surpass the greatness already bestowed upon them.   

By Ashley Albertson, Athletics Communications