Ohio State student-athletes visit central Ohio schools

In December, 40 Ohio State student-athletes participated in Project Mentor, a program founded by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.

Buckeyes from seven different teams visited central Ohio junior high and high schools to share their stories in reaching college and the top-level of collegiate athletics.

Dallas Lauderdale and Evan Turner, sophomores on the Ohio State men’s basketball team, jointly spoke to a class at Northland High School in Columbus Dec. 16.

Both humble, Lauderdale and Turner do not put themselves on a public pedestal, but the pair understands the perspective of impressionable students and that their own words carry an influential weight.

“It takes you back to reality. When I was in their shoes, I always wanted to talk to the big stars in Cleveland,” Lauderdale, a center from Solon, Ohio, said. “I do not see myself as a star or anything, but just to tell them I was in their shoes … I did what you are doing now and not to go down the wrong path.”

For Turner, he recalls the impact of meeting someone who fills size-23 shoes and owns several NBA championship rings.

“I was fortunate enough to meet Shaquille O’Neal when I was younger. He told me the same thing Dallas and I spoke about keep focused and work hard. I heard that and said, okay, that is legit,’” Turner, a guard from Chicago, said. “My mom and family and friends had always told me the same thing, but coming from someone of that stature at my age, it was pretty amazing.”

Giving back to the community is viewed as an essential activity for all 900-plus student-athletes as well as staff at Ohio State.

“We work with all of our teams and strongly encourage the student-athletes to get involved with community service activities,” Miechelle Willis, senior associate athletics director at Ohio State, said. “Project Mentor was such a natural fit for student-athlete involvement.

“Many of the men and women in our programs understand the importance of their positions. They are role models and accept that. Where there are a lot of time demands placed on our student-athletes, many of them are sincerely interested in helping to make a difference in the lives of the children in our communities. Project Mentor was a perfect way for them to do that.”

During the fall quarter, student-athletes and members of the athletics department contributed more than 1,000 hours of community service. The men’s basketball team, which visited the James Cancer Hospital Jan. 14, joined the men’s hockey team at the 2009 Asthma Walk at Ohio Stadium in October.

“I think it is very important,” Lauderdale, the Big Ten leader in blocked shots, said. “In the Columbus area, Ohio State is the major sport. Fans know who we are and see us out. We give back to the community because they give a lot in supporting us.”

Lauderdale used the speaking opportunity to urge central Ohio’s up-and-coming young adults not only to strive for success, but more importantly not to lose perspective on the people who put them in their positions to succeed.

“The biggest thing I told them was to love their parents,” Lauderdale said. “Now that I’m in college, I don’t get to see my parents as much as I did in high school. So wake up every morning and tell your parents you love them.”

~ by Pat Kindig,