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Buckeye Business Bureau: 5 former OSU athletes trade athletics for entrepreneurship

Mitch Hooper

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When it comes to being an athlete on the football field, making it to the next level is more of a miracle than a rite of passage. Rosters can only hold 53 players by the time the regular season begins, and there’s a 5.8 percent chance that high school stand out will even make the cut. Even if they find success on the field, the odds of making into the league as an NCAA senior is one in 50, or 2 percent. And for anyone looking to take a different route and skip college, the odds of making it on an NFL roster are about the same as having a 150 IQ. In other words, athletes need a plan B, C, and Z.

But what happens after a successful life on the field? Here in Columbus, we’ve seen Heisman winners phase out of the league in a few short years as well as highly recruited players forced to make a position change just to have a shot. Names like Troy Smith come to mind, or Braxton Miller and Terrelle Pryor. For whatever the reason may be—didn’t have the physical attributes the coach was looking for, or just never got that chance to prove themselves—life goes on, and former Ohio State favorites have found ways to use their namesake and recognition to thrust themselves into a new career.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Whether they took down the Big Ten foes in football or lead basketball squads to new heights, the super stardom of playing for the university creates household names and that alone can get you far if your professional career in athletics falls through. In a world where it’s who you know more than what you know, getting your foot in the door is a crucial step.

But how far can namesake get you? At the end of the day, it’s a lot like sports. You can be the five-star recruit set to blaze the country, but until you actually perform those skills on the field, you’re just another player on the team. Sure your name catches the coach’s attention, but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed anything. Take Zach Justin, and Mike Boren of Boren Brothers Roll Off Dumpsters and Trash Removal Services. You might recognize them from the iconic image of Zach towering over a curled-up Devin Gardner, a former Michigan quarterback.

Justin, a 2011 graduate of OSU, earned First Team All Big Ten and Second Team All-American Honors and seemed primed for a life in the league. He made the leap to the NFL where he was bounced around from the Baltimore Ravens, the Detroit Lions, and the Denver Broncos. Due to lingering injuries, Justin’s NFL career prematurely ended after three seasons. Similarly, his brother Zach joined the Buckeyes in 2009 as Ohio’s Defensive Player of the Year. While playing with the Buckeyes, he found himself on both sides of the ball as fullback for the first three years and linebacker for his senior season where he served as a captain on the 2012 squad that never lost a game. Though he hasn’t fully given up on his dreams of playing on Sundays, his time in the league also lasted three seasons with a new team each year.

These setbacks might be enough to diminish confidence, but the Boren brothers chose to embrace the Buckeye work ethic.

“It’s kind of a running joke now, but the coaches talked about when we played,” Zach said. “If you go to Ohio State, especially as an athlete, and you do what’s expected of you, give back to the community, and take full advantage of that position you’re in at that time, Columbus will always treat you right.”

This name recognition has helped the brothers open doors and meet with people that might have never given them the time of day, Justin explained. But, to reiterate, that’s only half the battle.

“The connections get your foot in the door,” Justin said. “Once your foot is in the door and you have the opportunity, you have to perform. You have to run a legit business, do the right things, and focus on service, but it at least opens a lot of doors.”

This lesson parallels with performance on the field, and it’s those takeaways the two learned while at OSU that they apply to their business. The mantra is simple, but powerful: they treat every day like it’s a football game.

“You have to show up, you have to do your job, you have to perform,” Zach explained. “And if you don’t, you’re losing that day; you’re either winning or you’re losing.”

In the same vein as football, Justin said a lot of success boils down to the team around you. While the Boren brothers along with Mike, the father and a former stellar Wolverine (now fully converted to scarlet and gray) and Jacoby, the youngest former Buckeye of the three, are the face of the company, their staff is out doing the work on a day-to-day basis.

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This also holds true for The Pit BBQ on Cleveland Avenue, a smoked meats adventure started by former Buckeyes Chimid Chekwa and Bryant Browning as well as D’Andre Martin and Mike Johnson. After Chekwa and Browning tested the waters in the NFL, they found themselves much like the Boren brothers looking to move past a life in athletics. The question that rings in many former athletes’ head was looming: what’s next?

While Chekwa is originally from Clermont, Florida, Browning, Martin, and Johnson all grew up in Cleveland dining at barbeque joints which eventually came to influence how they do business in Columbus. They took their time to carefully scout how other places went about barbecue and eventually decided it was their turn to share the love. First, the idea was to create a franchise through The Pit BBQ, but the restrictions that came along with it steered the four away from it.

“Throughout Cleveland there’s a lot of Ma and Pa pop-up stops that Columbus was lacking at that time in the area so we wanted to take that style and that taste and bring it to the Columbus area,” Browning explained.

While the recognition was helpful for starting the business, Bryant explained that it also puts you under a microscope. At one point, you could’ve been known as an All- American cornerback, but if you serve bad barbecue, you’ll be remembered a guy with bad barbecue.

“The other side of that is having the opportunity to go back where you have some recognition and memories to provide not only good food, but also do good for the community,” Chekwa added.

Whether it’s crafting large quantities of meats and fixings for someone’s tailgate through the catering service, or simply helping the business rush sink their teeth into high quality cuts of brisket, it’s a complete and total team effort. On any given day, it’s no surprise to see the once All-American cornerback Chekwa in the back preparing the food for the day, or the former OSU captain Bryant manning the cash register. Just like football, it’s a complete team effort.

“If I’m working the cashier stand, people will come in and say, ‘Wow! You’re a big guy!’ ” said the 6-foot-4-inch, 325-pound offensive lineman Bryant. “With helmets on, and being many years ago, they might not recognize your face right away or who you are. But yeah, an All-American cornerback is back here working the grill.”

However the big lights may shine, the former Buckeyes never forget the lessons they learned on the field.

“To be successful we understand it’s work,” Browning said. “It wouldn’t be a surprise to see me driving around in a food truck to an area to sell food. We understand it’s going to take the same grind it took in football to be successful. That’s just in our DNA.”

To get in contact with the Boren Brothers for commercial waste removal, visit borenbrothers.com. For more information on hours and catering options, check out thepitcolumbus.com.

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Decade in Review: Ohio State Football

Mitch Hooper

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Have the 2010s been the best in Ohio State football history?

When you’re in the midst of an athletic dynasty, sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses. The Ohio State football team has been on a tirade over the last 10 years, winning multiple Big Ten Championships, sending top-tier talent to the NFL, and of course bringing home a National Championship. Each season somehow exceeds last season’s expectations and now it seems every year is championship or bust. As we enter into another decade of Buckeye football it’s worth asking: has this been the best decade to date? In this case, hindsight is 2020, literally.

The first year of the new decade certainly didn’t predict the future. Following then-head coach Jim Tressel’s resignation amid the Tattoogate controversy, Luke Fickell was brought in as head coach in 2011 where the Buckeyes would finish the season 6-7, dropping a game to Michigan at the end of the season as well as losing to Florida in the Gator Bowl. Shortly after one down year, Urban Meyer was hired as head coach in 2012 where he quickly got the team back on track. Twelve wins, no losses, and a handful of “what if’s” due to the lingering controversy causing a one-year bowl ban.

The years preceding 2012 have been something akin to a collective chip on the shoulder to all of Buckeye nation. The 2013 campaign started hot, but fizzled out with losses coming from Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship, followed by dropping the Orange Bowl against Clemson. And just when it seemed like the Buckeyes were in the prime position to run the college football tables in 2014, senior quarterback Braxton Miller went down with an injury that would cost him a season.

How did the Buckeyes respond? Resoundingly.

Though the 2014 season holds a blemish with a home loss to Virginia Tech in week two, this squad went on to do the unthinkable. They dominated the Big Ten and found themselves in November just one game against Michigan away from a second year in the Big Ten Championship, and maybe even a shot in the first ever College Football Playoff system. Just like the beginning of the season, the team faced a test of overcoming an injury. JT Barrett, who would go on to become one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Ohio State history, was injured, and the Buckeyes were down to their third-string quarterback as they prepared for the biggest games of the season. The Bucks would go on to win the battle against the Wolverines, but the season-long war was back up in the air.

And again, the team responded. Cardale Jones, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, stepped into his role tremendously as the Buckeyes would go on to rout Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, upset Alabama in the first round of the playoffs, and defeat Oregon to secure the first ever title of Undisputed National Champions.

Since then, the times have been good to Buckeye nation, aside from a few dropped games here and there. Sure, fans would like to forget those anomaly games like Purdue’s major upset against then-ranked No. 2 Ohio State. But the numbers don’t lie when you look back. Though Meyer’s stint as head coach was only seven seasons, he was able to secure three Big Ten Championships. And he never lost to Michigan, a badge no other Buckeye coach can wear. He also holds one of the highest win percentages of any Ohio State coach; second to current coach Ryan Day, whose sample size is still growing with only one year under his belt. In the past 25 years of Buckeye football, they have been able to achieve 16 seasons with 11 wins or more—seven of those seasons occurred during the 2010 decade. Additionally, the Buckeyes have been in the playoffs twice; a feat that no other Big Ten team can claim.

This doesn’t even begin to include the talent being drafted into the NFL each season. Let’s compare the 1970s to now. The ‘70s are widely accepted as one of the best decades in Buckeye football, with the ship being guided by legendary head coach Woody Hayes. Through that decade, the Buckeyes put 16 first-round draft picks in the league. In this last decade, the Buckeyes have put 15 first- round draft picks in the league and the 2020 NFL Draft hasn’t even happened yet. With names like Chase Young at the top of many expert’s boards, barring any unfortunate injuries, it’s safe to assume they’ll exceed that number.

Through all of these good times comes the cost of winning, and Ohio State seems to find itself at the center of many controversies over the last decade. The aforementioned Tattoogate in 2010 led to the third-winningest coach in OSU history’s resignation and a two-year probation. It also led to all the wins from the 2010 season being vacated. Former university president E. Gordon Gee stepped down in 2013 after insensitive comments relating to the University of Notre Dame and Catholicism. JT Barrett found himself the center of attention after being arrested for trying to avoid a DUI checkpoint in 2015. And while Meyer’s feats as head coach were impressive, the controversy that came with the Zach Smith domestic violence debacle created a cycle of events that eventually led to Meyer stepping down as head coach following the 2018 season. Toss in Chase Young’s recent run in with a loan and the NCAA handing out a suspension and it seems each season has two storylines: what happened on the field, and what happened off the field.

Truly, the cost of winning for the Buckeyes has been high. It seems each controversy could have led to the end of the dynasty, but instead, it seems the Buckeyes are able to reload much like the football team does on the field each year. Tressel was the third-most winningest coach in history; how do you replace him? Well, you do so with the second-highest win percentage coach in history. And if Day’s instant success as coach is any sign of the future, the next 10 years have all the potential to be even better.

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Big Macs and Bowl Games: Enter McDonalds sweepstakes for college football getaway

614now Staff

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Now that Ohio State has secured its bid to play in the 2019 College Football Playoffs, every fan across Columbus is vying for tickets to the Bowl Game. Lucky for you, McDonald’s has the answer.

Today, McDonald’s launches their Buckeye Bowl Game Sweepstakes in partnership with Ohio State Athletics, where one lucky winner will win a trip for two to the 2019 Fiesta Bowl Game on Saturday, Dec. 28, including prime tickets to the game, transportation to and from, plus hotel and travel accommodations.

Fans can enter the Buckeye Bowl Game Sweepstakes by purchasing a Quarter Pounder or Quarter Pounder with cheese from any McDonald’s in the greater Columbus area, either in restaurants or through their favorite delivery service. With each order, customers will receive a golden ticket with entry details, leading them to the sweepstakes website.

And the best part is for every submission placed, McDonald’s Owner/Operators of Columbus will donate $1 to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, helping them meet their annual fundraising goal.

“For McDonald’s, and for those of us as local business owners, it’s about more than selling burgers. It’s about creating a lasting impact in our community,” said Mike Telich, Columbus McDonald’s Owner/Operator in a statement. “Supporting RMHC is more than just a donation, its ensuring families with ill or injured children get the emotional and physical support they need, as well an alternative to the financial burden of staying at a hotel and going out for meals."

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The Big Ten: 10 reasons why Jim Harbaugh is an absolute nutcase

1870 Staff

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There’s no question Jim Harbaugh is a weirdo. He’s been caught picking his nose on the sidelines, he essentially wears the same outfit every single day no matter the occasion, and his personality is about as bright as a military general on cocaine. In other words, Harbaugh is set in his ways, and his ways are strange as shit.

But there’s more to this man’s madness than booger flicking and khaki pants. He’s a weirdo that wears many hats (but not many different variation of pants). And we have 10 reasons to prove it to you.

1.) Jim Harbaugh, the Spongebob fanatic.

To quote the coach on a radio show in Ann Arbor, “I love his attitude. He attacks each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind! I’ve kind of modeled my behavior after him. We all should. What a great employee he is. He’s a go-getter. He’s always got a bounce to his step. He’s got pizzazz. He puts his heart and soul into making those krabby patties. I think he’s awesome.” Uhhh, sure. Whatever you say, man.

2.) Jim Harbaugh, the house guest.

“Mom, can coach Harbaugh stay the night tonight?” Those were (probably) the words of Michigan’s current kicker, Quinn Nordin, as well as the defensive end from USC, Connor Murphy. In an effort to get the two recruits to commit to Michigan, Harbaugh took trips to visit the athletes. Perfectly normal. What’s not normal is Harbaugh crashing at the recruits house for the night. Dude, you are the third highest paid coach in college football. You’re either too cheap to buy a hotel, or you’re too odd to realize this was a weird ass move.

3.) Jim Harbaugh, the music man.

If you haven’t had the luxury of watching this music video, put this magazine down and pull up YouTube. Rap duo, Bailey, produced a Michigan hype song to promote the 2016 season titled “Who Has It Better Than Us?” which featured Harbaugh literally screaming those exact words for the chorus. This is just as much weird (Harbaugh’s rap career isn’t looking good) as it is ironic as the Wolverines would go on to lose to Ohio State and in their bowl game against Florida State. We can think of at least two schools that have it better than ya’ll…

4.) Jim Harbaugh, the conspiracy theorist.

He said they were a “nervous bird.” We’re not even gonna attempt to explain this. Here’s what a former Michigan quarterback, Wilton Speight, had to say to Bleacher Report about the hate against chickens: “He thinks some type of sickness injected its way into the human population when people began eating white meats instead of beef and pork. And he believes it, 100 percent.” … Riiiiight.

5.) Jim Harbaugh, the babysitter.

Turns out that fateful night he stayed with Connor Murphy wasn’t the first time. Harbaugh has stayed at the Murphy residence in the past, when he was a head coach at Stanford, to recruit Murphy’s brother, Trent. During the night, Connor and Trent’s mother went into labor forcing the father to take her to the hospital to give birth. As for Harbaugh and, at the time, 12-year-old Connor? Here’s what Connor told the LA Times: “Coach Harbaugh sat on my living room floor with me and we drank milk and played chess.”

6.) Jim Harbaugh, the patriotic music man.

If coaching doesn’t work, it seems like Harbaugh is eyeing a career in music. In 2016, rapper Lil Dicky came to Ann Arbor to preform. For reasons we have absolutely no way of understanding, Lil Dicky brought Harbaugh on stage to… sing the national anthem? And, as on brand as the mother fucker is, he was wearing those damn khakis for the performance. He probably flicked a few boogers backstage, too.

7.) Jim Harbaugh, the president?

Apparently rapper Wale and Jim Harbaugh are cooking something up for a presidential run. In 2016, Wale tweeted at the TTUN coach and endorsed him for a presidential campaign. Harbaugh responded back eager to bring Wale on as his Vice President. Let’s play a game, Buckeye Nation, would you rather have Trump as president, or Harbaugh?

8.) Jim Harbaugh, the khakis man.

We all know how much the man loves his Dockers, but do you really know how deep that love runs? The man worksout in his khakis. We’re sure that never gets too sweaty. The man swims—SWIMS!!—in his khakis. And he’s even been spotted running around the practice field shirtless showing off that pasty-white dad bod, but still in those damned khakis.

9.) Jim Harbaugh, the dietician.

We already know the man hates chickens, but did you know how much he loves cows? Almost as much as he loves khakis, believe it or not. Harbaugh is convinced that milk and steak are a “natural steroid.” Here’s what Harbaugh had to say about his affinity to “natural steroids” on a radio show in Ann Arbor: “I take a vitamin every day. It’s called a steak. … I truly believe the No. 1 natural steroid is sleep, and the No. 2 natural steroid is milk, whole milk. Three would be water. Four would be steak. [Steak] … it goes with everything.”

10.) Jim Harbaugh, the actor.

Why not? He’s a president, a singer, a rapper, a babysitter, and even a Spongebob stan. Of course he’s made a few appearances on television. The first time was on Saved By The Bell where he didn’t even get an excited “woo!” from the fake audience when he came on screen. Screech gets one every time he’s on camera and he’s a main character. The other time was when Harbaugh showed his true side on Detroiters for a skit. He loses his shit during a tailgating style game and ends up drilling the main character in the back of the head with a football. Okay so the Detroiters skit is actually kind of funny.•

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