Each January, we feature the movers and shakers of the city in in-depth, in-person interviews that dig into their backgrounds, their plans, and what ties them to the capital city. While our interview issue subjects are all Columbus-based, their stories are universal. So settle in, cozy up, and give yourself some you-time. You’ll want to read every word.
As a senior and the captain of the crew team at Upper Arlington High School in 2009, Blake Haxton was making plans for the future. Then came a moment he couldn’t have planned for. In March, he developed a cramp in his leg that quickly turned far more severe; Haxton had contracted the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis. Within days, the illness led to organ failure, and Haxton was in danger of losing his life. To save him, doctors made the decision to amputate both of his legs. Ultimately, it took more than 20 surgeries and three months in the hospital before Haxton returned home.
Haxton shared his worries during his long
recovery. “I remember being in the ICU still. [...] I
was starting to project forward, ‘well, what’s life
going to be like now?’” He worried about what he
would be able to do, and what he would miss.
Although many of his hospital visitors encouraged him to try para-rowing, he was reluctant. “I knew what the process would be; I just had no desire to do it,” he said. His resistance to rowing stayed with him
when he was discharged, and throughout his
undergraduate years as a Finance major at
His attitude began to change as he prepared
to start law school. “I really haven’t been that
active for four years. I need to be an adult and
figure out, you know, just a way to work out and
train and be healthy,” he said. So he returned to
the ergometer—known as “the erg”—an indoor
rowing machine. Still, it wasn’t what he was
used to, and he didn’t enjoy it at first. “It felt so
abbreviated and cramped,” he said.
It took a shift in his mindset to change
his relationship with the erg. Haxton began
thinking of para-rowing as “an entirely
different sport” from what he’d done at Upper
When he let go of those expectations,
Haxton discovered that he was good. Really
“They publish time standards on the ergs...
and if you’re under this time, you can try out
for the national team; if you’re under this time,
you can probably make it. [...] Well I got under
those times for my event.”
Haxton signed up for a competition called
the Indoor World Championships, where
rowers competed on ergs in the same room,
pulling as fast as they could.
Then the U.S. National Team approached
him about trying out. “That’s what got me back
in the boat,” Haxton said. He calls returning
to the water “one of the best decisions I ever
In 2016, Haxton qualified for the
Paralympic Games in Rio. He said that life in
the Olympic Village isn’t as glamorous as it
might look from the outside. “You’re pretty
isolated,” he explained. Getting sick would be
detrimental in races where tenths-of-seconds
matter, so athletes keep to themselves and try
to stay focused. “You don’t really get out of
that loop of just training, sleep, compete. And
you don’t really want to,” Haxton said. He
ultimately placed fourth, “which was about as
good as I could have done.”
Now 28 years old, Haxton is in his prime
years by rowing standards (male rowers are
generally considered to peak between ages
28-32). He finished seventh in the 2019 World
Championships, qualifying the U.S. Men’s
team for a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Under the rules of U.S. Men’s Rowing,
however, there’s still an individual qualifying
race to determine who will compete. Haxton is
spending his winter training for the race—and
what he hopes will be his second Paralympics—
with weights and on the erg. When the weather
warms, he’ll return to practicing in the boat.
In addition to rowing, Haxton works full-
time as an Investment Research Associate
at Diamond Hill Capital Management. “We
divide up the market of publicly traded
stocks by industry,” he explained, investing in
opportunities that may have been overlooked
or undervalued elsewhere. Haxton specializes
in airlines and oil and gas, and calls the work “a
ton of fun.”
Unsurprisingly, Haxton is a busy man.
With a twice-a-day, six-day-per-week training
regime on top of his job, his schedule doesn’t
leave him with much wiggle room or social
time. “There’s some wedding invitations you
have to turn down,” he said.
On the other hand, Haxton is thrilled
with how he gets to spend his days. “A lot of
people don’t get to say they like any job they
have. I have two jobs I really like—rowing and
investing—and I get to do both of them every
day. What could be better than that?”
Even so, he becomes introspective when
asked about the moment he knew that his path,
as an athlete and businessman, was the right
one for him to follow. “I’m not really sure it is,”
he said. “I couldn’t answer honestly saying,
like, I think that ‘Blake Haxton’s purpose on
this planet is rowing or investing.’ I don’t know
the answer to that question. And I do think we
all have a purpose... and I think that the talents
we all have are hints about what that purpose
Haxton, someone who has been through—
and accomplished—so much in his 28 years,
expresses tremendous gratitude for the way
he gets to spend his life. He’s grateful for his
friends who have made his path as an athlete
possible. “I can’t carry my boat on my own,
can’t do a lot of travel on my own,” he said.
“There’s a really core group that’s around that
enables me to do all these things.”
Haxton has a true village of friends in
Columbus and across the country who are
intrinsic pieces in the puzzle of his athletic
success. Members of his village will wake at
5 a.m. to join him on the water and help him
practice. They will use their vacation time to
drive him to competitions in other states. And
not only will they do so without complaint,
they share his excitement. “There’s not one
trip [...] where we don’t look at each other and
be like, “‘man, how cool is this!’” Haxton said.
His positive attitude and his self-
described “stubborn” dedication as an athlete
were undoubtedly behind his U.S. Rowing
teammates voting him the 2016 Male Athlete
of the Year. Haxton is the first para-athlete to
receive the award, and he’s humbled by it. “It’s
the greatest honor I’ve ever gotten by a long
measure,” he said.
Even in the hardest times, Haxton has
learned to be “willfully grateful.” He points to
that moment when he was still in the ICU, as
he wondered what the future would hold for
him as a double amputee. His fears and worries
began to snowball as it sunk in that his life was
And then he looked up and saw his mom
sitting in the corner of the room. The moment
was a revelation.
“I realized how true it was, that as bad as
this is, it would be so much worse if my mom
wasn’t here,” he said. “In that moment, it was
like the snowball stopped rolling.” He began to
think of the other visitors coming that day—his
dad, grandpa, and brother. “I sort of found that
it can snowball the other way,” he said. “I was
surprised by how powerful that was.”
Haxton knows firsthand that life comes with real difficulties. He says the hard moments need to be confronted, not “swept under the rug.” Still, he focuses on the people around him and the support they provide him as an athlete, colleague, and friend. “When you get to go through life with teammates like that,” he says with a smile, “it’s pretty good.”
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.
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."