Sunday, January 19, 2003

OSU seniors have trouble saying goodbye

By Andy Resnik
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Walking off the Ohio Stadium field for the final time Saturday proved tough for Ohio State seniors who attended a celebration honoring the Buckeyes' national championship.

The memories of a 14-0 season that ended with a thrilling double-overtime victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl left several of them wishing for another game.

"We're going to take a lot more from Ohio State than what we're going to lose," linebacker Cie Grant said. "The only thing we're going to miss is on Saturday afternoons, putting the gear on and going out there and running through the tunnel and winning."

Grant made a big contribution in the Fiesta Bowl, pressuring Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey into an incompletion on the final play of Ohio State's 31-24 win.

He also had one of the more memorable moments of Saturday's celebration, leading more than 50,000 fans at frigid Ohio Stadium in the singing of the Ohio State alma mater, "Carmen Ohio."

"This is truly a beautiful thing," Grant said. "Just to know we were all on the same page, we all had one goal and didn't care who got credit, that's why we're here today. It was truly a team effort."

No matter what he does in the future, punter Andy Groom doesn't expect to develop friendships that top any of the ones he made playing football at Ohio State.

"I'm just going to miss the guys behind the scenes when we're at practice, after practice, guys getting me in the shower and throwing cold water on me, and just the great feeling of being part of this," said Groom, a second-team All-American this season.

"To the 12 other seniors, you guys have been the best friends of my life and I'm going to take this forever and I never want to lose touch with anyone. I've loved everything about this. It's hard to say goodbye."

Safeties Michael Doss and Donnie Nickey said they've discussed writing a book about the championship season.

"Donnie's the author, I'm the consultant," Doss joked.

Doss, who was named first-team All-American for his play on the field, said he will miss the camaraderie among the players off it.

"The laughing, the joking, the crying, just the things that make a football team and make a family," he said.

Coach Jim Tressel wasn't surprised by any of his players' statements. He said the seniors dedicated themselves to the team as much as any players he's ever been around.

That says a lot, considering Tressel led Youngstown State to four Division I-AA national titles before coming to Ohio State in 2001.

"They just dug in and accepted the role of leading as well as any group. It's an unselfish bunch," Tressel said.

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