By Michael Fitzpatrick
Former North Ridgeville high standout running back Demario McCall said his transition to big- time college football is going smoothly.
Used sparingly thus far during his freshmen season at Ohio State, McCall — a four-star recruit — has had little problem making plays when given the opportunity to perform at the end of Buckeye blowout wins. In the Buckeye’s first 10 games, he’s rushed 270 yards on 49 carries (5.5 yards per carry) and scored three touchdowns, while catching four passes for 84 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown catch, which was actually a short pass in which McCall was able to show off his trademark shiftiness and speed while making his way to the end zone.
“I’m loving it down here. I couldn’t be anywhere better,” said McCall last week during a phone interview. “School is actually good. I’m getting a lot of tutoring and a lot of help, so I’ve been doing good in my classes.”
Many wondered if McCall possessed the size and strength to play at a big-time program like Ohio State, but he said thanks to a nutrition program and time in the weight room, he’s put on 15 pounds since arriving in Columbus and now weighs 190 pounds.
“We eat a whole lot. They feed us and work out. I’m constantly eating and making the weight stick,” McCall said.
Thus far the biggest transition from playing at the high school level to playing in college for McCall has come in pass blocking. As a running back, he’s called on to protect the quarterback on passing plays and in the beginning it was a struggle, he said. But since gaining weight, he’s improving in that area of his game.
“When I first came in, I was like 175 (pounds) and pass blocking was the hardest thing for me to do because everybody was so much bigger and stronger than me. The D-linemen and linebackers are running 4.3s and 4.4s. They’re as fast as you, but have way more weight. The weight I gained helped me out,” said McCall.
He’s also had to change the way he carries the football. In high school, McCall would often swing the ball, leaving it open for defenders to poke or strip away. At Ohio State, coach Urban Meyer stresses ball security.
“At Ohio State, the coaches want the ball carriers to tuck the ball in. In high school, I was used to swinging the ball and he (Meyer) didn’t like that,” McCall said.
Playing his home games in front of more than 100,000 fans has not been a problem for McCall, he said.
“You really don’t pay attention to it because you are so focused on the game and on the game plan and what’s going on. To me, that wasn’t really a big difference. The first time I ran out of the tunnel, that got me a little heartbeat, but once you get into the game you really don’t notice it,” McCall said.
As far as his social life goes, McCall said he spends a lot of time hanging out with his four roommates, who are all freshmen and on the football team, as well as other members of his freshmen class.
“Our freshmen class is really, really close. We stay around each other 24/7. If we aren’t in Antonio Williams’ dorm, we’re in my dorm,” McCall said.
Playing on the road has also been a change. He said the crowd at Penn State, where the Buckeyes lost, was so loud he couldn’t hear himself think.
After that loss, many thought the Buckeyes’ chances of making the college football playoff was over, but the Buckeyes have rebounded and are back in the mix for a possible championship. McCall said after the loss to Penn State, Meyer told the team the season was far from over.
“To me, it was kind of shocking. It was an eye opener. Coach told us it was time to get to work and keep going and keep swinging. Those were his words, keep your head up and let’s get this train rolling,” McCall said.
Social media has allowed McCall to keep in touch with his friends from high school and he said former teammate Jordan Montgomery, who is attending West Virginia State University and redshirting this football season, plans on coming to Columbus to hang out with him in the not too distant future.
It appears, although McCall has left North Ridgeville, the city is not far from his thoughts.
“Tell the fans back at the house to keep cheering and I’m going to keep pushing for them,” McCall said.
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