The Ohio State football program has many popular traditions that go back decades, but it’s one of the most recent ones that we’re going to discuss today.

Who should wear the Block O jersey for the Buckeyes for the 2022 season?

The tradition, started just a couple of years ago for the 2020 season, honors former Ohio State great Bill Willis who ultimately played a major role in breaking the pro football color barrier in 1946 with the Cleveland Browns. It’s as much of an off-the-field award as it is an on-the-field award as it represents character, perseverance, toughness, and leadership.

After awarding the jersey to Jonathon Cooper in 2020 and Thayer Munford in 2021, Ohio State will need to find a new recipient for next season and there are several directions the Buckeyes could choose to go. So with that in mind, we’ve gathered a panel of four BuckeyeScoop.com staffers to make their case for which player should be awarded the Block O jersey in 2022.

Tony Gerdeman

As you know, the Block O jersey honors former Buckeye great Bill Willis, who exemplified toughness, character, and accountability throughout his life. He broke the ground that so many players after him would follow.

When you look at the first two players to wear the Block O jersey – Jonathon Cooper and Thayer Munford — there is a visible blueprint to follow. Both were selfless players who led by example while also putting the team before themselves. So who does that point to in 2022?

My initial thought was that the Block O jersey should go to Jaxon Smith-Njigba and the ‘O’ could stand for ‘Open’ because that’s what he always is, but I don’t think the purpose of the jersey is to make a mockery of the opponents’ defensive attempts.

The easy answer is probably Zach Harrison because he’s a senior leader and he’s seen a lot over his first three years. And the fact that I’m struggling to come up with any other strong possibilities points me even more in his direction.

However, let’s throw everybody a curveball and go with Cade Stover instead.

Stover has only ever done what he’s been asked to do. He began his career as a linebacker in 2019, then moved to defensive end late that season. Prior to the 2020 season, however, he was moved to tight end and has been there the last two seasons.

Late this season, the Buckeyes needed him at linebacker and he began practicing there the week of the Michigan game. He ended up starting against Utah in the Rose Bowl and played very well at his old position.

Through all of this, Stover has never asked what’s in it for him. He’s only ever asked where he’s needed most, and that’s where he goes. It’s too early to say what kind of role Cade Stover is going to have in 2022, but the example he has set for everyone is exactly the kind of thing all great teams need.  

Marc Givler

The obvious answer here is probably Zach Harrison who would definitely be a good representative of what this whole thing stands for. As a senior leader, Harrison would follow a similar pattern as Cooper and Munford before him.

But I’m going to go in a different direction here and I’m going to give the jersey to C.J. Stroud.

First and foremost, three straight years with a lineman would be getting a little stale for me, although Harrison would at least be able to wear the jersey in games unlike Munford this past season. But there are other reasons to give it to Stroud.

Stroud certainly passes the character and leadership tests. He is, by all accounts, an excellent person who has the love and respect of his teammates. While he won’t be a senior in the fall, he will be a third-year player, multi-year starter, and I predict a team captain. If Stroud has the season most of us believe he will have in 2022, it will also likely be his last season at Ohio State.

But Stroud will also be something that Cooper and Munford never were and that Harrison won’t be. A legitimate Heisman contender.

What better way to bring more attention to this tradition and more attention to Willis, whose story hasn’t been nearly as well told over the years as say Jackie Robinson in baseball or Willie O’Ree in hockey, than to have one of the top two Heisman contenders heading into the 2022 season trotting out on the field in that Block O jersey this fall?

Stroud’s number switch would draw national attention which would lead to questions about the switch and to stories being told about Willis and this new tradition in Columbus. Simply put, it would be a great way to turbo-charge the recognizability of this tradition and to keep Willis’ memory and spirit alive and well.

Kevin Noon

The good thing and the bad thing with the Block O jersey is that there really is not a defined criteria as to what a player needs to do in order to wear the number zero and honor the late, great Bill Willis.

We look and see a pair of Ohioans as the first two reps but is that a requirement? Yes, Willis was from Ohio, but there are plenty of great leaders from outside of the state of Ohio (yours truly included).

I just like the idea of this being awarded to a defensive player, so that cuts the number right in half and when I look up-and-down the roster, why not give it to linebacker Steele Chambers?

Chambers has been through a journey with the Buckeyes so far, starting off on offense, moving to defense when his number was called and arguably could have been one of Ohio State’s most consistent performers.

If this award is given to a player who works and works and works, Chambers fits that bill and while he is not a big talker, he lets his actions on the field speak for him.

There are plenty of great candidates on this team for that Block O jersey, but it is time to make a new tradition and look beyond the borders of the state and give it to Chambers.

Tom Orr

The Block O jersey is supposed to go to the Ohio State player who best represents toughness, accountability, and fight. It’s hard to imagine someone in the program who has fought harder during their time as a Buckeye than wide receiver Kamryn Babb.

Babb came to Ohio State as one of the nation’s best wide receiver prospects in 2018, but has played in just seven games during his time as a Buckeye. Babb saw action in all but one game in 2020, mostly on special teams, but has not been on the field in any other season. He has still not caught a pass at the college level.

That’s because since high school, has torn his ACL four times, including during the spring of 2021. Although he missed all of last season, he was still elected a captain by his teammates and remained a team leader.

If Babb is finally healthy and able to give football another shot this fall, not only would he be one of the most inspiring Ohio State football stories in recent memory, he would also be a truly deserving recipient of the Block O jersey.

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1 Comment

  1. I was hoping someone would say Babb. He’s been a team leader and worked through 4 torn ACL’s just to try and get on the field. That’s toughness and leadership.

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