Ohio State tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells sat at a Fiesta Bowl press conference Friday, wearing a Chicago White Sox baseball cap, an adornment that brought to mind another prominent Akron athlete, LeBron James, wearing a New York Yankees cap.
Ohio State fans are hoping Wells doesn’t imitate the last Ohio State running back before him from Akron, Antonio Pittman, and decide to leave college after ending his junior season at a bowl game in Arizona.
Two years ago, Pittman opted for the NFL after OSU’s 41-14 loss to Florida in the BCS national championship game.
Wells has consistently deflected questions about going pro since the Buckeyes arrived in Arizona and continued that approach on Friday.
“I really haven’t thought much about it. I’ve just been focusing on this game and enjoying the moment. Sometime next week or the week after I’m going to sit down with my family and Coach Tressel and come up with a game plan that’s best for me,” Wells said.
“If this is going to be my last game, I want to enjoy it. If it’s not my last game, I still want to enjoy it,” he said.
OSU fans and students have tried to persuade him to stay, Wells said.
“A lot of people have been, chanting, ‘One more year, one more year,’ and everything,” he said.
When reminded that Greg Oden heard that same chant but left Ohio State for the NBA after one season, Wells just smiled.
The 237-pound junior tailback rushed for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns this season, despite missing three games with a foot injury and playing in pain after he returned.
He is projected as a first-round draft choice and some mock drafts have him going in the top 10.
Ohio State fans hoping he will be back in 2009 might take some encouragement from the disappointment he expressed earlier in the week about not being a Heisman Trophy finalist because of the foot injury.
“I wanted to be there (the Heisman ceremony). I was thinking if I didn’t get injured, I was there,” Wells said.
“If I wasn’t injured, I would like to say the trophy was mine. Not to take anything away from those guys who were there, because they were all great quarterbacks and great players. Me, being the type of guy I am, I feel like I’m the best. I think I would have been there.”
OSU PRACTICES MORE INTENSE?: Ohio State senior offensive tackle Alex Boone says the Buckeyes’ pre-bowl practices have involved more hitting and physical play than in the last three seasons.
“We did a lot more scrimmaging. There was a time for two weeks where the offense hated the defense and the defense hated the offense. We’d be fighting off the field. It’s kind of one of those things where you don’t play for a while so you have to keep the game speed alive,” Boone said.
“I think the biggest surprise was how serious guys were. At first, guys were like, ‘Oh man, we’re going to scrimmage.’ Then the first scrimmage we were out there were fist fights everywhere and it was like a real game.”
SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT PRYOR: When Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle got his first look at Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor on film, he thought he wasn’t moving very fast.
But then he calculated how much ground he was covering and changed his mind.
“I always thought Terrelle Pryor looked kind of slow, but he’s a lot faster than that,” Kindle said. “He’s got a long stride and can get down the field. It looks like slow motion but he’s picking up five yards every two steps. It’s so smooth.”
While the rest of Ohio State’s starters were available for interviews Friday, Pryor and the other freshman starter, center Mike Brewster, were not.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Pryor was absent because, “We wanted him to spend time on something that was more impactful on our cause.”
He said Pryor was watching film and attending meetings.
Boone joked that there must have been “an age and height requirement” for getting into the interviews.