April 30, 2012

Losing Gray team spruces up Buckeye Grove

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Follow Noon | Rowland | Givler | Birmingham



COLUMBUS, Ohio - Boyd Cherry.





That name probably doesn't register with most Buckeye fans, players or coaches. After tending to the Buckeye Grove on Friday, though, the losing Gray team from the April 21st spring game knows who Cherry is: the first Ohio State football All-American.



Images of highlight-reel plays and big-game heroics also don't come to mind when Cherry's name is rattled off. And there is good reason for that. His All-America honor came long before TVs were invented and only in the early stages of radios - 1914. Since then, 124 fellow Buckeyes have joined Cherry in the Buckeye Grove.



The Buckeye Grove is a tradition that isn't as well-known to fans as "Script Ohio" or "Gold Pants." Still, it is time-honored, with its beginnings stretching all the way back to 1934. The grove of Buckeye trees sits in the southwest corner of Ohio Stadium. A tree and plaque is added whenever Ohio State has a first-team All-American.



Names such as Archie Griffin, Eddie George and Troy Smith call the Buckeye Grove home. But there are also two current coaching staff members who have a spot in the grove: Jeff Uhlenhake (1988) and Mike Vrabel ('95 and '96).



Their pupils tidied up their tree and plaque Friday. Prior to the spring game, head coach Urban Meyer said the losing team would spend a few hours doing a community service project. That adventure turned out to be a spring cleaning of sorts at the Buckeye Grove.



While Vrabel, who was part of the victorious Scarlet team, was not in attendance, former teammate and fellow defensive coach Luke Fickell was, having served as the Gray team head coach. Losing was not on the agenda, but Fickell, a Buckeye through and through, doesn't shy away from the importance of the Buckeye Grove.



"It's a great history, great tradition," Fickell said. "Walking around here and seeing all the names from the past and people you played with, it's a special feeling."



Fickell said he hopes the players and fans will become more aware of the Buckeye Grove after Friday's event.



"We want the team to understand the history," Fickell said. "Of all the traditions of Ohio State, this is one that is specific to the football program."



The entire linebacking corps is a group that is now well-versed on the tradition. Despite some of them being on the Scarlet team, all were present in the restoration project. Fickell said the unit wins and loses together.



To the right running back Jordan Hall could be seen with a rake, over to the left tight end Jake Stoneburner was spreading mulch and Kenny Guiton was digging to plant shrubbery.



"We lost," Stoneburner said with a wry smile. "Being able to clean this place up is worth it. I didn't know it was going to be this much work, though. It will put a bigger emphasis on the spring game (in the future)."



Another player aware of the grove is determined to become a part of it. If he builds on last season's third-team All-American honors and his spring performance, John Simon may very well accomplish that goal. Mike Brewster and Chimdi Chekwa were the last OSU players to be named first-team All-Americans.



"It'd be great," Simon said of being an All-American, "but I'd rather win games."



In the fall, losing will have worse consequences that landscaping duty.







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