COLUMBUS, Ohio- Only a few hours have passed since Ohio State's chartered jet landed in Columbus at 5 a.m., and Kenny Guiton is tired. He's running on little sleep, following a flight across the country in the middle of the night after a blowout of California in Berkeley. But the redshirt senior has a phone call to make.
Guiton and his parents, Kenneth Sr. and Veronica, talk often. This conversation, though, will be special. So the 22-year-old delays some needed rest, and phones home to Houston.
The day prior, Guiton made the first start of his collegiate career, stepping in for an injured Braxton Miller, out with an MCL sprain. Guiton didn't disappoint, tossing four touchdowns, including a 90-yarder to Devin Smith-the longest score in Buckeye history-while scrambling for 92 yards in a 52-34 victory. The performance earned him the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week award.
"I never saw that coming," Guiton said.
For two hours, Guiton and his parents discuss the accomplishment. Some will refer to it as the pinnacle of his Ohio State career. Others recall the comeback victory against Purdue last October in which Guiton played hero, saving the Buckeyes' undefeated season. One thing is for certain: Guiton has come a long way since he arrived in Columbus in 2009. And no one better understands his journey than his parents.
"We're very tight knit," Guiton said. "Coming way up here, they don't get a chance to make too many games so just getting a chance to hear their voices... it's a great feeling."
Eisenhower High in northern Houston isn't the type of Texas football factory that you've seen in the movies and on TV. The stadium doesn't seat 10,000 people. Not everyone in town has a state ring. The team's record since 2004 is 48-56-1.
But they produce college talent. A lot of it.
Guiton was a three-year starter at quarterback for Eisenhower. He played with more than 30 future college players during his high school career. And a lot of those players were more heavily recruited than he was.
The 35th-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2009 class by Rivals.com, Guiton was a three-star talent. For most of his senior year, he seemed bound to play at Prairie View A&M in southeast Texas.
"Kenny wasn't a very big quarterback in high school, he was maybe 6-foot-1, 175 pounds or so," said David McNabb of theoldcoach.com.
Ohio State came on Guiton's recruiting scene late. "He went to a few camps, got seen there," McNabb said. The Buckeyes started checking out Guiton on Jan. 29, 2009. He accepted a scholarship offer to Ohio State a day later.
It was eighteen months ago, the time when the figurative light finally when on for Guiton. He was three-plus years into his career as a Buckeye, coasting along, not playing on the field and not having the right attitude off of it.
"I just think I had, to be blunt about it, I had a childish mentality," Guiton said.
When Guiton looks back at his early years at Ohio State, he says he never really considered transferring. But it was an idea that he presented to those in his inner circle. He points to the education he's receiving as one of the main reasons he stayed.
The arrival of Urban Meyer and his coaching staff changed everything for Guiton.
"He really brought the best out of me. He brings the best out of his players and he did it to me," Guiton said. "I'm blessed."
Guiton went from being disliked by Meyer in January 2012 to being a captain of his team in August 2013.
"It's arguably one of the most interesting case studies I've ever had as a coach, the story of Kenny Guiton. And if you knew where he was January a year-and-a-half ago... I'm a parent, so you go right to thinking... can you imagine being his parent right now? How cool that would be, to see his development?"
Guiton likes to talk. He enjoys speaking with his parents, joking around with his teammates, and talking trash on the field.
"Kenny is crazy," said receiver Corey "Philly" Brown. "When he comes in the huddle, he's loud, obnoxious."
Guiton has fun in practice. He taunts the Ohio State defense whenever he gets the chance, even when he's just taking "mental reps," standing 10-15 yards behind Miller, mimicking his every move. A Buckeye defensive lineman will jab at an offensive guard, and Guiton will chime in, stepping up for his offensive line.
"It's rated R," Brown said.
Junior defensive lineman Michael Bennett laughs at Guiton's vulgarity.
"He's not trying to cut deep. He's not trying to make me question myself," Bennett said. "We're just messing around in practice, trying to make it a little lighter."
Guiton's teammates say that he's always been this way, only now he has the spotlight to showcase his loud and energetic personality.
Three games into the season, Guiton has arguably been the team's best player with Miller hurt. His performance as a starter against California received national accolades. Against San Diego State, he threw for 235 yards and tossed three touchdowns after Miller departed from the contest during the opening drive.
"I just think I had, to be blunt about it, I had a childish mentality,"
- Kenny Guiton
- Kenny Guiton
"I've always had the goal to start a game here, and that goal was accomplished last week. I never want anything bad to happen to anyone, my teammates for sure, but I just wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity," Guiton said.
Guiton's play has spurred Meyer to consider giving his backup serious playing time even if Miller is healthy. Some fans are calling for Guiton to be the outright starter. A professional career-a rarity for a college backup-is a possibility now.
Guiton's time in the spotlight could be coming to an end. Miller is likely to play Saturday against Florida A&M. He was listed as the starter Tuesday on the team's depth chart.
Sometimes, Guiton will watch a college football game and think to himself, "I could be the guy for that team." At Ohio State, he's a backup that will, at best, co-exist with another quarterback.
But he says he has no regrets. He has, at the most, 11 games left in his collegiate career and he's going to make the most of his time.
"I'm in my senior year, having fun. I'm a leader, a captain. I don't regret anything," Guiton said.