This is the period of downtime for college football coaches that precedes the dawn of another long, intense season.
Luke Fickell is the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State University. All-Americans and first-round NFL draft picks A.J. Hawke and Bobby Carpenter are two of the standout linebackers who have passed through the Buckeyes program during his watch.
But Fickell, a former nose guard for the Buckeyes who took time yesterday evening to speak with nearly 100 recent high school graduates set to play in the 17th annual regional all-star football game, shuns credit for what his players accomplished.
With good players you get good results and that s always a good thing, Fickell said. I would like to tell you it s coaching, but it s not. We have guys who like to compete.
Fickell stood in front of the former high school standouts, many of whom will compete for the last time on Friday night, and delivered a short, simple speech about goal-setting and embracing life lessons. He shared how Ohio State coach Jim Tressel believes in having every player on the Buckeyes roster write their goals on paper each season.
Fickell, who started a Buckeyes team record 50 consecutive games from 1993 to 1996, explained it is all part of how the Buckeyes approach every season with optimism. Coming off a 12-1 season in which their only loss came in the BCS championship game, a 41-14 drubbing at the hands of Florida on Jan. 8, the Buckeyes figure to be a major player again this fall.
At Ohio State there are always high expectations, and rightfully so, he said. We ve got a good group of kids coming back. We only have about eight seniors, so we re going to have some young guys.
It s going to come down to a few key positions.
Hard work and making good decisions were among the key points Fickell pointed out during his 20-minute speech.
Zach Akenberger, a Bowling Green graduate who was among the top players in the Northern Lakes League, appreciated what Fickell said during the gathering that took place before to the start of the third of five practices scheduled before Friday's game.
I think he had a good message about how finishing something is more important than starting something, said Akenberger, a stellar defensive player who is a member of the Gold team.
Alex Keyer, an Anthony Wayne graduate, was among those who listened intently to Fickell.
Obviously, being an Ohio State fan, I thought it was a great opportunity to have a coach from Ohio State come and talk to the players, said Keyer, a quarterback for the Black team.
Cardinal Stritch coach Tony Beier, who is teaming with Eastwood coach Jerry Rutherford to lead the Gold squad, thought Fickell s presence was a testament to how the summertime all-star game has grown over the years.
Obviously in the state of Ohio, football is so important that for Fickell to come down to speak with us today, we think it s very special, Beier said.
The game will be played at Springfield High instead of the usual site. Perrysburg s Steinecker Stadium is being worked on.
Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.