John 'The Big Nut' Peters
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There are Ohio State fans, and then there is Jon “The Big Nut” Peters. The Fremont man is likely the Buckeyes' most recognizable supporter because he can be found at most games, right in the front row, decked out in bright face paint and his unique and creative scarlet and gray, fully-accessorized attire. You will see him in the DVD of the 2002 national championship game, and on most broadcasts of Ohio State games. The 49-year-old Big Nut, is the guy with his face painted half scarlet and half gray, strands of buckeyes around his neck, and his one-of-a-kind wardrobe. The Big Nut has used his fame to help a number of charitable causes, including being part of raising money for a new scholarship fund.
How did this “Big Nut” persona get started?
“I'm a bit of a free spirit, and back about 1995, I went to an Ohio State/Michigan party that was a local fund-raiser and they had a best-dressed award. I took part in that for years, and it just kind of grew and grew from there. I felt like I had to do something extra, so I went with the face paint.”
When did you become more than just another Buckeyes fan?
“My grandfather was an Ohio State grad in agriculture, and he took me to my first game in 1976. It left a lasting impression on me. I loved the atmosphere, the electricity in the air, and the way all the Buckeyes' fans were enjoying themselves so much.”
When did you realize that “Big Nut” was becoming a big deal?
“At the 2002 championship game I was all dressed up and a bunch of people came up to me and asked to have their picture taken with me. It was humbling. I didn't know I'd be received like that, and I really enjoyed it.”
How is the “Big Nut” received in Ohio Stadium?
“I don't like being around stuffy fans. I don't like fans who sit on their hands. So, my tickets are in a section with some students and other fans who are crazy, like me. We are absolutely nuts about the Buckeyes. I like to see people smiling and having fun.”
How about the reception on the road in the Big Ten?
“It varies. There's a little verbal abuse, but that doesn't bother me. Mostly, they hate us just because we're Ohio State. Most of the fans treat me well, and they understand that I'm passionate for my team, and they respect that.”
Have you ever had any problems with fans on the road?
“I'm a big guy and I usually have a couple of escorts with me, so not many. My worst experience was at Penn State. It was a night game and as I was walking to the stadium a college kid came up behind me and knocked me to the ground. They had been partying all day so he was probably drunk. I had knee replacement surgery that summer so I was concerned about how my knee would be, but some Penn State fans helped me up and apologized for the incident.”
Do you ever vary from the scarlet and gray theme?
“Only on Breast Cancer Awareness Day, when The Big Nut goes in pink. This season it was the Purdue game, and it was a very emotional day for me. I have some friends who are survivors, and I've lost some friends to breast cancer. I also wore pink for the Spring Game, in honor of Stephanie Spielman.”
Where do the buckeye necklaces you pass out at the games come from?
“My wife and I make close to 1,000 of those necklaces a year, and we give them all away. The only exception is when we sell them as a fund-raiser for the schools. My wife and I collect all of the buckeyes ourselves, and we probably picked up 15,000 of them this year. They come from property where my great-grandfather planted the buckeye trees.”
Is there one moment that stands out for you from this season?
“At the Illinois game, I met a young lady from Clyde whose younger sister had died from a rare form of cancer. She asked me to wear a pin with her sister Alexa's name on it, and for the rest of the season I wore that pin on my jersey. Cancer touches us all, so I was very moved by that, and proud to display her name.”
When someone asks why you paint your face and dress in this garb, how do you respond?
“If the Big Nut had a mission statement, it would be to act as the 12th man in the stands, to get the crowd fired up, because the players feed off the fans in the stands. That's the most important thing. I like putting a smile on their faces, and getting the crowd fired up. It takes forever to get this stuff off, but it's all worth it. I'm not a bigger Buckeyes fan than anyone else, I guess I just dress up a little differently.”
— Matt Markey