Is This Real Life?

It’s Wednesday, and if this was still winter or spring, Ohio State football players would be getting lessons on “Real Life” from a speaker brought in by head coach Urban Meyer.

Some of the speakers were former Buckeyes like Clark Kellogg and Robert Smith. Zach Domicone’s speech might have been especially impactful, given that he only graduated two years ago, and so is now himself starting to put in place the principles being taught.

“Now that Zach talked it out, about the pathway,” said offensive lineman Joel Hale, “it’s a lot more visible to me and how it works.”

“He’s got a steady job with good income,” added fellow offensive lineman Taylor Decker, “and just for him to lay that out so you can really see how he put it into effect and it really worked for him, it was pretty interesting.”

Even a player like Decker, who anticipates going to the NFL, says Domicone’s experience has taught him he needs a “plan B.”

Teammate Michael Bennett is in a similar situation.

Realizing the average NFL career is only about 3 years, Bennett says he has been exploring his options.

“People always ask what you’re going to do after football,” said Bennett, “and I’m not sure yet. So the plan is to get my name out there, try to talk to some people, find out what I like and what I would like to build a career out of, not just a job.”

Appropriately enough, at the time the nattily attired Bennett made the remark, he had just finished handing out his resume at the Ohio State athletics department job fair.

“This is the culmination of ‘Real Life Wednesdays,’” he said.

Ohio State assistant Kerry Coombs instructs his players to go network.
Ohio State assistant Kerry Coombs instructs his players to go network.

There were more than 50 companies in attendance, some of which you would expect to be interested in hiring athletes. Nike sent representatives. ESPN was there. The Browns, Blue Jackets and Crew all spoke to the Ohio State players.

There were also grocery chains, real estate companies and the Columbus secret service.

They were all there to provide a chance to network, and make no mistake, networking is key.

“[Ohio State athletics director] Gene Smith never interviewed for a job, which is insane,” Hale said. “He spoke to us about networking, and who you know, creating relationships, being nice to people.”

Smith isn’t the only person for whom networking has paid off. Zoology major Decker says he received an internship with the Columbus Zoo thanks to who he met at last year’s job fair.

“I worked in the promotions department,” Decker explained. “Any events, we would travel, take the animals, mingle with people, talk about the animals. Then we also raised a lot of the baby animals. I loved it.”

OSU says they had 20 players interning with various companies this May.

“We live a surreal life right now, being a college athlete,” Hale said. “We don’t know what real life is, and that’s going to be the biggest transition, the hardest transition. I have to have my plan B ready to roll.”


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