COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For Ohio State’s football players, losing to Michigan can feel like the end of the world. It certainly felt like the end of their College Football Playoff chances. But they still had to practice.
“Coming in you could feel the downness from all the players in the locker room before we put the pads on and came out here,” safety Tanner McCalister said.
The Buckeyes were on the outside looking in as the No. 5 ranked team needing USC to lose in the Pac-12 championship. They couldn’t control that game, but defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau knew they could handle how hard they practiced.
“He stood in the middle of us before one of our first practices and basically told us ‘Hey there’s still the possibility [of making the playoff]. Let’s not feel sorry for ourselves,'” McCalister said. “After J.T., young guy, stood up an shared how he was feeling about our possibility to play in [the CFP], we ended up having pretty good practices.”
Despite only being a sophomore, Tuimoloau has carved out a leadership role on the team thanks to his productivity on the field.
“I woke up one day and I had something in my heart that I just felt like I needed to say something,” Tuimoloau said.
Before giving his speech, Tuimoloau asked permission to speak from OSU’s leadership group.
“I kind of always knew it was in him since I’ve known him,” quarterback C.J. Stroud said.
But Tuimoloau didn’t always know he had that voice.
“Growing up, I wasn’t very loud or talkative like that but big props to my dad and my family for always letting me know you have a voice and it’s powerful and you’ve got to keep using it,” he said.
That day, he used his voice to refocus the team to help them move on from the loss to Michigan.
“He just told us don’t worry about the past. We’ve got the chance to go in here and play in the college playoff, so it’s an amazing chance and you’ve just got to take the opportunity and just run with it,” defensive tackle Mike Hall said.
Ohio State’s opportunity for its second national championship in three years comes December 31 when the Buckeyes face No. 1 Georgia in Peach Bowl.