COLUMBUS (WCMH) – An Ohio State University player will don a new number this month when the Buckeyes take the field.
It’s not just any number, though. It’s part of a new tradition that will honor a groundbreaking Buckeye from the past.
Two-time Buckeye captain and defensive end Jonathan Cooper will turn in his 18 jersey and wear the number 0 jersey, being called the Block 0, in honor of former Buckeye Bill Willis.
Willis was a defensive end at Ohio State from 1942-44 and was an All-American and national champion during his time with the Buckeyes. He later went on to break the color barrier in the National Football League as a member of the Cleveland Browns and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the College Football Hall of Fame.
During his time with OSU, Willis wore 99, which has been retired.
The university said Willis stood for toughness, accountability, and the highest of character, values current Buckeyes strive for every day.
Cooper exemplifies those characteristics, OSU said while making the announcement of the Block 0 honor.
“This honor stands out from the rest,” said Cooper, a fifth-year senior coming back from a season where he only played a handful of games due to injury. “Being a captain, all the great things that have happened here at Ohio State, this one stands out a lot more to me personally. It doesn’t just represent me, it represents a great man, a great player who played here. I know when I put that jersey on I’m representing him and I have to go out there and be my very best, and I have to do that every single day. This one really means a lot to me.”
“Jonathon Cooper represents everything that an Ohio State football player should be,” OSU head football coach Ryan Day said. “He’s tough. He’s accountable. He loves this university and this state. He’s someone who continually embodies our culture of ‘fight.’ And that’s in everything that he does, on and off the field. I’m proud of Coop; he’s the perfect Buckeye to wear the Block ‘0’ for the first time.”
Cooper said his former jersey number –18 – represented only himself, while the Block 0 jersey will have meaning beyond just him.
“I will wear No. 0 because it’s not about me,” said Cooper. “No one understood why I wore No. 18; it’s because my birthday is January 8. That represents just me. When I wear that Block “0” it’ll be in honor of a great Ohio State Buckeye and it will represent Ohio State University and all my teammates and coaches. I know I have to play at my very best and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to play Nebraska on Oct. 24 in the season opener.