COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Cincinnati Bearcats continue their undefeated season and moved up to No. 2 in the AP Poll this week. That’s their highest ranking ever and a handful of players on this year’s team hail from Central Ohio.

That UC connection to this area is only getting stronger. Only two players from Central Ohio committed to UC during the last two years but five players in the class of 2022 have committed to the Bearcats who are coached by former Buckeye Luke Fickell.

“Central Ohio has great football. Great, tough kids who play hard,” said Ryan Royer, a senior linebacker at UC and graduate of Hilliard Davidson.

Pretty soon a handful of those tough players will on campus in Cincinnati.

“They offered me and then they never backed off and that’s what I really liked,” Pickerington Central senior Tyler Gillison said. “It’s a real family environment down there, which I love.”

“It felt like home. They welcomed me with open arms and DeSales is like my home and Cincinnati felt like home to me too with Luke Fickell,” DeSales senior Jonathan Thompson said.

St. Francis DeSales was also home for Fickell who won three wrestling state titles, two as a heavyweight, and was a major contributor on the Stallions football team in the early 1990s.

Fickell graduated from DeSales in 1992 and now, 30 years later, he’s made a name for the Bearcats in the Buckeye state with some help from another Central Ohio product.

“Honored that I was able to be a part of turning UC into a place that people want to go to and want to play for now,” said Ty Van Fossen, a senior linebacker at UC and graduate of DeSales.

Van Fossen has been a major part of the Bearcats defense as a starting linebacker this season and we’ve seen him grow up with his mom, Jody, being a longtime NBC4 employee.

But when he committed to UC, the Bearcats were in the middle of a 4-8 season in Fickell’s first year.

“Just a lot of blind faith to be honest,” Van Fossen said. “Talking with Coach Fick and knowing him and knowing the staff he put together I believed they could do something special and that’s the people I wanted to play for.”

He was right and now playing for the Bearcats is something every talented player in Central Ohio is seriously considering.

“I’m excited to have guys from the area come down here and continue to carry on the legacy and the toughness of Central Ohio football and bring it to a great program here at UC,” Royer said.