COLUMBUS, Ohio – There are no pulled punches at Ohio State. If you want to know why Torrance Gibson didn’t play in the 2015 season – in spite of his incredible physical talents – he’ll tell you.
“I wasn’t ready,” Gibson told the media Sunday during Ohio State’s media day. “At Virginia Tech, I wasn’t ready. The coaches knew, and that’s why I didn’t play.”
It was one game, on the road in a hostile environment for a player – Gibson – playing a position – wide receiver – he had just recently transitioned to. He arrived at Ohio State seven months earlier as a 4-star quarterback, touted as one of the most explosive athletes in the country. There was no reason to expect to be playing as a freshman and Gibson knew it, but still, it ate at him.
“My confidence wasn’t high,” Gibson said. “I wasn’t as confident as I was in high school. I wasn’t 100 percent ready to go.”
The lack of confidence helped push Gibson further down the depth chart. As uncertainty about his role in the offense, combined with the difficulties of acclimating to life away from home, began to pile up, Gibson struggled. He began to miss classwork, he didn’t buy-in to what Zach Smith, his wide receivers coach and the coach who recruited him for Ohio State, was teaching. At American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale, Gibson was the man, the do-it-all guy on the field but, in many ways, the do-it-all-wrong guy off of it.
He was close to doing it all very wrong at Ohio State, too. In fact, he was one late October phone call with his mother away from no longer being at Ohio State, period. After being suspended by the football program for an unspecified violation of team rules, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Gibson wanted to quit.
“I called my mom and I’m like ‘I’m coming home,'” Gibson shared. “She said ‘What? No. If you come home you’re not living here,’ and she hung up on me.
“It made me think again. I wanted to go home because I wasn’t playing but then I thought about it like, where am I going to go? It wasn’t going to help me at all. I was going to be doing nothing and getting in trouble.”
Gibson chose Ohio State because there was no uncertainty in the way his coaches spoke to him. He chose Ohio State because nothing was promised and when nothing was earned, he wanted to leave anyway. That’s what happens when you’re still the boy you were in high school. Suddenly, the need to grow up was clear and present.
“A lot of coaches, they’re going to say you’re a dream, they’ll say anything,” Gibson said. “(Urban) Meyer got right to the point. He’s like ‘I’m not promising you anything. You have to earn every bit of playing time.’ That’s what probably locked in the most for me. I didn’t want to go in and just be told ‘Hey you’re the starter because of your athletic ability.’ Then I didn’t handle it well.
“It was a stupid freshman mistake. I apologized to everyone, the coaches, the players, everyone, for letting them down, for quitting on them. That’s just not who I am. They welcomed me back with open arms and accepted my apology. I was a little boy in high school. I needed to grow up real fast.”
Leaving home, going to school more than 1,000 miles away from the place where you’re loved and lauded no matter what you do – even when you’re making mistakes you know you should’t make – isn’t a boy’s decision. Gibson’s mother, Joann Seymour, asked for one thing from the Ohio State coaching staff when her son decided to join the Buckeyes two years ago: to help him take that next step, to go from being the man to being a man. Gibson says that’s happening in his life now and he’s grateful for the second opportunity.
“I’ve just tried to keep my head high,” Gibson said. “I had to start making plays for my team. If I was somewhere else, I’d be messing around – if I was in Florida – I’d definitely be messing around somewhere,” he said. “I chose Ohio State for many reasons. I wanted to grow as a person, as a man. In the meeting with my mom and Coach Meyer, Coach Zach (Smith), Coach Tim Beck; my mom, she told them ‘teach my son how to become a man.’ He shook her hand and told her ‘I will teach your son how to become a man.’”
The lessons certainly aren’t finished, but they’re sinking in. Now, as talented as he’s ever been, but a more polished product at wide receiver, Gibson is starting to feel like he used to. He scored twice in Ohio State’s spring game in April and is turning into the weapon that made him the country’s 75th-ranked overall player in the 2015 recruiting class.
Whether or not he’ll play 30 plays a game or 10 remains to be seen, but the old swagger, the old confidence? It’s back.
“It’s at 100-percent,” Gibson said with a smile when asked about his regained confidence. “It’s through the roof.”