Land of 10 has embarked on a series of “Next Generation” articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the Class of 2018 signees. Land of 10 Ohio State reporters Austin Ward and Ryan Ginn are visiting the Ohio State incoming freshman class and will introduce the Ohio State fan base to the newest Buckeyes. Today we feature safety Josh Proctor.
OWASSO, Okla. — The Oklahoma kid was born with boundless energy, natural athleticism and a knack for bumping into stuff.
Naturally, Josh Proctor needed a helmet.
Not the hard shell featuring the Owasso Rams logo, although eventually he would wear that on the way to an historic state championship.
No, the family needed something at a much earlier age as he flew around the house trying to keep up with two older siblings with so much furniture in the way.
So the first lid for Proctor would be soft, red and designed for karate.
“Since the day he was born, he’s always been 100 miles per hour,” said his mother, LaVonia Proctor. “Zero to 100. If he’s asleep, he’s done. If his eyes are open, he’s moving. Oh yeah, he was a lot of work.
“Josh was different. We put him in that little, red headgear and he’d be trying to keep up with the bigger kids. He would go outside and come in with gashes on his leg. I’m like, ‘What did you do now?’ He was always running into something.”
Eventually that would be opposing ball carriers who met a safety more than willing to support against the run. Or maybe it would be bouncing off tacklers trying to bring him down when he had the football, busting out a vicious stiff-arm that made him a viral sensation last season. It also could be on a track somewhere or a baseball diamond — or maybe the basketball court, where he also became a Division I prospect.
Heck, no matter what he’s doing, there’s not much chance of catching Proctor doing it less than full speed.
“I’m super goofy. I’m always dancing, doing something,” Proctor said, bouncing a basketball in the gym at Owasso. “You never know what to expect.
“I just like to have fun.”
But it’s on the football field where the Ohio State signee always has looked like he’s enjoying himself the most. Maybe it’s the comfort of another helmet, maybe it’s just the natural habitat for somebody with his personality and unique set of skills.
One thing, though, always as been clear: Proctor was born to be busy.
‘It just came naturally to him’
If his youngest son wandered off, Kevin Proctor knew how to find him.
Just look for a ball and a crowd of kids.
“Josh meets no strangers,” his father said. “We would be places and be like, ‘Where is Josh?’ If they had a ball over there, he’s made friends. He just gravitates to people.
“I don’t know what it is; people just fall in love with him.”
By all accounts, whether it was the kids of coaches playing with him at a backyard barbecue or the people he would meet for random pickup games, Proctor’s fun-loving personality makes him popular with seemingly everyone he meets.
That, of course, includes the coaches who first got their hands on Proctor when he was about 6 years old. They noticed there was something special about him — and, of course, his athleticism.
Kevin Proctor, a quarterback at Murray State in the early 1990s, would lend a hand in those early days on the sideline. And with a mother who also was a well-known, versatile athlete from a large family that produced plenty of talent in Tulsa over the years, the inherited athletic ability was evident almost right away. While Proctor’s parents still try to remove their natural bias about the potential they see, the feedback has been hard to ignore.
And that only prompted Kevin to add equipment that would help his son succeed — beyond that first karate helmet for safety.
“Once we got to see him play football his first year, it was unreal,” Kevin said. “I hate to say it, but it was like, ‘This kid is good.’ I mean, you could see it from the start. The things other kids couldn’t do, it just came naturally to him. He just picked everything up so fast. It still seems like anything you put in front of him, he’s going to pick it up. Kind of drives me nuts with that, honestly.
“But my wife would get on me because if I felt anything would give him a little extra edge, I would buy it. If it would help him with his basketball shot, I would buy it. If it was football, I’ll buy it.”
There was only so much grief LaVonia could hand out, though. Her husband wasn’t the only one making sure that Proctor had everything he needed for an active lifestyle.
Especially when it came to a specific wardrobe.
“He always wanted to wear what he called his ‘basketball clothes,’ ” she said. “He was probably about 3, 4 years old. I would have to go to the store, and I would pick out the little basketball clothes and I would have to get every color that they had on the rack. Because that was all he wanted to wear, every day.
“He had to have his basketball clothes — and he would wear headbands. I would think, ‘Why do you do that?’ But that was his thing.”
Look good, play good, right?
Obviously, Proctor was doing much more than just dressing the part.
‘Yeah, we’ve definitely got a chance now’
A new coaching staff arrived for Proctor’s final football season at Owasso, and it didn’t take long for Bobby Klinck to understand all the fuss over one of the players he was inheriting.
The Rams’ first-year defensive coordinator had been around plenty of talent dating back to his playing days at Tulsa and Oklahoma. And certainly an Oklahoma high-school legend such as Bill Blankenship, who has won four state championships and coached at the college level at Tulsa, had been around top-flight athletes.
But right away, Proctor’s presence opened Klinck’s eyes to potential he hadn’t really thought possible — especially in a state where twin powerhouses Jenks and Union had handed the championship back and forth for the previous 21 years.
“I was laid back in the weight room, I had never met him before,” Klinck said. “Josh walks through the door, and it’s pretty easy to spot him out when this 6-foot-3, freakazoid athlete comes in the room.
“Josh came through and we were like, ‘Yeah, we’ve definitely got a chance now.’ ”
It turned out to be a pretty good season for the Rams, who dominated Jenks 48-10 early to put the state on notice. Along the way, the buzz around Proctor was growing, with the video of his stiff-arm making national news and then doubling down later with an epic interception return for a touchdown.
Of course, there was the intrigue over his recruitment with a fierce battle between the in-state Sooners and the far-flung Buckeyes. And secretly, Proctor was playing at less than full strength most of the time after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the third game of the season. But none of the hype or attention or pain became a distraction for the Rams or Proctor, who claimed the state championship with a win over Union in the title game.
“He’s a very humble kid, and that’s what I love about him,” Klinck said. “He makes great plays all the time, but when other guys make plays, he’s the first to go congratulate them. It takes a lot of culture change and that sort of thing to do what we did, but ultimately it takes having that one great player.
“Everybody looks to him. Everybody had seen that he had been to all the camps and was getting offers from everybody. Ohio State doesn’t come around Oklahoma very often. But it’s the way that he carries himself and the work ethic. He’s not scared to get coached hard. And when kids see that he can take that coaching, that helps them and it helps the whole program.”
And when Proctor’s work was done there, he moved on as quickly as possible to rejoin the Owasso basketball program.
Proctor, who at one time was being pursued by Oklahoma State as a recruit on the court, put his selflessness on display by coming off the bench.
“He’s just a good kid,” Owasso basketball coach Brian Montonati said. “The way he is off the court, you wouldn’t expect him to be a 4-star or have all the accolades and everything else. A lot of times, kids will allow that to get to their heads. Josh is pretty much even-keel, he’s very coachable, you can talk to him.
“He’s just one of those kids where I see my son and hope he’s the same way off the court. His ego never gets in the way.”
‘Ohio State checked all the boxes for him’
Somewhere in the closet with those pre-teen basketball clothes, there surely is some Sooners gear to be found.
“Yeah, I was always an OU kid growing up,” Proctor said with a smile. “I had family that played for them, and it was just kind of in my blood.”
That’s only natural on the outskirts of Tulsa. And with an uncle, Patrick Collins, who played for Barry Switzer and won a national championship in the 1980s, he could potentially get as much pressure from his family as he did walking around the Owasso campus.
“Yeah, there was a lot of that from people at school,” Proctor said. “I could never just walk around the halls and not hear that I had to go to OU, or when I was going to switch my commitment.
“It didn’t put a lot of pressure on me, I just had fun with everything. I didn’t take it too serious.”
The choice itself, though, was given every bit of Proctor’s famously analytical attention.
Beyond his football intelligence, the self-professed fan of hands-on science who took forensics during his last semester in high school wasn’t going to rush through the process. Proctor took his time, visiting and absorbing as much information as possible.
“Josh is just one of those players, he’s very cerebral,” Klinck said. “I think he looked at the situation and thought about what the ultimate goal was he was trying to accomplish. Taking everything into account, I think Ohio State checked all the boxes for him. It’s a perennial top-four program, it churns out players in the NFL, he’s going to get coached by NFL-caliber coaches and I think ultimately that’s his goal.
“If I’m going to do it, what’s the best spot to do it? Shoot, how many safeties has Ohio State had recently that haven’t gone to the NFL?”
Not many, and now Proctor is part of the next wave, ready to carry on that tradition.
And there’s some shiny, silver equipment waiting with the Buckeyes for a kid whose endless energy and propensity for contact seemingly has always required a helmet.
Josh Proctor breakdown
|247 composite rank||No. 71 overall/No. 7 safety|
|Commitment date||April 15, 2017|
Owasso defensive coordinator Bobby Klinck: “His football IQ is really good. He’s all about ball. He understands the game. We’re not extremely complex, but we are running certain coverages and have a bunch of different variations of things. I don’t think he’s going to be intimidated by the verbiage or anything like that at the next level.
“He’s a lot more physical than you think. He’s a good-looking sucker, now. He’s 6-foot-3, and when he dressed out, that’s the Ohio State commit and you know that right away. But sometimes guys like that will just want to play deep and run sideline to sideline and make interceptions, but he’ll come down and hit you. I mean, he’s a physical guy and he enjoys that part of the game.”