COLUMBUS, Ohio — The day after Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury two weeks prior to the start of Ohio State’s 2014 campaign, the mood inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center felt more apt for a funeral than a football practice.
With their star player sidelined for the season, the Buckeyes trotted their senior captains out to meet with the media in an attempt to explain their sudden paradigm shift.
“We’re not naive to the situation,” said tight end Jeff Heuerman. “We understand what happened and what we lost.”
By now, you know the rest.
Ohio State would survive a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech — and another season-ending injury to a new star quarterback that November — before going on to capture the first-ever College Football Playoff championship. Even in real time, it was easy to appreciate the uniqueness of the Buckeyes’ national title journey.
More than two years later, the legacy of Ohio State’s 2014 team is still growing.
When the Minnesota Vikings selected Pat Elflein in the third round of the NFL draft last weekend, the former Buckeyes offensive lineman became the 18th starter from Ohio State’s last national title game depth chart to join an active NFL roster. A 19th, punter Cameron Johnston, later signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Check out below where the 18 starters in the College Football Playoff Championship Game, plus punter Johnston, have landed. Three starters are not in the NFL, and the Buckeyes’ starting left guard from 2014, Billy Price, remains in Columbus preparing for his senior season, as does kicker Sean Nuernberger.
|Cardale Jones||QB||Buffalo Bills||2nd year|
|Ezekiel Elliott||RB||Dallas Cowboys||2nd year|
|Michael Thomas||WR||New Orleans Saints||2nd year|
|Devin Smith||WR||New York Jets||3rd year|
|Jalin Marshall||WR||New York Jets||2nd year|
|Jeff Heuerman||TE||Denver Broncos||3rd year|
|Taylor Decker||LT||Detroit Lions||2nd year|
|Pat Elflein||C/G||Minnesota Vikings||Rookie|
|Joey Bosa||DE||Los Angeles Chargers||2nd year|
|Adolphus Washington||DT||Buffalo Bills||2nd year|
|Michael Bennett||DT||Jacksonville Jaguars||3rd year|
|Darron Lee||OLB||New York Jets||2nd year|
|Curtis Grant||MLB||New York Giants||Offseason roster|
|Joshua Perry||OLB||Los Angeles Chargers||2nd year|
|Eli Apple||CB||New York Giants||2nd year|
|Doran Grant||CB||Jacksonville Jaguars||Offseason roster|
|Vonn Bell||S||New Orleans Saints||2nd year|
|Tyvis Powell||S||Cleveland Browns||Offseason roster|
|Cameron Johnston||P||Philadelphia Eagles||UDFA|
A handful of other key contributors to Ohio State’s unlikely championship run also have made their way to the NFL, including tight end Nick Vannett, running back Curtis Samuel, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Gareon Conley. Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore, first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, each redshirted in 2014. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s starting quarterback for the first 12 games of the 2014 season, J.T. Barrett, remains in school.
What’s perhaps more impressive than the sheer number of players the Buckeyes have put in the pros the past three years is what those players already have accomplished. Bosa is the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year after tallying 10.5 sacks in San Diego. Elliott finished third in MVP voting — and first in merchandise sales — in his debut season in Dallas. Thomas caught 92 balls for 1,137 yards and 9 touchdowns with the Saints, leading all rookies in each of the three categories.
Even if Doran Grant, Curtis Grant, Tyvis Powell or Johnston don’t make their current rosters, more than 20 members of Ohio State’s 2014 roster appear set to play in the NFL in 2017 — with more key contributors on their way next year. In all, 36 members of the Buckeyes’ 2014 roster have signed an NFL contract at some point in their respective careers.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) May 3, 2017
As for Miller, he, too, has made his way to the next level, converting to wide receiver after taking a medical redshirt in 2014. Last spring, the Houston Texans selected the two-time Big Ten MVP in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
That somber August day inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center nearly now seems like a distant memory.
“Obviously,” Heuerman said at the time, “it’s not how you draw it up.”
To this day, that sentiment remains true. Not because of the results — but because even three years later, the legacy that the Ohio State 2014 team continues to leave behind still seems impossible to believe.