COLUMBUS, Ohio — Expectations are nothing new for Nick Bosa.
From the time his older brother Joey began to morph into a bona fide superstar at Ohio State as a true freshman in 2013, there were whispers that Nick was even more advanced for his age than Joey.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter, who starred for the Buckeyes from 1984-86 and served as an assistant at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, ramped up the speculation with comments he made at one of Ohio State’s Orange Bowl practices during Bosa’s freshman campaign.
“I can’t say it because Joey will get mad, but the little brother might be better than Joey,” Carter said. “They’re good. They’re really good. Nicky Bosa is a very good freaking football player. He’s the best player on our team now and he’s a sophomore.”
As those comparisons began to emerge, Nick did little to shy away from his brother. They play the same position, Nick switched to No. 97 at Aquinas when Joey left for Columbus and then inherited it at Ohio State. The brothers also share Twitter handles that play off each other — @jbbigbear and @nbsmallerbear.
The younger Bosa didn’t take long to introduce himself to Ohio State fans, either. In his first game at Ohio State, Nick came through with a 13-yard sack that looked no different than the damage Joey used to inflict on opposing offensive lines.
What would have happened if Nick had lasted well into the season without taking down his first quarterback? With all eyes on him and anticipation growing, would it have affected his performance?
Ohio State coaches and players will never have to find out, but to hear defensive line coach Larry Johnson tell it, there was never a concern about Bosa forcing things or experiencing a dropoff in play if things hadn’t gone well early in his career. Just in case, though, Johnson has tried to prevent pressure caused by any outside forces from seeping in.
“I’m trying to erase all that, because I don’t want him to take it onto the field,” Johnson said. “I want to keep his mind free and on just playing and being part of our unit and part of a team and not worrying about getting a sack this game or getting a sack that game. He’s just a freshman.
“You just tell him the expectations for the game, what I look for and what you have to do. He’s really bright and understands. He gets it. He’s bought into everything we’re doing. That’s the thing about Nick that’s really neat: I know exactly who he is.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer said during fall camp that Nick walks like Joey, moves like Joey and looks like Joey. He even shrugs like Joey — although the Bosa brothers’ patented celebration didn’t come out immediately after Nick’s first sack.
None of that is forced, however, and that’s what’s allowed Nick to flourish in his brother’s footsteps, both in a standout prep career at Aquinas and in his brief time at Ohio State. He doesn’t think about trying to act a certain way or live up to his brother’s accomplishments. He just plays football.
“I don’t think he’s worried about his brother,” Johnson said. “I don’t think he’s worried about what other people are saying. I think he wants to be a real good football player. In our conversations, that’s what we talk about: How can I be a good football player? That’s all he wants to be. I don’t think he’s chasing anything or worried about the pressure. He just wants to play football, and that’s what I like about him.”