COLUMBUS – Until a week ago Tyler Durbin had no football game experience. No idea what it was like to have 100,000 people watching him. And no name recognition.
Definitely no name recognition.
In a world where the top football recruits are tracked, rated and graded from the time they’re barely out of junior high school, Ohio State’s kicker – for now, at least – came out of nowhere.
Even OSU coach Urban Meyer wasn’t sure of Durbin’s name, or maybe pretended to be unaware of his name, when he announced the former soccer player would be the Buckeyes’ kicker in their opener against Bowling Green.
After doing a solid job on kickoffs and hitting 11 of 11 extra-point kicks against BG, the former James Madison University soccer player will fill in for the injured Sean Nuernberger again this Saturday against Tulsa.
If he does well, it could be a battle for the No. 1 kicker’s job when Nuerberger comes back from a groin injury.
“He (Nuernberger) is getting close to being healthy and he’s got to go beat Durbin out,” Meyer said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday.
So, how did Durbin end up at Ohio State? He says he’s not completely sure himself. “I don’t really know how all this happened but it has been an incredible ride,” he said earlier this week.
Actually, he knows every step of his trip, which he explained on Monday.
He grew up in Burke, Va., just outside the I-495/I-95 Capital Beltway near Washington, D.C.
Durbin played soccer for two years at James Madison University with limited success. He was in seven games and scored one goal in 2013 and played in one game in 2012.
He decided he needed to make some changes at that point. He changed sports and he wanted to change his major to civil engineering, which James Madison did not offer.
“I always wanted to try kicking so I figured, ‘Why not give it a shot?’ ” Durbin said.
He sent videos to four schools – Ohio State, Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia and Georgia Tech – all of which had civil engineering programs. But Ohio State had something else the others didn’t. “It had the best football team out of all the options,” Durbin said, with a smile. “I wasn’t putting all of my eggs in one basket but I was really hoping it would work out.”
There was another connection. The family of his girlfriend, now his wife, were big Ohio State fans and lived in Dayton.
Durbin has turned some heads in practice by hitting a 62-yard field goal and with the sound it makes when he kicks the ball.
That sound was one of the first things Meyer noticed about him.
“It was the first day of camp. I punted a few balls pretty well and he came over and talked to me. He said, ‘Who is this guy who is punting?’ And then he introduced himself,” Durbin said.
So Meyer does know his name? “He calls me Durbin. He knows my last name, at least,” Durbin said.
And so do a lot of other people who’d never heard of him two weeks ago.
“It’s crazy to me. It’s been the best experience of my life. I went out to dinner (after the game) with my family and my wife’s family and we were talking about how surreal it is to play in a game for the Buckeyes,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.