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You Can Thank 'Real Life Wednesdays' for Ohio State's 2017 Recruiting Class
By Tony Gerdeman

Ohio State is always going to recruit well, that's just what a century of history, opportunity, and success can deliver.

There is a difference between success and what Urban Meyer and his coaching staff were able to do with the 2017 class, however. Despite finishing No. 2 behind Alabama in terms of recruiting class rankings, Ohio State's average rating per player was the highest of the internet recruiting era.

In recruiting, quality is always better than quantity, and the Buckeyes made the most of the room they had.

While there are still the same draws to come to Ohio State as there were 40 years ago, there is no doubting the impact that the national title win in 2014 had, or the record NFL Draft output last year.

There is one other aspect that contributed to the successful recruiting haul in 2017, and that is 'Real Life Wednesdays', which is an Urban Meyer creation which features job fairs and sees various business leaders speak with the team about life after college and preparing for the day when they are no longer waking up to play football. It goes beyond simply having speakers, however.

"The evolution and success of our Real Life Wednesdays program to not only be able to say 'here's what we do' and have these great speakers for our team, but to then show Billy Price doing an internship with Nike, to have Joe Burrow, Austin (Mack) and Sam Hubbard go to Goldman Sachs in New York, and so now these are testimonies," OSU director of player personnel Mark Pantoni explained on signing day. "Our guys actually do this instead of just having guys speak and giving us great information, but now we have guys in the real world doing these great internships. I think that was huge for Baron (Browning) and Jeffrey (Okudah), and among others."

Ohio State signed 14 players from out of state, so the draw had to be plenty-fold for that to happen, but to ignore the impact of Real Life Wednesdays would be a mistake. Just ask one of two 5-star Texas cornerbacks that the Buckeyes signed.

"What sold me was the plan they had set out for me after football," Okudah said. "Not many schools go into that much detail about life after football stuff, so when Coach Meyer told me about the Real Life program that he’s implemented, that really sold me, as well as my family."

And yes, as effective as Real Life Wednesdays are with players, it is just as effective -- if not more so -- with the parents.

Asked who was sold on OSU first, him or his mom, and Georgia safety Isaiah Pryor didn't hesitate to answer.

"I guess both of my parents. They always liked it," he said.

"I really came here because my mom wanted me to come here for the educational part. That’s what we really focused on. One of the first few visits I came here, that’s all we did was just educational stuff. We didn’t even look much at the football aspect of it."

Pryor plans on majoring in medical laboratory science so that he can be a pathologist.

When the fruits of your labor begin to take shape, it only encourages more planting. For Urban Meyer, he couldn't be happier with the success of the program, but he also credits the players for having the maturity to see what is important.

"I don't know if it's just a generational thing that's going on right now, but I am so impressed by the young people coming out of high school in these last two years," he said. "I hope that's nationally and in other sports, as well. We're getting very good students, very good people and people that are so interested in life after football, and that wasn't (always) the case. A lot of times it's, 'Hey, I'm going to the league.' Great, go to the league, but some day the league is going to be gone. And that's what -- I think those kind of people are naturally attracted to Ohio State, and those kind of people are very much attracted to our program.

"When Wyatt (Davis) and Baron Browning told me they picked Ohio State University, it was because of what this university could do for them once they're done playing football. And at the end of the day, that's obviously very, very important, something that we take very personal around here."

The Ohio State network of alums is vast and full of needs to fill, and the competitive nature and the work ethic with which athletes live their lives is perfect for many businesses. Real Life Wednesdays allows players and potential employees to find each other while the playing is still going on, which also broadens the entire college experience for the players.

These contacts build early on in college and they grow and collect like interest, and when the time comes to cash out, the opportunities available are plenty.

"When people first come here they know it’s more than just football, that’s why people come here," Ohioan Brendon White said. "We have Real Life Wednesdays and that’s why people really come here, because football doesn’t last forever. After football you’ll have a career and a job and you’ll be able to be successful, so that’s why most people come here is for that, and to build a bond because this college is definitely a family tradition.

Player profiles relevant to story:
Coach - Meyer, Urban
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