Lee’s road to Columbus was long

COLUMBUS – Darron Lee accomplished the goal of getting to his dream school. What position he would play could be sorted out later.

Lee, a starting linebacker for Ohio State as a redshirt freshman this year, was a quarterback at New Albany High School in suburban Columbus who also played defensive back.

The recruiting services said he was a 3-star prospect. Some schools said he could play quarterback for them. His best offers as he prepared for his senior season of high school football came from Boston College, Duke and some lower level Big Ten schools like Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota.

But he wanted to go to Ohio State. He went to Ohio State’s high school camp in June 2012, impressed Urban Meyer and was offered a scholarship.

Playing quarterback at OSU was never in play. At 196 pounds, he might have been thinking safety.

But two years later, at 230 pounds, he is playing what Ohio State calls a “walk out” linebacker.

That position requires an athlete big enough to take on tight ends trying to block him and fast enough to run with wide receivers.

It is part of new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash’s plan to keep three linebackers on the field more and use a fifth defensive back less.

“I could imagine myself competing but I don’t know about this position specifically. I’m not a psychic,” Lee said at OSU’s preseason media day when asked if he could have imagined the transition from quarterback to linebacker.

“It’s a lot of running. A lot of running,” he said about his new position.

Lee’s speed was evident when he picked up a fumble by Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who had just been obliterated by Joey Bosa, and went 61 yards for a touchdown in Ohio State’s 34-17 win over the Midshipmen last Saturday. He also had two tackles for losses.

“It kind of rolled right there. Thanks to Joey it rolled right in front of me. So, it was just pick it up, just take off,” he said.

Lee emerged as a potential starter during spring practice. An injury early in his freshman season resulted in him getting a medical redshirt season after brief appearances in two games.

“He kind of came out of nowhere. Didn’t expect that in spring practice,” Meyer said on Monday.

If the word “compete” isn’t one of Lee’s favorite words, it must at least be one of his most often used words.

Maybe it comes from how he got to Ohio State and what he had to do to get on the field. Maybe it started even before that.

“I’m competitive. I just like to compete. It doesn’t matter who has how many stars or whatever. I didn’t care about that. I was just going to come here and compete. I’m just going to go out and work my tail off,” Lee said.

“There were options to be a quarterback but I saw a bigger picture here. It was more than football on my mind when I came here. I felt comfortable with it, I didn’t have a problem with it. I just use my athleticism and try to compete.”